Dentist Vs. Pharmacist

Dentists and pharmacists are committed to helping patients maintain or improve their health, but their salaries and career outlooks are dissimilar, as are their focuses. We'll examine both fields in this article.

Comparing Dentists to Pharmacists

Dentists and pharmacists both hold doctoral degrees in the healthcare field. While both may see regular patients and assist them with their unique needs, the kind of contact they maintain with patients differs.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Dentists Doctoral Degree $159,770 17%
Pharmacists Doctoral Degree $122,230 6%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Dentists vs. Pharmacists

These healthcare professionals both work in varied subsets of their professions. Dentists may work in general dental care, but they can also be specialized as orthodontists (who fit braces and other teeth-straightening gear) and periodontists (who handle issues with jaw bones), among others. Pharmacists can work in hospitals -- completing orders for chemotherapy treatments and in-patient prescriptions -- own their own pharmacies, or work in chain pharmacies. Importantly, dentists tend to spend more time working hands-on with patients than pharmacists do.


Dentists with a general practice provide preventative care for teeth and gums. By cleaning patients' teeth and encouraging regular oral care, including flossing and a low-acid diet, they attempt to get ahead of decay and disease. When this doesn't work, they can fill cavities and crown broken teeth, as well as pull unhealthy teeth. They also give local anesthetic before drilling to inhibit pain and prescribe antibiotics for infections. Masks and gloves are used by dentists to prevent the spread of illnesses during contact with the patient.

Job responsibilities of a dentist include:

  • Supervising dental hygienists who meet with patients first and update the dentist
  • Using medical equipment, including drills, picks, and mouth mirrors
  • Taking X-rays and interpreting the images to better diagnose issues
  • Developing detailed models of a patient's mouth and teeth for dentures


Pharmacists fill prescriptions for patients on all forms of medications, including eye drops and mouth rinse. By following the order from the doctor, they are able to provide the correct number of the medication and in the right dosage. To track patients and their medications, and make it easier to avoid dangerously mixing medications, pharmacists are charged with keeping updated records. Additionally, they audit inventory to ensure all medications are in the correct place and are not outdated.

Job responsibilities of a pharmacist include:

  • Giving patients vaccination shots for the flu and other illnesses
  • Clarifying directions on when and how to take medications
  • Advising patients on possible side effects
  • Suggesting which equipment a patient should purchase to monitor their health, such as blood pressure monitors and diabetes test strips

Related Careers

Those interested in a career as a dentist may also find interest in a job as an orthopedic surgeon, as both deal with teeth and bone. Additionally, individuals considering a career as a pharmacist may want to research the duties of a pharmacologist, since both work with medications.

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