So now you’re off to college and is at a crossroad. There is this dream of becoming a structural engineer and then there is this medical calling inside. Imagining yourself pushed deep into thick medical books in the library – not the scenario that you would have wanted. Still inclined to tread the medical field without the gruelling reading routines of MDs? How about dentistry, then? Here are a few guidelines on how to become a dentist.
1. Be sure about your decision to become a dentist. Studying dentistry is not a joke. If it’s just some field that you would want to try your feet on but deep within you are really leaning towards something else, it might not be worth it.
2. Be ready for the eight years. It takes eight years of study to get hold of a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. It’s pointless to take up this college course when you know for a fact that you’d rather become a tattoo artist once you get your diploma. Eight years is wasted time if you don’t put it into practice.
3. Maintain high grades. Okay. It’s pretty hard to be academically loaded – what with all the science subjects and laboratories and classroom lectures that could really get pretty boring. But this matters upon admission. Dental schools seriously scrutinize grades. They wouldn’t just admit passing marks that could even border on failing.
That is why much emphasis was given on one’s decision. If you are very much into something, you would certainly put in extra effort to excel.
Studying dentistry entails laboratory courses for the first two years, whereas the last two will be spent in clinics for patient handling simulation. Licensed dental professionals supervise students during these final years.
4. If your mind has been set hard on it way before college:
• Research for information about pre-dental courses that focus on the sciences –as this is necessary. A two-year preparatory dentistry course is needed before you could get into the actual dentistry course. Other pre-dentistry students complete a bachelor’s degree.
• Send college applications early on. Admission requirements will differ from one dental school to another, so better have them all ready to eliminate delay.
• There are dental schools that have a four-year program (without the two-year pre-dental course as this may be taken separately) accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. The American Dental Association (ADA) could be helpful in this matter, so you may want to check out their site.
5. If you’re already on this path and will reach the finish line soon, refresh your memory every now and then through continuing dental education – on your own. State licensure or board examinations will ensue after graduation. This is necessary for you to finally practice your chosen profession.
Check the state licensing requirements as it differs from one state to another. You may choose to practice in your state of residence or in another one – this is really a personal option.
6. Once the board certifications have been obtained, you may now consider specialization. Whether it’s orthodontics or cosmetic dentistry, further studies might require another two to five years.
These are just some guidelines on how to become a dentist. Becoming successful is another story. If hard work was key in the studying phase, much more is necessary when you are already practicing. You are already on your own, without the supervision of clinical instructors, deciding on what procedure to do for a specific patient. Be thorough and don’t rush things as dental procedures deal with very minute details. Practice – and precision – does make it perfect.