The degree to which individuals in the United States care for their teeth in the 21st century would seem unimaginable to the founding fathers. We brush, floss, use mouth rinses, visit a professional twice a year for cleaning, and even wear braces to straighten crooked teeth and give us a perfect smile. This change over the centuries increased rapidly during the 20th century and one of the more lucrative career fields an individual could get into was that of dentistry. Individuals who earn a dental degree are devoting their life to a medical career aimed at evaluating, diagnosing, preventing, and treating diseases and disorders of the mouth and adjacent facial structures.
Earning a dental degree in the United States is very similar to earning a medical degree as a doctor. Individuals must complete at least three years of undergraduate study, though most of the dental schools in the U.S. require a Bachelor’s degree for admittance. Students can earn their Bachelor’s degree in any field they wish, though it often benefits them to major in a science field to better prepare them for their future career. Undergrad students must complete several pre-dental courses as well as some or all of the following courses:
- Organic chemistry
Upon completion of undergraduate work, individuals may apply to a dental school. There are 57 dental schools in the U.S. that are accredited by the American Dental Association. The admissions process includes completion of the Dental Admissions Test, good grade point averages, and recommendations and interviews. Once in dental school, prospective dentists must complete four years of study which are broken up into two years of different study. The first two years are devoted to coursework in sciences such as anatomy, microbiology, biochemistry, and physiology, as well as laboratory techniques. During the final two years of their dental school education, dentists practice their trade on volunteers at dental schools. Students practice their skills under the direct supervision of licensed professional dentists.
When students have successfully completed dental school they are awarded one of two doctorates. Many schools award their graduates with the dental degree Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) while some of the dental schools in the U.S. award the equivalent degree of Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.D.M.). Graduates have one more step to complete before practicing dentistry however, licensure. Those with a dental degree must pass a written and practical exam to gain licensure from the state they wish to practice in.