Opportunities for Advancement for a Dentist

Dentists are health care professionals focused on the teeth and mouth. They examine teeth, remediate problems, and inform about preventative care. After working as a dentist, some professionals may wish to pursue various dental specialties in order to grow their career.

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Career Growth Opportunities for Dentists

Dentists play an important role in caring for patients' teeth and mouth. Dentists examine the teeth and mouth, and then may perform remedial measures such as filling cavities. They help educate patients on proper home care as a preventative measure. After working as a dentist, some professionals may wish to further their education to pursue a range of dental specialties. Some of these specialties are discussed in detail below.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)* Education
Orthodontists $208,000 or more 19% D.D.S. and postdoctoral training
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons $208,000 or more 19% D.D.S., and postdoctoral training or M.D.
Prosthodontists $185,050 19% D.D.S. and postdoctoral training
Medical Scientists $82,090 13% D.D.S. and doctoral degree

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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Career Information


One way for a dentist to advance in their career would be to choose a dental specialty. One specialty to consider would be an orthodontist. Orthodontists examine a patient's mouth and medical records to develop a treatment plan. They then use dental appliances, like braces, to help the teeth become straighter. Some orthodontists may treat patients who have concerns regarding jaw development. Those who wish to become orthodontists must complete a 2-3 year orthodontic program after graduation from dental school. Licensure by the state is required, and board certification is recommended.


Another specialty to consider would be a prosthodontist. The prosthodontist specializes in the care of missing teeth. They may place permanent fixtures into the mouth, such as a bridge or crown, or create full or partial dentures that the patient can take in or out. Some prosthodontists may specialize in working with clients who have suffered injuries, while others may work with those who have birth defects. Becoming a prosthodontist requires post-graduate study after receiving the D.D.S. degree, typically a 2-3 year certificate or master's degree program. Board licensure through the American Board of Prosthodontics is recommended.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

Dentists who wish to perform surgery on the mouth may wish to consider becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. These specialists diagnose oral diseases such as impacted wisdom teeth, TMJ, diseases of the gum tissue, or other facial abnormalities. They then perform surgery to address these issues. Oral surgeons may also work with patients suffering from oral cancers. They must frequently consult with other dentists and medical doctors. To become an oral surgeon, a 4-6 year residency is required after dental school. Other oral surgeons earn dual degrees in medicine and dentistry.

Medical Scientists

Some dentists may find they are highly interested in researching issues related to dental health and dental medical treatment. These professionals may wish to seek employment as a medical scientist. This type of position may not offer an increase in pay, however it would give dentists the opportunity to do independent research and create solutions to pressing issues in health. Medical scientists design studies and investigate data regarding the causes of public health concerns. They may study medications or medical devices. Medical scientists have typically completed a Ph.D. program. Prospective dentists who know they wish to conduct medical research may wish to investigate joint D.D.S./Ph.D. programs that would provide them both clinical dental skills and experience in research. Experience as a dentist is typically required.

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