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How to Become a Dentist

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Modern dentistry has evolved in incredible ways because of new technologies and medical advancements. This evolution has increased the need for comprehensive testing and extensive education. For those interested in joining the next wave of dentistry, the road is long but ultimately fulfilling.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The first step to becoming a dentist is to earn an undergraduate degree. Although most dental schools prefer to accept candidates with a bachelor's degree, there is no specific major that is preferred over others. Many students choose math and science majors, because coursework in chemistry, biology and other such disciplines simultaneously satisfy dental school prerequisites. Undergraduate degrees in such majors also prepare prospective candidates for dental school admittance exams.

Dental Admission Test

The Dental Admission Test is an exam that all prospective dental school candidates must pass to gain admittance into a dental program. Applicants must take the DAT at least one year before their anticipated dental school start date. However, it is highly recommended that applicants take the exam sooner if possible. The DAT measures an applicant's understanding of scientific information and overall academic ability.

Complete Dental School

The next stop on a candidate's way to becoming a dentist is to successfully complete a four-year dental program. Courses focus on healthcare management, chemical dependency and even microbiology. Students develop hands-on skills through practical experiences overseen by a licensed dentist. Students with high DAT scores and exceptional undergraduate transcripts have an increased likelihood of being admitted into a dental program. Extracurricular activities, such as volunteer work and student leadership, can help bolster a perspective candidate's dental school application. Students who successfully complete their dental program can earn bachelor's or doctorate degrees in dental science, dental surgery and other related disciplines.

Licensure and Specialties

After successfully completing dental school, you must obtain a license in the state you wish to operate. Each state has its own requirements for a basic license, but all states require additional licensure for those practicing in one of the nine accepted dental specialties, including periodontics and orthodontics. Obtaining such licensure typically takes an additional two to four years of post-dental school study. Some states may also require additional testing for licensure for certain dental specialties.


M. Skylar Ezell has been writing about politics, entertainment, urban culture and career-related topics since 2007. His communications work for Fortune 500 companies in health care, technology and hospitality has resulted in international recognition, including the Association for Talent Development BEST Award and Achievers Global Award. He is a graduate of Georgia State University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and public relations.

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