If you are thinking you'd like to become a dentist you will first go to college and get a bachelor's degree. This will need to include all the pre-dental classes. (Most dental schools require biology with lab, inorganic chemistry with lab, organic chemistry with lab, physics with lab and often a semester of writing (English). As soon as you get to college, be sure to connect with the pre-health care advisor and club so that you can be sure you are on track.
Dental school is a four year program which follows college after which you will be a dentist!
If the above sounds like more than you are interested in doing, there is also dental hygiene and dental assisting as careers which require less formal education. Dental hygiene programs are either community college (2 years after high Schoo) or 4 year bachelor's degree programs (4 years after high school) and still allow you to work with patients in taking care of their teeth and mouths under the supervision of or working with a dentist.
Suzanne recommends the following next steps:
Dentistry is a wonderful profession that is just as rewarding as it is challenging. It lies on a foundation of evidence-based science just as all other healthcare professions do, but dentistry has a unique component that is not found in many other healthcare positions. That added component is art. The hands-on artistry that you will perform daily as a dentist will serve as a motivator for you to keep advancing your clinical skill and treating your patients with the highest level of care that you can provide. There is so much behind-the-scenes artwork of dentistry that you don't realize until you get into the field. Fixing a broken down tooth by adding filling material to build it taller and wider is similar to creating a mini sculpture inside of someone's mouth. There is a beautiful combination of science and art found in every dental restoration.
Here is a rundown of the required schooling/training for dentistry: After completing high school, the typical educational path to dentistry involves attending a 4-year university to earn a Bachelor's degree and complete coursework that is required in order to get into dental school. This coursework is typically science-based (i.e. chemistry, biology, physics, anatomy, etc.), so most dentists focus their undergraduate studies with a major that is in the general realm of biology. However, you do not NEED to have a science major to apply to dental school. As long as you take the science courses that are required to apply to dental school, you can major in any subject for your undergraduate degree. A strong GPA is important for your application to dental school. While in college, it is also recommended to be involved in various organizations/teams/clubs and take on a leadership position or two if you can. This is the time to build up your dental school application -- I would recommend volunteering at various organizations in the community, shadowing dentists in the area, and maybe even taking on a side-job in the world of healthcare to show off your time management and patient interaction abilities. Once you have completed your junior year of college, you can begin the application process for dental school, which takes several months. It involves writing a personal statement, filling out individual applications, writing essays, gathering transcripts, and collecting letters of recommendation from mentors or professors that you have created strong relationships with. Once your application is sent to each of the dental schools you are interested in, you sit back and wait (for months!) to receive interview invitations while you finish up your undergraduate degree. After one round of interviews (for most dental schools), you will receive a letter of acceptance or rejection. Once you get an acceptance letter to a school you are ready to commit to, you can reserve your seat in the upcoming entering class and prepare for a life-changing four years that are ahead of you. After those four challenging and academically vigorous years of dental school, you will graduate with either a DDS or DMD degree (very similar degrees, varies school-to-school) and can begin working as a general dentist. However, if you want to continue your education even further, you can choose to specialize in a field of dentistry such as orthodontics, oral surgery, endodontics, etc...all of which require additional years of training. These programs have similar application processes to the dental school application and they are typically competitive programs, so you have to perform well in your four years of dental school and remain involved just as you did in college. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have! It's a long road but well worth it to be in such a great profession.