How to Become a Dentist From Being a Dental Hygienist

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Caring for teeth is no easy task. Dentists go through an extensive amount of training to learn different techniques to prevent tooth decay. Being a dental hygienist gives you a distinct advantage because you already know dental terminology and dental routines. However, the education is different, and so is the training. Be prepared to take classes and exams. Going to dental school is also very expensive, so plan carefully before taking the plunge.

How to Become a Dentist from Being a Dental Hygienist

  • Become familiar with dentistry. As a dental hygienist, you already know much of the territory. Observe the dentist's work and ask questions about the field's pros and cons.

  • After becoming familiar with a dentist's job, take postbaccaulaurate classes in the sciences. Chances are, dental hygiene courses are specialized towards dentistry. To go to dental school, specific college courses such as biology, physics, and general and organic chemistry are required. Most dental schools require a four-year college education for admission, so check with the dental schools to which you plan to apply.

  • After successfully completing the science classes, take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). This is a one-day long computerized test required for dental school admission.

  • After successfully passing the DAT, obtain letters of recommendations from professors who taught you the basic science courses. These letters should be strong and emphasize your drive toward becoming a dentist. Also, obtain a letter from the dentist with whom you've worked as a hygienist. This letter should emphasize your work ethic, enthusiasm, and broad knowledge base in the dental field. Provide your letter writers with a self-addressed stamped envelope to be sent to your college's predental office. Most colleges mail the letters for you.

  • While asking for letters of recommendation, apply to dental school. Plan to apply to several schools as the competition is fierce.

  • After you apply to dental schools, you should receive personal interview invitations from some or all of the schools you're interested in. At your interviews, present yourself in the best light. Here, admissions officers assess your character, your goals and ambitions. Remember, dental school admissions look at the whole application and not just the interview. Be prepared to speak about your career as a dental hygienist. This makes you stand out from the rest of the applicants.

  • Once you are accepted, you will attend dental school for four years, during which time you must successfully pass the coursework, labs and clinical exams.

  • After graduating from dental school, you will need to get a license by successfully passing written and practical exams. Each state requires certification with the American Dental Association. Be sure to register.

  • Once you pass your state's licensing exam, you can find a job. You are now a dentist.

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