dentist working

What does a Dentist do?

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A dentist provides care for a patient’s teeth, gums, and oral health. They provide a number of services. Dentists repair fractured teeth, fill cavities, remove tooth decay, straighten teeth, place sealants, whiten patient’s teeth, and educate on proper oral hygiene. They also must diagnose what is going on with a patient’s mouth so they read X-rays as well and look for potential jaw problems, gum disease, or cavities.

Watch a career video to learn what a dentist does:

How to Become a Dentist

dentist working

To become a dentist in the United States, you must first complete a Bachelor’s Degree. Usually, aspiring dentists attain a bachelor’s in a science-related field. Typically, this takes students four years to complete. Afterward, you’ll need to pass the Dental Admission Test (DAT), which is a standardized test required for dental school admission. Once you gain acceptance into an accredited dental school, which typically offers a four-year program, you will embark on the next step.

In dental school, you will towards a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree. Next, you must pass both the National Board Dental Examination and your state’s licensing exam in order to practice dentistry. Some dentists may choose to pursue postgraduate residency programs for specialized training, although this step is optional. Following this, you must apply for and obtain a dental license from your state’s dental board to practice legally.

If you aspire to specialize in fields like orthodontics or oral surgery, additional training and education will be necessary. Continuing education is crucial in dentistry to stay updated with the latest advancements and maintain your license. You can then embark on your dental career, either by starting your own private practice, joining a group practice, or working in a dental clinic. By following these steps, you can achieve your goal of becoming a dentist in the United States.

Job Description of a Dentist

A dentist uses different equipment and technologies to do their job, such as laser and digital scanners, X-ray machines, probes, drills, and other tools. They may also oversee others in the dental office such as internals, dental assistants, and dental hygienists. Some dentists prefer to specialize in other areas of dentistry such as oral pathology, orthodontics, or pediatrics. Watch this video that highlights a dentist in the army.

Dentist Career Video Transcript

It’s our job to make sure that everyone gets an exam every year and we have to make sure that everybody’s dentally fit. If they have any issues dentally we have to take care of those before they deploy. Deployment is any type of mission where the patient, where the service member has to go overseas and basically stop everything they’re doing and help with the mission. My day typically starts with exam and sick call. Anything that walks in the door from exams to people in severe tooth pain.

Some of the things that I like to do are root canals and crowns and bridges. Root canals are sometimes needed when somebody has a large cavity that is real close to the nerve and the bacteria has gotten into the nerve and caused pain. So in order to save the tooth you have to do what’s called a root canal. My first job was to be a dental assistant so I was actually on the other side of the chair helping the dentist. So I enjoyed it so much, that I decided to pursue a career in Army dentistry.

I would encourage that they get really good grades in school, focus on math and science for the most part and another thing I’d suggest is maybe taking an art class it helps build a foundation for using your hands and that’s something that’s a very important aspect of dentistry. Being comfortable working with your hands gives them a keen eye for detail. With working with such a small field, you really have to pay attention to detail.

These are my dental loops that I use to help magnify my field of vision. So basically, every time I work I wear these so that I can tell exactly what I’m looking at and how far down I need to go. My advice for kids would be, first and foremost, a healthy diet. Believe it or not, a healthy diet can really go a long way to keeping your teeth cavity free.

I would encourage making smart decisions for snacking and incorporating fruits and vegetables into your daily diet along with drinking plenty of water and brushing twice a day for two minutes and most importantly, they should probably keep up with their regular check-ups with their family dentist.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dentists.

National Center for O*NET Development. 29-1021.00. O*NET OnLine.

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