To become a dentist, you typically need to earn a dental degree from an accredited dental school. The specific degrees required may vary depending on the country or region you are in. In the United States, for example, the most common degrees for dentists are:
- Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS): This degree is awarded by most dental schools in the United States and focuses on general dentistry.
- Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD): Some dental schools in the United States award the DMD degree, which is essentially equivalent to the DDS degree and also focuses on general dentistry.
The coursework and clinical training in dental school cover a wide range of subjects related to oral health, dental science, and clinical practice. Some of the most important subjects for a dentist include:
- Dental Anatomy and Occlusion: This subject focuses on the structure and function of teeth, oral cavity, and jaw, as well as how teeth come together in the bite (occlusion).
- Oral Pathology: Oral pathology covers the study of diseases and abnormalities that affect the oral and maxillofacial regions, including the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of oral diseases.
- Dental Radiology: Dental radiology deals with the principles and techniques of dental imaging, including X-rays, panoramic radiographs, and cone beam computed tomography (CBCT).
- Restorative Dentistry: Restorative dentistry teaches the skills required for dental restorations, such as fillings, crowns, bridges, and implants, to repair and replace damaged or missing teeth.
- Periodontology: Periodontology focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases that affect the gums and supporting structures of the teeth, including periodontal (gum) disease.
- Endodontics: Endodontics deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and conditions related to the dental pulp and root canal system, including root canal therapy.
- Oral Surgery: Oral surgery involves the extraction of teeth, removal of impacted wisdom teeth, and other surgical procedures related to the oral and maxillofacial regions.
- Pediatric Dentistry: Pediatric dentistry covers the oral health care of children, including preventive measures, dental treatment, and behavior management techniques for young patients.
- Prosthodontics: Prosthodontics focuses on the design, fabrication, and fitting of dental prostheses, including dentures, dental bridges, and dental implants.
- Dental Ethics and Professionalism: This subject covers the ethical and professional responsibilities of dentists, including patient confidentiality, informed consent, and professional codes of conduct.
It's worth noting that dental schools often provide a comprehensive education that includes both didactic (classroom-based) learning and clinical training, allowing aspiring dentists to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to provide oral health care.
Start considering which colleges you'd like to attend. Earning a bachelor's degree is necessary for dental school, but you don't have to major in a science-related field like biology, chemistry, or biochemistry. You can choose any major and still go to dental school. However, a science-related major can be beneficial when preparing for the Dental Admission Test (DAT) and fulfilling dental school prerequisites.