The day-to-day job of dentists involves performing different procedures related to the treatment of gums and teeth. These include root canals, cavity fillings, extractions and tooth replacements, etc. Taking X-rays of the mouth and giving oral care/hygiene advice are some of their other responsibilities.

According to the latest data made available by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois has nearly 4,000 general dentists. If you have aspirations of joining their ranks, then this guide will walk you through the process of becoming a dentist in The Prairie State.

Should I Become a Dentist in Illinois?

Education Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD)/Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)
Major Requirement Dentistry
License/Certification Required
Experience/Training Residency required if opting for a specialization
Key Skills Complex Problem Solving, Judgment and Decision Making, Communication, Problem Sensitivity and Active Listening.
Annual Mean Salary (2019)–National $ 178,260 (Dentists, General)
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 7%
Annual Mean Salary (2019) – Illinois $189,170 (Dentists, General)

Sources: O*Net Online and US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Dentists are either general practitioners or specialists in a particular branch of dentistry. Becoming a specialist requires extra education and training (2 to 4 years) apart from the dental degree. As for work routines, long shifts and weekends on the job are common for most dentists.

Career Outlook

From 2018 to 2028, a 7% increase in job opportunities for dentists has been predicted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is more than the growth that many other professions are likely to witness. Also, as the population ages, the demand for basic and advanced dental care will increase.

Steps to Become a Dentist in Illinois

The process outlined in this section will help you become a dentist in Illinois.

    1. Undergraduate Studies

To become a dentist, you need to first get a Bachelor’s degree. Any area of specialization is acceptable but you should ideally take at least some courses in science-related fields like biology, physics, psychology and chemistry, etc. Some dental schools also enroll students after 2 or 3 years of Bachelor’s education. They get their undergrad degree as part of the dental studies program.


    1. Qualify the DAT (Dental Admission Test)

Following graduation, the next step is to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). You must do really well on this exam because your entry to dental school depends on it.


    1. Enter Dental School


Your time in dental school (4 years) will be geared towards the attainment of either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. Make sure you choose a school with programs endorsed by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) which functions under the umbrella of the American Dental Association (ADA).


    1. Get Licensed


Once you graduate from dental school, you need to get licensed by the Illinois Board of Dentistry. To be eligible for a license, you must clear the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE). Passing a state-approved clinical exam, such as the ADEX (American Dental Examination), is also among the eligibility requirements.


    1. Pick an Area of Specialty (Optional)


If you choose to work in an area of specialty and not in general dentistry, then you will need additional education and training (2 to 4 years) in one of the following areas.

  • Periodontics
  • Dental Public Health
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Prosthodontics
  • Endodontics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology


How Long Does It Take to Become a Dentist in Illinois?

The usual time frame is 8 years (4 years of Bachelor’s studies and 4 years of dental studies). Afterwards, if you choose to become a specialist as opposed to practicing general dentistry, then that demands another few years of education and training (potential residency program).

What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Dentist in Illinois?

These requirements have to be honored if you want to become a dentist in Illinois.

  • Finishing undergraduate education.
  • Graduating from dental school with either a DDS or a DMD degree.
  • Getting licensed by the Illinois Board of Dentistry.
  • Choosing to practice between general dentistry and an area of specialty.

How Much Can I Make After Becoming a Dentist in Illinois?

As per the public data provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, dentists in Illinois earned $189,170 in annual mean wage in 2019.