How Long Does It Take to Become a Dentist in the US
Dentists in US are required to be licensed by their state board of dentistry. The exact requirements and timelines, therefore, vary from state to state. On a general basis, the following timeline is applicable:
- Bachelor’s Degree – 4 Years
This is the start of the educational journey to become a dentist in the US. Students are recommended to take courses in science subjects, such as biology, chemistry and physics at this stage. Some universities also offer pre-dental courses, which students might benefit from at the undergraduate level.
- Dental Degree – 4 Years
Getting admission in a dental school is highly competitive. Students will be required to clear a Dental Admissions Test (DAT) first, which is a standardized entry level test. This test can be taken in the third year of an undergraduate degree as well. After getting admitted into a dental school, students will be required to complete four years of full-time study, to earn a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). The first two years of this program would focus on general dental learning, with both classroom and lab sessions. Courses may include the likes of oral anatomy, pathology and histology. In the final two years, students are required to participate in a clinical practicum, under the supervision of licensed dentists.
- Accelerated Dental Programs – 7 or Less Years
There are some universities in the US that offer joint and accelerated dental programs. In these programs, students are able to earn their bachelor’s degree and dental school in 7 years or less. The first few years of study involve a heavy course load in pre-dental courses. This is a high-intensity, fast-paced program meant for those who can handle the pressure.
- Training – 2 to 6 Years
Training requirements are applicable to dentists who choose to specialize in a particular area of the field. For instance, if you opt to specialize as an endodontist or an orthodontist, you may need 2 to 4 years of additional training. In case of oral and maxillofacial radiologists, it may take 4 to 6 years to achieve the required amount of training in a CODA-approved program. Training requirements would vary according to the specialty chosen, the state you are located in and the amount of experience you possess.
- Licensing and Certifications – Up to 1 Year
The licensing process can be long and might end up taking almost a year after you complete your education. All states in the US require dentists to be licensed. The process for licensing requires candidates to possess a DMD or a DDS from an accredited dental program, pass the written National Board Dental Examinations and pass the state or regional clinical exam.
How Much Does a Dentist Make in the US?
As per 2018 data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dentists in the US made an annual median income of $156,240 per year, which roughly translates to $75.12 per hour. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons were the highest paid specialized dentists, along with orthodontists, making an annual median income of $208,000 or more.
Job Outlook for Dentists in the US
The job growth rate is expected to be 7% in the years from 2018 to 2028 – a rate which is faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for dental services is expected to increase as the population ages, with many people from the baby-boom generation needing dental work. Dentists who are willing to work in underserved areas would have good job opportunities, more so than those who work in large metropolitan areas.
The competition for jobs will be high in the coming years. So if you want to set yourself apart from others, you might need specializations, certifications or additional credentials.