A career as a dentist requires strong skills in science and the ability to work with your hands. Prospective dentists usually complete four years of undergraduate education, followed by four more years of dental school. Dentists must also pass state licensing exams, and a specialty requires at least two to four years of post-graduate training. Once qualified, dentists occupy a position of respect in the community and practice a profession with many benefits.
Dentists benefit from much higher pay than the average worker. General dentists received an average annual income of $164,570 as of 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By way of comparison, the average annual wage for all occupations was $46,440 in 2013. Some specialists earn even higher wages than general dentists. For example, orthodontists averaged $196,270 in annual income in 2013, while oral and maxillofacial surgeons averaged $218,960.
Opportunity to Serve
Dentists can take satisfaction in serving others and helping improve patients' health. teaching patients how to take care of their teeth, they help prevent serious dental problems. Through restorations, they relieve pain and help people keep their teeth longer. Dentists also perform cosmetic procedures, such as teeth whitening, which can enhance the appearance and self-confidence of their patients. Sometimes, dentists help save lives by diagnosing serious illnesses such as cancer, according to the American Dental Association.
Variety of Choices
Within their field, dentists have choices when it comes to specialties and work environments. They can practice general dentistry or pursue one of nine recognized specialties, such as pediatric dentistry, dental public health, oral surgery or orthodontics. According to the ADA, approximately 80 percent of dentists are general practitioners. Dentists can choose to work for another dental practice or start their own business or partnership. In addition to teaching and research, other career options include working for the armed forces, public health agencies or hospitals.
A dental career provides a certain amount of flexibility, which helps professionals balance their work and personal lives. Some dentists work evenings or weekends for the convenience of their patients, while others avoid scheduling patients on certain days or partial days. Although most dentists work full-time, many dentists keep up a part-time schedule for years after the traditional retirement age.
A Favorable Future
The prospects for dental graduates in the United States are highly favorable because the supply won't keep up with the demand, predicts the BLS. The statistics bureau expects the number of positions for dentists to grow 16 percent between 2012 and 2022, compared to 11 percent for all jobs. The aging U.S. population's need for dentistry and the increasing popularity of cosmetic work will contribute to this rapid growth. Additional jobs will open up as older dentists retire.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Dentists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Dentists, General
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Orthodontists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
- American Dental Association: Ten Great Reasons to Be a Dentist
- American Dental Association: What Can a Career in Dentistry Offer You?
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