Career Development

What Does a Dentist Do?

Find out what a dentist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a dentist.

Dentists are medical professionals who specialize in treating the mouth, teeth and gums. They provide a wide range of services including routine cleanings, fillings, crowns, bridges and other dental procedures.

Dentists must complete four years of undergraduate school followed by four years of dental school. After graduating from dental school, they must pass a series of exams before becoming licensed to practice dentistry.

Dentist Job Duties

Dentists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Performing oral examinations to assess the patient’s dental health and detect any issues that may require further treatment
  • Cleaning teeth, removing plaque, and performing other preventive dental care procedures such as administering fluoride treatments or providing dental hygiene instruction
  • Diagnosing oral diseases and recommending treatment plans to promote good oral health
  • Preparing x-rays and other diagnostic images to help identify areas of concern that may require additional attention
  • Prescribing medications to treat dental infections or other conditions affecting the mouth or teeth
  • Explaining the findings of examinations to patients in a way that they can understand
  • Administering local anesthetics during procedures such as fillings and extractions
  • Recommending braces, retainers, or other orthodontic devices to treat teeth alignment problems
  • Conducting surgical procedures to repair teeth damaged by disease or trauma

Dentist Salary & Outlook

The salary of a dentist can vary depending on a number of factors, including their level of education, years of experience, and the type of practice they have.

  • Median Annual Salary: $175,000 ($84.13/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $356,000 ($171.15/hour)

The employment of dentists is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

The need to replace dentists who are expected to retire will drive employment growth. In addition, the increased acceptance of oral health care as part of overall health care and the growing popularity of cosmetic dental procedures should lead to greater demand for dentists.

Related: In-Depth Dentist Salary Guide

Dentist Job Requirements

Dentists typically need to have the following:

Education: Dentists need to complete a four-year undergraduate program and a four-year dental program. The first two years of the dental program are spent in the classroom learning about topics like anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, microbiology, radiology, pathology and periodontics. The final two years of the program are spent in a dental clinic, where students learn how to apply their classroom knowledge in a real-world setting.

Training & Experience: After graduating from dental school, dentists must complete a residency program, which is a period of supervised clinical practice. Residency programs typically last three to four years. Dentists can complete a residency program in any specialty they choose, including pediatric dentistry, periodontics, orthodontics or general dentistry.

Certifications & Licenses: All dentists must earn a license by passing the National Board of Dental Examiners’ Comprehensive Examination. This exam is based on the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Council Principles of Dentistry and a state-specific exam.

Dentist Skills

Dentists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Dentists communicate with patients to explain treatment options and procedures. They also communicate with other dental professionals to ensure their patients receive the best care. Dentists also communicate with insurance companies to ensure their patients receive the treatment they need.

Technical skills: Dentists use technical skills to perform procedures and analyze data. They use technical skills to read and interpret medical records, examine patients and perform procedures. Dentists use technical skills to identify and treat dental issues and diseases.

Teamwork: Dentists often work with other dental professionals, such as dental assistants, hygienists and other dentists. They also work with patients to ensure they understand their treatment plan and feel comfortable with it. Dentists can use teamwork skills to collaborate with other dental professionals to provide patients with the best care possible.

Empathy: Dentists often work with patients who are experiencing pain or discomfort. Empathy allows them to understand and relate to their patients’ feelings, which can help them provide better care. Dentists can also use empathy to help patients feel more comfortable during procedures.

Organization: Dentists often have multiple patients at a time, so it’s important for them to be organized. This allows them to provide the best care to each patient and ensures they don’t miss any steps in treatment. Organization also allows dentists to keep track of their patients’ records and ensure they’re following up with patients as needed.

Dentist Work Environment

Dentists work in well-lit, clean offices. They usually work on one patient at a time and use a variety of dental tools and equipment. Dentists typically work 40 hours a week, but some work 50 or more hours a week. They may work evenings or weekends to accommodate their patients’ schedules. Some dentists work in solo practices, but most work in group practices with other dentists or dental specialists. In group practices, dentists may have more opportunity to take vacations and holidays and to see a variety of patients with different dental problems.

Dentist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how dentists work. Dentists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Use of Technology in the Dental Office

The use of technology in the dental office is a trend that is quickly gaining popularity among dentists. This is because technology can be used to improve efficiency and provide better patient care.

As technology becomes more prevalent in the dental office, dentists will need to learn how to use it effectively in order to provide the best possible care for their patients. This includes learning how to use electronic records, digital x-rays, and other technologies that can help streamline the dental process.

More Focus on Preventative Dentistry

Dentists are increasingly focusing on preventative dentistry as a way to keep their patients healthy and avoid costly procedures down the road.

This trend is being driven by the increasing cost of dental care, which has led many patients to look for cheaper alternatives. By providing preventive services, such as cleanings and checkups, dentists can ensure that their patients stay healthy and avoid expensive treatments later on.

A Greater Emphasis on Patient Education

Patient education is becoming an increasingly important part of dentistry. As patients become more educated about their oral health, they are looking for dentists who can provide them with the information they need to make informed decisions about their treatment.

Dentists who are able to communicate effectively with their patients will be in high demand in the years to come. They will need to be able to explain complex dental procedures in a way that is easy to understand, and they will also need to be able to provide patients with the resources they need to take care of their teeth at home.

How to Become a Dentist

A dentist career can be both rewarding and lucrative. As a dentist, you’ll have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them achieve optimal oral health. You’ll also be able to work in a variety of settings, including private practice, group practice, hospital dentistry, and public health dentistry.

To become a dentist, you’ll need to complete a dental school program and pass the National Board Dental Examination. After graduation, you’ll need to complete a one-year residency program in general dentistry.

Related: How to Write a Dentist Resume

Advancement Prospects

Dentists can advance their careers in a number of ways. One is to move into a specialty area of dentistry. Specialties include orthodontics (straightening teeth), periodontics (treating gum disease), oral and maxillofacial surgery (correcting facial deformities), and prosthodontics (making false teeth). Dentists can also move into teaching or research. Many dentists combine private practice with teaching or research.

Some dentists move into administrative positions in dental schools, public health departments, or dental associations. Others become consultants to the dental industry or to insurance companies. Some dentists open their own businesses, such as dental laboratories, dental supply companies, or group practices.

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