Toothaches are some of the worst pains ever, but if you think you’re the kind of person who can and would love to relieve people from this pain, you might actually be fit to become a dentist.
Treating people’s teeth and creating their beautiful smiles is by far a dentist’s biggest reward. However, here are some of the other advantages in the life of a dentist: unlike doctors, you will rarely get to work on the weekends and in time, you can open your own clinic and then make your own schedule and be your own boss. Not many professions will offer you this luxury.
So if you have given some thought to the idea of becoming a dentist, go ahead and start studying a Dentistry degree abroad!
So, how can you become a dentist? Mainly, you will have to complete a dental school after finishing high school and finally, pass an exam to hold a national license or certificate in order to legally practice dentistry. Here are the main steps you'll need to take to follow a Dentistry degree career:
- Find out what dentists do
- Decide if you have the right skills to become a dentist
- Which are the best countries for a Dentistry degree
- Find out if you need a foundation degree in Dentistry
- How is the life of a Dentistry degree student
- How to get a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Dentistry
- You can specialise with a PhD in Dentistry
- Getting a job as a dentist
Step 1: What does a dentist do?
Dentists can work in public or private clinics, hospitals, and sometimes public institutions. Most dentists work as general practitioners, while others are specialised in a certain area in Dentistry. Their job includes various daily operations such as:
- Examine teeth and diagnose patients' dental conditions
- Restore teeth affected by decay and treat gum disease
- Examine and perform dental x-rays
- Fill cavities, repair broken teeth and restore dentition
- Extract teeth and make measurements for dentures to replace missing teeth
- Place plastic sealants on children's teeth
- Perform cosmetic dental services (whitening teeth, etc.)
- Educate patients on oral healthcare
- Get involved in marketing services to potential clients
- Administrative tasks such as bookkeeping, buying equipment and supplies, supervise dental hygienists, assistants, laboratory technicians and receptionists
Step 2: Do you have what it takes?
The thought that anyone can do the work of a dentist, but only a few enjoy working with teeth has crossed your mind, hasn’t it? Well, in the real life, a skilled dentist actually needs to have some qualities and abilities, like:
- Manual dexterity
- The ability to maintain intense concentration for long periods
- Excellent people and communication skills
- Empathetic ability and high interest in the welfare of patients
- Commitment to always learn and keep up with new technologies and procedures in the Dentistry field
Step 3: Where to study Dentistry?
In most countries, Dentistry studies are very similar to studying Medicine and require many years of preparation and training. You can apply for a Dentistry degree in colleges, universities, or in dental schools if you study in the U.S. – which represent a different faculty within a university.
According to QS Rankings, some of the best countries and dental schools to study a degree in Dentistry are:
- Karolinska Institute, Sweden
- University of Gothenburg, Sweden
- Malmo University, Sweden
- KU Leuven, Belgium
- University of Copenhagen, Denmark
- University of Zurich, Switzerland
- University of Bern, Switzerland
- King’s College London
- University College London (UCL)
- The University of Manchester
- Newcastle University
- University of Michigan
- Harvard University
- University of North Carolina
- University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
- The University of Hong Kong
- Tokyo Medical and Dental University
- Peking University
- Seoul National University
Step 4: Foundation degrees in Dentistry
If you’re looking for international studies in the Dentistry field, you should first make sure you fit in with the academic requirements that are different, depending on each country. Sometimes, you may not have the possibility to validate your prior studies, in which case you may consider applying to a pre-Bachelor's or pre-Master's programme in Dentistry.
During a Dentistry pathway programme, you will extend and enrich your knowledge on biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and some preparation courses include physics, algebra, calculus and statistics. In addition, most foundation degrees also focus on acquiring advanced oral and written English skills for academic purposes.
Step 5: Prepare for life as a dental student
According to dental students, the first year of dental school is the toughest, in terms of adjusting to the many new and specific terminology and with the intensive coursework in sciences. A degree in Dentistry involves numerous hours of study (from ten to twelve each day), in which you will attend lectures the first half of the day, while the other half you will engage in clinical practice.
All students who enrol in a Dentistry programme learn to become organised and rigorous persons, two valuable assets for prospective dentists.
One of the most useful tips that you should apply while you are a dental student is to be incredibly pro-active and to never hesitate to ask questions. Take advantage of the support of teachers and assistants, and pick up as many professional secrets as you can.
Step 6: Earn a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Dentistry
Dentistry degrees have different qualifications and pre-requisites, depending on the country where you wish to study.
- (Most) European countries: a Dentistry degree is not available for both Bachelor's and Master's study. You enrol directly to a dental school/faculty after high school and it takes five or six years to complete, depending on each country.
- In the U.S.: you will first have to complete a Bachelor's degree (in any field), then you can apply to a dental school that lasts four years.
During dental school, in the first years of study, courses will focus on general medicine, oral anatomy, dental practice emergencies, oral histology, periodontics, dental hygiene, dental pharmacology. You will get to combine theoretical lectures with practical experience on mannequins.
From the third year, under the supervision of dental instructors, students start practising on real patients, but mainly dealing with basic dental care. Starting with the fourth year, students get involved in more complex, restorative dental procedures (root canal treatments, replacing crowns, fillings, etc.).
Dental school will help students develop clinical skills, they will learn to communicate and work with patients and acquire advanced abilities in handling all types of dental tools, instruments and equipments.
Step 7: Specialise with a Doctoral/PhD degree in Dentistry
Although a PhD in the field of Dentistry is not required in order to get a job as a dentist, students who prefer to further specialise in a certain area of the field choose this opportunity. The most popular specialisations in the Dentistry field include oral pathology, implant dentistry, dental surgery, endodontics.
A PhD programme in Dentistry will help students get a broader view on certain topics related to lesions and diseases of teeth, jaw and surrounding tissues and students can also gain expert knowledge in preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic processes.
Step 8: Get a job as a dentist
Before you get to practice Dentistry, you will be required to hold a national licensure or certificate. This procedure is available in most countries worldwide and dentists usually get assessed through an exam at the end of their study period. In the United States, for instance, dentists should pass a test administered by the American Dental Association.
Once you hold a dental license, you can start looking for a job, and usually, the first one would be as an associateship, which means working with an established dentist who owns his/her own practice.
Places to look for a dentist job:
- the network of professional contacts that you have built throughout dental school
- dental schools often post job offers for associate or established dentists positions
- career boards offered by local dental associations or societies
- Healthcare or Dentistry related career/job fairs
Useful tips for successfully getting a dentist job would be:
- to include in your resume any certification or proficiency in specific dental skills and communicative skills, such as fluency in a foreign language
- prepare a portfolio of your work with case histories, before and after photos, but make sure to respect the confidentiality and anonymity of the patients
The most common specialisations in dental service are:
- oral and maxillofacial surgery
- paediatric dentistry
- restorative dentistry
The average salary for a dentist is around 123,000 USD/year in the U.S. whereas out of the European countries, the highest salary for a dentist is in Spain, as it reaches around 175,000 USD/year.
The estimates are that job offers for dentists are bound to grow significantly in the next ten years, much faster than for other professions.
Take the steps that would lead you to a rewarding career as a dentist and start off with Bachelor's, Master's and PhD degrees in Dentistry!