Dentists are responsible for treating problems associated with the teeth and surrounding tissues in the mouth. Dentists also provide advice and administer care to assist in preventing future dental problems. Instruction may be provided on brushing, flossing, diet, the use of fluorides and all other aspects related to dental care. Other responsibilities of dentists include filling cavities, removing tooth decay, examining x-rays, placing protective sealants on teeth, repairing fractured teeth and straightening teeth. In some cases dentists may perform corrective surgery on the bones that support the gums in addition to treating gum diseases. Dentists sometimes extract teeth and create models for dentures to replace teeth that are missing. They may also write prescriptions for antibiotics and administer anesthetics.
Dentists Job Responsibilities
Dentists make use of a variety of different types of equipment, including drills, x-ray machines, mouth mirrors, forceps, probes, scalpels and brushes. Many dentists also use digital scanners and lasers as well as other computer technologies. For protection, dentists wear gloves, masks and safety glasses. Dentists typically work in an office environment.
Some dentists choose to practice privately and are responsible for overseeing numerous administrative tasks, which can include the purchase of equipment and supplies as well as bookkeeping. They may also employ dental assistants, dental hygienists, receptionists and dental lab technicians.
The majority of dentists are general practitioners, which means they handle a wide array of dental needs. Other dentists may choose to practice in nine different specialty areas. The largest group of specialists is known as orthodontists. They are responsible for straightening teeth through the use of braces and other devices. Oral surgeons perform surgery on the mouth, gums, teeth and jaws. Other dentists may choose to specialize as pediatric dentists, focusing on the needs of children. Periodontists are responsible for treating gums as well as the bones that support the teeth. Endodontists perform root-canals while prosthodontists replace missing teeth through the use of permanent fixtures, including crowns, bridges and dentures. Oral radiologists diagnose diseases in the neck and head. Dental public health specialists are responsible for the promotion of good dental health.
Both diagnostic abilities and manual skills are required for dentistry. Dentists must have excellent spatial judgment, good visual memory and a high level of manual dexterity. Other important skills include self-discipline, a good overall business sense and good communication skills in order to succeed in private practice.
Dentists typically work between four and five days per week. Weekend and evening work may be required to meet the needs of clients. Full-time dentists typically work between 35 and 40 hours per week, although more hours per week may be required. Following retirement some dentists choose to continue working part-time.
The employment outlook for this field is expected to grow faster than average, with job prospects remaining good due to the need to replace the large number of dentists that is expected to retire in the coming years.
Dentists Training and Education Requirements
Dentists are required to be licensed in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. Dental candidates are required to graduate from an accredited dental school in addition to pass written and practical exams. There were 57 dental schools in operation in the United States in 2008. Each school is accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation. To attend dental school, students must have at least two years of college level pre-dental education. Dental students typically have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree prior to entering dental school.
Students interested in becoming dentists should take courses in chemistry, biology, health, physics and math. Dental students are required to take the Dental Admissions Test or DAT. DAT scores along with the grade point average and other information such as interviews and recommendations are considered by dental schools for admission.
Dental school typically lasts four years and includes such courses as biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, anatomy, clinical sciences and lab techniques. Students usually treat patients in clinics under the supervision of licensed students during the last two years of dental school. Upon completion of school, graduates are awarded with the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), which allows them to practice as a professional dentist following completion of all required exams.
Dentists Salary and Wages
The mean hourly wage for dentists in the United States is $73.83, while the mean annual wage is $153,570.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
In order to practice as a dentist, licensure is required. In most states, licensure involves passing both written and practical exams along with earning a degree from an accredited dental school. The written part of the licensure requirements can be met by successfully passing the National Board of Dental Examinations. Written or practical exams may be administered by other state or regional testing agencies. There are 9 recognized dental specialties in which dental candidates may be licensed. Requirements for specialty licensure include two to four years of post-graduate education. A special state exam may also be required along with a post-graduate residency period, which can last up to two years.
Dentist Professional Associations
Dentists may choose to join the American Dental Association.