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Dentists

Dentists administer dental care to fix mouth, teeth, and gum problems and provide preventative dental care. They also teach patients about dental hygiene and other facets of dental care. Dentists fill cavities, provide treatments for tooth decay, analyze x-rays, repair damaged teeth, place sealants and crowns on teeth, and provide other dental treatments. Likewise, they perform surgery on bones and gums to address gum disease. Dentists also remove decayed teeth, create models used to develop dentures, prescribe medication, and administer anesthesia.

Dentists typically work as general practitioners, so they’re responsible for treating various dental problems. There are 9 areas of specialized dentistry. Orthodontists, making up the majority of dental specialists, place braces and other devices on teeth to straighten them. Another big group of specialists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, perform oral surgery to fix mouth, teeth, jaw, head, and neck problems. Other dental specialists include pediatric dentists (specialists who perform dental work on children); periodontists (dentists who specialize in oral bone and gum disease); prosthodontists (dentists specializing in dentures, bridges, crowns, and other devices used to replace damaged teeth); endodontists (dentists specializing in root canals); oral pathologists (dentists who specialize in diagnosing dental diseases); oral and maxillofacial radiologists (specialists who use imaging technologies to diagnose neck and head diseases); or dental public health specialists (professionals who organize programs to educate people about dental hygiene and various dental problems).

Dentists can specialize in the following areas:
  • Orthodontics
  • Endodontics
  • Periodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral Surgery
  • General Dentistry
  • Dental Research
  • Prosthodontics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
Education and Training
Dentists are required to satisfy licensing requirements in every state and the District of Columbia. To satisfy these requirements, candidates must successfully complete dental school and pass various tests, including a written test.

Dental schools require completion of 2 years of pre-dental undergraduate education, and most schools only admit students with bachelor’s degrees. Some students are admitted after completing 2-3 years of undergraduate study, but they’re required to complete the remainder of their undergraduate education while in dental school. More than 85 percent of students currently in dental school hold bachelor’s degrees prior to admission.

Additional details about preparing for dental school can be obtained from these organizations:
  • American Dental Education Association
  • Student Doctor Network
  • Student National Dental Association
  • American Student Dental Association
Job Outlook
Job growth for dentists is expected to increase at an above average rate. Job opportunities for dentists should be excellent since large quantities of dentists are close to retiring. Job growth for dentists is estimated to increase by 16 percent until 2018, a higher rate compared to average projected growth in other industries. Demand for dental treatments is projected to also increase. Growth will also be spurred by aging populations requiring more dental treatments, nationwide population growth, and increased awareness about the importance of good dental hygiene.

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