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Careers in Dentistry

A dental education opens up a world of professional opportunities. In addition to private practice, today's dental school graduates can choose other dental career options including working in hospital emergency rooms, conducting advanced laboratory research, teaching future dentists or even traveling the world with international health and relief organizations. 

Follow the ADA News series, Becoming a Dentist, and read exciting stories about three of today's dental students. 

If you are looking for a rewarding career in health care with a competitive salary and a sustainable work-life balance, dentistry may be for you. Visit the ADA Career Center to find a job!

Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards

Specialty recognition is obtained by dental specialties to protect the public, nurture the art and science of dentistry, and improve the quality of care.  Dental specialties and specialty certifying boards are recognized in those areas where advanced knowledge and skills are essential to maintain or restore oral health.  The National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards recognizes dental specialties and boards based on the ADA Requirements for Recognition of Dental Specialties and National Certifying Boards for Dental Specialists.  Information on the recognized specialties and the recognized dental specialty certifying boards is available on the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards website.

Choosing a Dental School

Accreditation is a non-governmental, voluntary peer review process by which educational institutions or programs may be granted public recognition for compliance with accepted standards of quality and performance.  Specialized accrediting agencies exist to assess and verify educational quality in particular professions or occupations to ensure that individuals will be qualified to enter those disciplines.  A specialized accrediting agency recognizes the course of instruction which comprises a unique set of skills and knowledge, develops the accreditation standards by which such educational programs are evaluated, conducts evaluation of programs, and publishes a list of accredited programs that meet the national accreditation standards.  Accreditation standards are developed in consultation with those affected by the standards who represent the broad communities of interest. For dentistry, the Commission on Dental Accreditation is nationally recognized by the United States Department of Education to accredit dental education programs.

There are over 65 dental schools in the United States with dental education programs and a dental education program in one school in Saudi Arabia accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Each program is rigorously evaluated for its content and quality. Typically, DDS/DMD programs take four years to complete with additional years for dental specialties like Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Pediatric Dentistry.

Admission to dental school is highly competitive, but the application process has never been easier. Most U.S. dental schools accept a single online application through the American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS).

Paying for Dental School

Dental school, like other graduate and professional programs, is a significant investment. Over 90 percent of dental students take out loans to finance their education. Visit Financial Resources for Dental Students and Recent Graduates for detailed information about financial planning and effective debt management.

Dental Team Careers

There is a great demand for dental team positions like dental hygienists, dental assistants and dental lab technicians. Hygienists and dental assistants interact closely with patients to ensure a high level of care, while dental lab technicians work behind-the-scenes, designing the dentures, crowns and braces used by dentists.

All dental team careers are well paid with flexible hours. The educational costs are also much lower than dental school. Learn more about accredited training programs in your area.