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General Dentist: Education and Career Information

There is more to dentistry than just a beautiful smile. Dentistry entails a number of elements, including surgery when needed, deep oral care and the education of keeping your mouth healthy. For some, getting to a dentist can make a world of difference in the way they see themselves. Beautiful teeth and oral care is a serious issue, especially when there are a number of diseases that can affect the teeth and gums, causing unsightly consequences. If you are into oral hygiene and are interested in keeping the mouth in a healthy state, a career in general dentistry may be the move for you.

What does a general dentist do?

A general dentist is responsible for the care and maintenance of the teeth, gums and overall oral hygiene. This is the person most people go and see twice a year, where there is an extensive evaluation of the teeth and gums through x-rays and a physical examination. A general dentist is able to perform minor procedures such as root canals, and more complex ones that require more information and work. General dentists are also responsible for cleanings, and in educating the patient on brushing, flossing and other tactics that will promote good oral care. A general dentist is the one who will refer people to specialists when they feel the patient need a more extensive analysis.

Some of the services they offer include fillings, a bridge, dentures, dental cleanings, crowns, bonding, and other facial abnormalities. Depending on their specialty, a general dentist may also be able to perform cosmetic dental services.

You will find general dentists working in a practice, in private practice, in hospitals and other medical facilities.

How much does a general dentist earn?

The average pay for a dentist is about $188,000 a year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) based on statistics from 2014. This field is consistently growing, which means salaries are also growing. This position is expected to grow by 16% through the year 2022. This is a highly sought and demanding field, as elderly patients and other patients are growing old and need more specialized dental care.

What skills are needed to become a general dentist?

Skills needed to be successful as a general dentist include:

Manual dexterity: A general dentist must be good with their hands, as the main role of this career is in working with the oral cavity. A general dentist must be able to handle working with medical equipment of all sizes to get the job done.

Good eyesight: It is imperative that a general dentist have good eyesight. The mouth is sensitive and delicate, it is important to see what needs to be done and getting it done in as quick of a manner as possible.

Able to educate others: Being able to instruct and direct others in oral care and how to keep hygiene in order. You should be able to answer any questions that may occur with ease.

Working as part of a larger team: There are a number of individuals that may be involved in the process of caring for someone that has a number of different skills and backgrounds. Being able to set aside difference to work as a team is key.

Customer service skills: It’s no secret that being able to work with others is a large role of this position, but handling patients and other individuals with care and respect is the other component. No one is the same, and being able to put everyone at ease with your demeanor is vitally important.

Technology: It is important to be able to keep up with the times and work with the different technological equipment and software that is used in general dentistry today. There are a number of machines that are computerized to make things a lot easier. Knowing how to use them and the maintenance that is involved is key.

Internship requirements

A dental rotation externship is required during the last two years of dental school. This is usually conducted in a dental clinic and allows students hands-on experience.

Educational requirements

The first step in becoming a dentist is to complete a bachelor’s degree program, which is four years. Although the requirement for dental school does not designate any specific major, selecting to study biology or anatomy that deals with the body is a good idea. Seeking a school that has a pre-dental program is an excellent choice. Studies in English, psychology, and biology are just some of the courses you will take in the undergraduate program.

During the last two years of the bachelor’s degree program, students should start considering dental schools. The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is required at least one year prior to applying to dental school. This test consists of four multiple-choice tests. It is administered by The American Dental Association (ADA), and is one of the top criteria for selection into dental programs.

After entering dental school, there are four additional years to complete. Students are trained in dental anatomy and epidemiology, dental materials, mouth disease diagnosis and pharmacology. Upon completion of the program, students will earn either a Doctor of Dental Surgery, or Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. Once this degree has been conferred, students must pass both parts of the National Board Dental Examination. This examination consists of both written and clinical tests and must be passed to obtain a license.

There are many opportunities to go into different specialties, which requires additional schooling. Postgraduate programs are usually between two and six additional years to complete. It is not uncommon for someone to practice dentistry under someone until they feel comfortable enough to start their own practice.

Dentistry is a wonderful career path for someone who is interested in helping others keep a beautiful smile and healthy oral care. Proper maintenance of the mouth is needed in the overall scheme of good healthcare, and has a definitive impact on the teeth. If you are seeking a promising career path that will keep you on your toes, a career in general dentistry may be the one for you.

Dentistry Scholarships

ADA Foundation CBCF Louis Stokes Health Scholars Program CDA Foundation
National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Dental Education Association (ADEA)
Academy of Laser Dentistry U.S. Army Health Professions Scholarship Hispanic Dental Association
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In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
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