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Dentist Degree Program Information

Research the curriculum of doctoral dental school programs, which includes practical opportunities. See the different types of doctoral programs, licensure requirements and job prospects.

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Doctor of Dental Medicine or Doctor of Dental Surgery

Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) programs offer the same basic curricula, and the American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes them as equivalent. Doctoral candidates will need a bachelor's degree and submit scores from dental standardized tests, among other requirements.

Students can expect a program based on the biological sciences, customer service and behavioral psychology. Both DDS and DMD programs involve the study of oral conditions, dental procedures and dental hygiene during the first two years. The third and fourth years typically involve clinical simulations and hands-on dental assisting with licensed practitioners. In order to practice dentistry, professionals need to be licensed according to their state's standards

Educational Prerequisites

While most dental schools require a minimum of a bachelor's degree, students don't need to earn a specific degree prior to applying. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that dental schools do look for a year each of coursework in chemistry, biology, physics and organic chemistry, all with labs. Some programs require previous coursework in statistics, English and math. Applicants must also take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) and submit their scores.

Program Coursework

Coursework in a dental degree program covers the basics of dental practice, such as cleanings, cavity removal, oral surgery, root canals and patient interviews. In addition to classroom learning, students can expect to complete at least three months of general rotations and one month of oral surgery rotations. Common dental school courses may include:

  • Oral pathology
  • Molecular genetics
  • Professional ethics
  • Pharmacology
  • Orthodontics
  • Radiology
  • Treatment planning

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

While many dentists work in a clinical practice, there are other opportunities like dental education, research and public health. The BLS estimates that employment of dentists could increase 21% from 2010-2020. This projected growth is due to an aging population and an increased number of less invasive treatments. In May 2011, the BLS reported that general dentists earned a median annual salary of $142,740.

Continuing Education Information

All states require dentists to be licensed before they can practice. Though requirements vary by state, becoming licensed usually involves graduating from an accredited program and passing both written and practical exams. Dentists have the option to pursue additional training after earning their degree if they would like to practice in a specialty, such as prosthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics or endodontics. The BLS states that this usually involves 2-4 years of additional training and passing a state specialty exam.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics