Three dental specialties to consider

June 18, 2014

Observing a dental exam in a clinic in Tanzania. Although a trip to the dentist may not be your favorite activity, being on the other side of the chair and working as a dentist can be a great career choice. In addition to working as a general dentist, there are several specialties you can choose from.

In order to get started on the road to a dental career, high school students should prepare by taking classes in math, biology and anatomy. You can apply for dental school with a bachelor’s degree in any major, but you will need upper division science classes.

After college, you need to take the Dental Admissions Exam before applying to dental school. Four years of dental school and getting licensed to practice in your state come next, but if you plan to specialize, there is additional training required. Consider one of the following three specialty areas:


Periodontics is an area of dentistry which focuses on preventing, diagnosing and treating gum disease. Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, causes tooth loss. Research is also finding it plays a role in certain conditions, such as heart disease. Periodontists are dentists who are experts in treating oral inflammation and gum disease. They also place dental implants, which can be used to replace missing teeth.

In the United States, those interested in specializing in periodontics need to complete three additional years of training after dental school. After completing a postgraduate periodontal training program, graduates can become board certified by passing an exam administered by the American Board of Periodontology.

According to research by Stony Brook University, in the United States, periodontists’ earnings average between $100,000 and $240,000 a year.


Dentists who specialize in endodontics treat problems with the tooth pulp, which is a specific part of the tooth. Endodontics may perform procedures, such as root canals. They also treat trauma to the teeth and repair cracked teeth.

Similar to other dental specialties, after dental school, postgraduate training is required to become an endodontist. Currently in the United States there are about 50 postgraduate training programs in endodontics, which are between two and three years long. After completing a program, dentists can become board certified by passing an exam administered through the American Board of Endodontology.

Endodontists’ salaries may vary based on whether they are in private practice or employed by hospitals or clinics. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for an endodontist is $155,000 a year.


If you had braces, you are probably familiar with what an orthodontist does. Orthodontists develop treatment plans to correct improper bites and teeth misalignments. Although crooked teeth and misaligned bites are often corrected through wearing braces, orthodontists may also prescribe other devices or procedures. 

After dental school, if your goal is to become an orthodontist, you will need to complete a three year residency training program in orthodontics. Board certification involves presenting six cases, which the orthodontist treated for review to the American Board of Orthodontics. An oral exam is then given, where the dentist must justify the clinical decisions in the six cases.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average orthodontist’s salary in 2013 was $196,000 a year.