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Cosmetic Dentistry Programs: Education and Training Options

Cosmetic dentistry includes all the work done to improve dental aesthetics, such as tooth whitening, enamel repair and shaping, orthodontics, and more. While no specific programs exist, general dental degrees may include education in the discipline.

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Essential Information

Cosmetic dentistry, while a widely respected and practiced discipline, is currently not a recognized specialty by the American Dental Association and universities do not typically offer degree programs in this area. Cosmetic dentistry is covered within other dental school programs. The Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), for instance, includes coursework that prepares individuals to enter this field. Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degrees may also provide education.

Dental students learn about general dental treatments for patients and the historical, social, and ethical background of dentistry. Degrees typically last four years and require students to have either two years of college experience or a bachelor's degree to enroll, as well as high DAT scores and letters of recommendation. Upon completing a DDS program, prospective dentists must seek medical licensure in order to practice. It is also possible to receive accreditation in the field. Programs may be available online.


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Cosmetic Dentistry Education and Training

DDS programs often include courses specifically relating to cosmetic dentistry, as well as all other aspects of the field of dental surgery. General coursework covers the basic sciences and topics related to practicing in real world clinical environments. In the fourth year of study, students typically participate in board reviews, seminars, and fieldwork. Common courses in a DDS program include:

  • Orthodontics
  • Advanced aesthetics
  • Pain management
  • Dental law
  • Cosmetic dentistry methods
  • Oral medicine

Employment Outlook Salary Info

Individuals with a DDS degree have many options in the field of cosmetic dentistry. Because fourth-year dental students are already gaining experience in medical environments, some students may segue directly into their first professional position. Many universities offering DDS degree programs have placement programs and direct connections with hospitals and clinics. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that employment for all dentists may grow 18% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported in 2015 that general dentists made median annual wages of $152,700.

Continuing Education and Accreditation

Licensing requirements vary by state, but typically require passing practical and written exams, such as the National Board Dental Examination. Many schools also offer continuing dental education programs that allow practicing professionals to keep up with the new dental advancements and techniques.

Prospective cosmetic dentists may also want to consider seeking accreditation from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). The AACD offers a post-graduate certification program that requires oral, written, and clinical exams that test an applicant's knowledge of cosmetic dentistry procedures. The American Society for Dental Aesthetics also offers membership and continuing education seminars to professional cosmetic dentists.

General dentistry doctorates are the most common form of education for cosmetic dentists, combining general dental knowledge with the more specialized aspects of cosmetic dentistry in the curriculum. Licensure is likely required, with continuing education offered to help with renewal and staying up to date, as well as professional cosmetic dentistry certification from the AACD.

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