Career options within dentistry

May 7, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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The field of dentistry includes a broad range of professionals from across varied educational backgrounds.

All of these dental professionals work together to provide essential oral care ranging from routine cleanings and simple fillings to more specialised dental procedures and complex oral and maxillofacial surgeries. Take a look at some of the career options in the field of dentistry.

Allied & mid-level careers in dentistry

Mid-level and allied careers in dentistry are excellent career options for anyone who would like to pursue a career in this field without having to spend the time and money required to pursue a doctorate level dentistry career.

Dental Hygienist
A dental hygienist provides basic dental care under the supervision of a qualified dentist. The primary role of a dental hygienist is to educate patients on the different aspects of oral and dental care. These professionals are also qualified to do full cleanings and identify cavities, but only in an assisting capacity. Dental hygienists undergo more extensive training, undertake more responsibilities and earn twice as much as dental assistants.

Dental Assistant
A dental assistant works under the supervision of a licensed dentist. Most obtain training on the job. The other option is to get training through a relevant diploma program. While dental assistants may help dentists with a variety of tasks they are not qualified to identify cavities or do full cleanings as dental hygienists.

Dental Lab Technician
Dental lab technicians do not interact directly with patients. They work behind the scenes in a lab, manufacturing crowns and other dental prostheses that require custom specifications.

Doctorate level careers in dentistry

To practice at the doctorate level, you will need to complete a full-time dentistry degree programme with additional specialisation courses depending on the specialty you intend pursuing.

General Dentist
A general dentist provides general dental health care prevention and maintenance services ranging from teeth cleaning and fluoride treatments to cavity fillings, root canals, and implants.

An orthodontist specialises in the positioning of the teeth and jaw alignment. Orthodontists make use of several different techniques and oral devices such as braces, retainers, and others to help straighten and realign crooked or misaligned teeth. While orthodontists treat patients of all ages, they mainly focus on treating younger patients as their teeth are more responsive to the changes.

Cosmetic Dentist
Cosmetic dentists specialise in aesthetic dentistry. This involves procedures such as veneers, teeth whitening and teeth bonding, which are done primarily to improve a person’s appearance rather than their health. Cosmetic dentists may also practice general or primary dentistry in addition to cosmetic dentistry.

Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon
Oral and maxillofacial surgery is the most complex and challenging of all dentistry specialties. Professionals who specialise in this area are trained to perform a wide range of surgeries and cosmetic procedures to correct problems related to the mouth, jaws, neck and facial structures. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons undergo the longest training as they need to have thorough dental, medical and surgical knowledge and skills.


As you can see, dentistry careers can be extremely rewarding but also often require a long period of study and on-the-job learning. If you aren’t sure if the path is right for you, this can be a daunting prospect – why not try gaining some work shadowing to explore your options a bit further?


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.