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A Deep Dive into How Long to Become a Dentist

Dentistry isn’t just about oral health. It’s also about the body and how it works because the mouth is part of it. Learning about diseases that affect the body system and how to handle them will make it easier for dentists to master oral care.

You’ll be correct if you think it might take a long time to become a dentist because of their extensive academic schedule. However, unless you’ve gone to the school, you might not know the exact period to become one.

This article will educate you on how long it takes to become a dentist. You’ll learn why it takes that long, the possible drawbacks, and other essentials of becoming a dentist.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Dentist?

The type of program you apply for determines the time that you’ll spend becoming a dentist. You should complete four years in high school and another four in dental school. However, some schools simultaneously enroll you for Bachelor’s degree and dentistry, potentially reducing your study period.

Specializing in one program will require more training in that career which can make the study period longer. You can reduce your study time if you choose not to specialize.

Your undergraduate major can also play to your advantage. Dental schools don’t care about what you read in high school. However, you can make things easier if you take relevant courses in dentistry.

Lastly, the competitiveness of getting admission into a medical school shouldn’t be over-emphasized. These institutions are one of the hardest to enter because only 53% of applicants across the US get lucky annually. Dental schools require more than average grades in relevant exams to give students admission.

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expensive dental schools

What are the Education Levels of Dentists?

There are education levels or procedures that you need to become a dentist. These levels will help you understand why a dentistry training period is lengthy. With that understood, here are the education levels of dentists.

1. Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s degree is the first step to becoming a dentist. You can even apply for dental schools with a master’s degree. It’s impossible to enter a dental school without having a Bachelor’s degree at the very least.

One of the most significant stumbling blocks to getting into a dental school is poor academic performance during Bachelor’s degree. It’s imperative to maintain a GPA of at least 3.2 to have a better admission chance. Some schools let you save two years of your total dentistry study period by combining your Bachelor’s degree with a Directorate of Dentistry.

Dental education illustrated

2. Dental Program

The dental program is your journey at the dental school. Dental schools offer you a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). These degrees are the same; the difference is only a name change.

Dental schools only award DDS since the first one came up in 1840 until Harvard University created its own in 1867. Harvard University awards the Doctor Medicinae Dentariae because its degrees are in Latin. This statement translates to Doctor of Dental Medicine in English, and institutions decide the ones they want to award.

3. Specialty Program

Another education level for students who specialize in an aspect of dentistry is the specialty program. This specialty program is a residency training aimed at preparing you for practice. You’ll work with real-life patients and learn how to deliver dental care for them under different conditions.

It takes around two years to complete your residency program, but some can take up to six. However, you can withhold the residency program and come for it later. Residency programs can take from six months to six years.

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4. State Exams

The fourth and final process of becoming a qualified dentist is completing and passing the state exams. You’ll get a license to become a practicing dentist after you pass the state exams. Therefore, you should put extra effort into ensuring that you ace it.

If you complete the state exams, you might need to take National Board Exams. Don’t freak; it’s a 500 questions, two-part written exam. While it might seem a lot, you’ll pass it easily if you study.

These are the four education levels of dentists. By now, you ought to have understood why it takes such a long time to become a dentist. The following section will educate you on how difficult it is to become a dentist.

How Hard is It to Be a Dentist?

As you already know, it takes around eight years to become a dentist; another essential aspect is how hard it is. Some careers only take your time, while others won’t take much of your time but will be difficult. Dentistry is a hard course that takes much of your time.

Aside from the admission process, including the DAT test, navigating dental school isn’t easy. You’ll take courses like Microbiology, Anatomy, Oral Morphology, Dental Pharmacology, Pharmacology, and others. On average, dental students spend around 30-40 hours weekly at school.

female dentist examining patient

Most dental schools require tuition fees if you aren’t on a scholarship. Over four years, you can pay from $140,000 to $400,000 in school fees. The type of institution and specialty can influence these fees.

