Alternative Careers for Dentists

Jan 19, 2020

Those who have studied dentistry may find several alternative careers that utilize their unique skills or interests. Explore a handful of the possible career options, as well as their median salaries and expected job growth rates.

Alternative Career Options for Dentists

Dentists can find several fitting alternative careers in the fields of healthcare and education. These jobs may draw upon a dentist's interests in medicine and health or their knowledge of oral care. Below is a table with a handful of the alternative career options for dentists, which we also discuss further.

Job Title Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Dental Hygienists $74,820 11%
Health Educators $54,220 10%
Dental Laboratory Technicians $40,440 11%
Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary $97,370 23%
Physicians and Surgeons $208,000 or more 7%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information about Alternative Careers for Dentists

Dental Hygienists

Dentists who might want to cut back their responsibilities or hours, but still wish to work in oral healthcare, may think about a career as a dental hygienist. These professionals often work part time to clean teeth and teach patients about proper oral care and how to prevent a variety of ailments in the mouth. Dental hygienists use special hand tools to remove stains and tartar from teeth, take x-rays of a patient's mouth, apply fluoride and document their work. They must have a state license, and those without a dental degree will need to complete a 3-year associate's degree program in the field.

Health Educators

Dentists who are passionate about oral and overall healthcare may enjoy a job as a health educator. These educators specialize in developing programs and services specific to the needs of their community that promote awareness and educate the public about a variety of health issues. Health educators typically identify the needs of their community, implement programs, evaluate the effectiveness of the programs and advocate for additional needed resources or programs, all while overseeing staff and other workers. Without a degree in dentistry, these professionals need at least a bachelor's degree, and they may be required to earn the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential.

Dental Laboratory Technicians

Dental laboratory technicians also work in oral healthcare, which may appeal to dentists, but their work is more behind the scenes and has limited contact with patients. They are responsible for making the crowns, dentures, bridges and appliances from moldings of patients' teeth. They actually work very closely with dentists to ensure the appliance fits what is needed, and they may specialize in a particular area, such as dentures, orthodontic appliances or implants. These skills may be learned on the job, and dentists who have experience working with these appliances could have a head start in gaining the required skills

Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary

Similar to a health educator, dentists who enjoy teaching others may want to pursue a career as a health specialties teacher at the postsecondary level in colleges or universities to pass on their knowledge of the field. Teachers at this level usually teach several courses in their area of expertise, which requires them to create curriculum, assignments and exams. Postsecondary teachers may also be asked to oversee the work of graduate students, conduct independent research and serve on committees for their department and/or institution. Usually these educators need a Ph.D. in the field they are teaching, but some smaller schools may only require a master's degree.

Physicians and Surgeons

Dentists who prefer the medical side of what they do can pursue a career as a physician or surgeon. Physicians and surgeons often specialize in a particular area of medicine, which may also appeal to dentists, and are trained to examine patients and diagnose an array of illnesses and injuries. These professionals also order and analyze the results of medical tests, create individualized treatment plans and explain treatments to their patients. Physicians and surgeons must complete a residency in their area of specialization that can take 3 to 7 years after finishing a 4-year program at medical school.

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