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Dentistry Career Options

Dentistry offers stimulating career options. In addition to private practice, excellent opportunities exist in teaching and research, careers with government agencies or in industry.

  • Private Practice: Many dentists work either in solo private practice or in partnerships with other dentists. The majority of private practice dentists own their practices.
  • Academic Dentistry: An academic dentistry career combines teaching, research, community service and patient care. Faculty members work in an intellectually stimulating and exciting academic environment. Career opportunities for academic dentists are excellent at this time. Additional information is available at the American Dental Education Association's (ADEA) website, http://www.adea.org.
  • Public Health Dentistry: This career focuses on community settings rather than private practice. Promoting dental health, developing health policy and preventing disease are the major roles of a public health dentist. Numerous opportunities exist in research and teaching within public health dentistry. The U.S. Public Health Service offers dentists an opportunity to provide dental care in unique cultural environments (e.g., an Indian Reservation, Coast Guard base, or Federal Prison).
  • Research: Research careers offer opportunities to generate new knowledge and be on the cutting edge of scientific discoveries that ultimately impact patient care. Some of the latest research improving patient care includes lasers in surgery, implants to replace damaged bone and computerized x-rays. Many researchers are faculty at universities while others work in federal facilities, such as the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), www.nidcr.nih.gov, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), www.nih.gov, or in private industry. A career in research requires an advanced degree or additional training beyond the dental degree.
  • International Health Care: Dentists provide services to populations abroad and work for such agencies as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Many dentists volunteer to bring dentistry to aid people in third world countries.
  • Hospital dentistry: Hospital dentists treat patients with medical conditions and disabilities alongside physician colleagues, often in operating rooms and emergency departments. Hospital dentists usually have a strong interest in medicine and collaborative care and have spent a year or more training in a hospital-based setting after dental school.

A Career as a Dental Specialist

The majority of the 164,000 practicing dentists today are general practitioners. The remainder (about 20 percent) are dental specialists who limit their practices to one of the nine ADA recognized dental specialties. The nine dental specialties are: Dental Public Health, Endodontics, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics and Prosthodontics. Definitions of the ADA-recognized dental specialties are also available. In addition to four years of dental school, two or more additional years of dental specialty education are required.