Non-traditional dental career options

November 3, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

See current opportunities

The dentistry department Many dental students follow a traditional career path to becoming a dentist. After four years of college and an additional four years of dental school, many graduates join a dental practice or open their own. Working in a solo practice or as part of a group is a great way to gain experience in the field. But there are other options for dentists, which you may not be familiar with. 


Hospital dentistry

 Hospital dentists provide care to hospitalized patients. Patients in a hospital setting may have physical limitations and medical conditions, which prevent them from seeking care in a dental office setting. In some instances, emergency care may be needed due to trauma to the mouth and teeth. Students interested in working in a hospital setting should consider a hospital dental residency after dental school. During residency, dentists will learn how to treat medically compromised patients.


Public health dentistry

 Dentists who work in public health, may provide services to low-income populations, conduct oral health surveillance and develop dental health policies or programs for various populations. Public health is considered a dental specialty, and public health dental residencies are available for those interested in working in the specialty. Some dental schools also offer a dual degree program, which combines a dental degree and a master’s in public health. State and county health programs may hire dentists to work in public health. Federal agencies, such as National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Health and Human Services are examples of federal agencies that may employ dentists. 



 It may not come as a surprise; dental schools need experienced dentists to teach classes and supervise students during dental laboratory work. In addition to teaching, dentists may fill positions such as clinical managers and administrators of dental schools. Dentists who enjoy teaching and mentoring students may find this type of work very rewarding.


Dental research

 The field of dentistry continues to evolve. The connection between dental health and medical conditions, such as heart disease, has created even more opportunities for dental research. Dentists who are interested in doing something different may want to consider dental research. Opportunities in dental research can be found at universities, government agencies and private companies. In most cases, at least a few years of dental experience will be required before moving into research.


Working in the dental product industry

 Dentists are needed to work for private companies, which produce various types of dental products. Products may include tools, which dentists use in their practice, materials, such as adhesives, and dental lasers. Dentists may work in various capacities within the dental product industry, such as in product development, research or marketing. 


Insurance industry work

 Large insurance companies often employ dentists to work in various roles in their dental benefits divisions. Dentists may conduct research, review claims or serve in other administrative roles. Experience in the field and a master’s degree in business administration may be helpful to work in upper management within the dental insurance industry.