Explore different career options in dentistry – Part 1

September 19, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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According to industry projections, the job outlook for dentistry is expected to increase steadily over the foreseeable future. If you have been considering a career in dentistry you should know that there is a wide range of specialties that you can choose from within the dental field. Each of these requires a different level of education and a different skill set. Knowing the education and training requirements as well as the skill set requirements will help you make a more informed decision when you are choosing within the various sub-specialties in the dental field.

A pre-dentistry student on her dentistry work experience placement in Tanzania General Dentist

General dentists provide primary care to patients. This would include teeth cleaning and polishing, cavity filling, oral check-ups and teeth whitening. Some general dentists also perform basic oral surgery like root canals.

To practice as a general dentist you would need to earn a doctorate in dentistry. This is an advanced degree that takes about four to seven years to complete.



Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists are licenced dental professionals who perform an array of services related to oral health. Some of the most common responsibilities include administration of local anaesthesia, dental sealants and fluoride. Depending on the workplace set-up, a dental hygienist may also perform some of the duties of a dental assistant.

To be able to practicing as a dental hygienist you would need to earn an associate’s degree in dentistry.

Oral Surgeon 

An oral surgeon is essentially a dentist who has specialised in advanced surgeries for teeth and facial bones. The most common type of procedure that oral surgeons perform is extraction of the wisdom tooth. Other commonly performed surgeries include corrective jaw surgery, TMJ treatment and dental implants.

A doctorate of dentistry is the basic minimum credential required to practice as an oral surgeon.

Dental Assistant 

Dental assistants assist dentists in the treatment of patients. Typical responsibilities that a dental assistant handles include passing the necessary instruments to the dentists, sterilising instruments after use, taking X-rays and taking impressions. There are several technical schools that offer dental assistant training. However, on-the-job training is a more commonly pursued option.  

All of the careers in the dental field offer numerous benefits and are definitely worth considering. The work hours are regular, the wages competitive and the job outlook favourable. 

If you are interested in a career in dentistry, the first thing you need to do is decide what level of education you are comfortable pursuing. While the educational requirements are not very high for dental hygienists and dental assistants, a career as a general dentist or an oral surgeon will mean spending extra years studying to earn a doctorate in dentistry.