Dentists take care of the teeth, gums, and oral structures of their patients by diagnosing and treating diseases, injuries and malformations and educating their patients in preventative care. And they typically make a great living.
Dentists perform variety of preventative and treatment services for their patients and their teeth and gums.
They examine teeth and gums using dental instruments, advise patients on tooth care, and treat any issues patients may have.
Those often include performing root canal therapy, applying fluoride and sealants, cleaning and polishing teeth, designing and fitting prosthodontic appliances (like dentures), administering anesthetics, treating nerve diseases and performing oral surgery.
That’s just the short list.
Most dentists obtain their bachelor’s degree before attending dental school (there are 56 schools nationwide accredited by the American Dental Association.
General dental school takes three to four years with dental research, teaching or specialization (including prosthodontists, orthodontists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, and pediatrics) taking an additional two to five years. After graduating and passing their National Dental Board exam and state exams students become licensed practitioners, receiving their Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM).
To obtain a position at this point you can apprentice for a few years using the contacts that you worked with in your dental school and clinical practice, with the goal of buying part of the partnership within a few years of starting your own practice after apprenticeship experience.
Many graduates buy a part or whole of an existing practice right away, getting financial backing from banks (who usually consider a dental practice a good investment).
Dentists who go into private practice are essentially starting their own business to oversee and are putting out large sums for rent, equipment, personnel and liability insurance. As the first few years of the job pass, dentists build up their customer base and see their pay increase as they pay off the money they put into buying the practice.
The long hours at the start of a dental career results in loyal customer relationships, a bigger practice and higher income as the years go by. Hours also decrease the longer you practice, and most dentists are satisfied with their reasonable hours compared to doctors. Dentists with a private practice or who have become partners in a practice also deal with business issues such as managing paperwork and insurance claims.
Some of the biggest dental employers are Dent-U-Center, Dental Care Partners, and Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.
General dentist – $132,660 average annual salary (www.bls.gov/oco).