The fee doesn’t include the ones spent obtaining your Bachelor’s degree. It takes upwards of $200,000 over four years to get a Bachelor’s degree in the US. By combining the Bachelor’s degree costs with dental school tuition, it costs a lot to become a dentist.

Aside from your tuition, you’ll need to pay for accommodation, feeding, and other school-related fees. If you factor in academic difficulties and the amount you need to spend, you’ll discover that dental school is challenging.

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What are the Different Types of Dentists?

Dentistry is a generic name because there are different unique specialties. You can specialize in oral medicine, dental anesthesiology, and orofacial pain.

Dental health care

You can then delve into any of the 12 ADA-approved dental specializations. Here are some of the most common dental specializations.

1. General Dentistry

General dentists are the most common type of dentists, and they take care of your overall oral health. They help you clean your tooth and also check it for possible infections. General dentists will refer you to other types if needed.

2. Pedodontists

Pedondists examine and treat oral health issues in children and infants. They’re trained to have a youth-friendly approach. Pediontists or Pediatric dentists can also help adolescents with oral care.

3. Periodontists

If you have problems with your gums, a periodontist is the correct professional to see for a check. A general dentist will diagnose the issue and refer you to a periodontist professional for treatment.

4. Endodontists

Endodontists handle teeth conditions that deal with dental pulp.

5. Oral Pathologists

Oral Pathologists diagnose issues affecting the mouth and jaw. These professionals can diagnose diseases like oral cancer and perform surgery on the patient’s mouth if needed. Oral Pathologists work with other dentists or dermatologists to function optimally.

6. Prosthodontists

Prosthodontists are dentists that deal with complex teeth and jaw issues. You meet these professionals if you want to make your teeth whiter, healthier or need cosmetic surgery.

7. Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology

Oral and maxillofacial radiologists are concerned with taking and interpreting diagnostic images. They take an x-ray of your tooth if needed and tell you about the result. While they rarely treat oral issues themselves, they work with other dentists that do.

8. Orthodontists

These professionals help you with teeth and jaw alignment. Issues like underbite, overbite, crossbite, or misaligned teeth are their specialty.

How Much Do Dentists Earn?

It takes a long time to become a dentist, but they also earn one of the most lucrative cheques in the labor sector. Their average base salary currently stands at around $208,000. The highest paid 25% can make upwards of that, while the lowest paid earn lesser than $100,000.

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Conditions influencing this wage change include qualifications and skills level, location, or area of specialty. Maxillofacial surgeons, Orthodontists, and Prosthodontists are the most highly paid professionals. Finishing dental school with high grades is another hack to get a high-paying job.

Male dentist holding tooth x-ray

What are the Challenges to Becoming a Dentist?

One of the most common challenges among dental students is balancing school and personal life efficiently. It’s usually most prevalent in the first and second years. Many students aren’t used to taking that many courses in their previous schools.

If you don’t find a balance between school and personal life immediately, it might cause academic struggles, potentially slowing down your study time.

It’s best to submit to the fact that you’ll have less free time if you want to enter dental school. Dentistry isn’t one of those courses you can read while having a part-time job in college. As mentioned earlier, you’ll spend many hours in class and a lot of time doing personal studying after that.

You don’t need to study after class if you can grasp all that you learned in it. As for most students, you should do this if you don’t want to spend longer in college.

What are some Tips for Becoming a Dentist?

You shouldn’t bore yourself throughout the eight years you’ll use when studying for a dentistry degree. It’s imperative to partake in extra-curricular activities to make yourself happy and improve your cognitive abilities. Dental schools love it when students are willing to participate in extra-curricular activities, especially health-related ones.

Another invaluable tip is to find a balance between school and personal life. Make a timetable for after-school study and concentrate while doing them. That way, you’ll be able to make the most of your free time.

Your coursemates are your friends, and you’ll have fun networking with them. Aside from having fun, you can also learn a lot from them.

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Choosing the right specialty is also an essential move to becoming a dentist. When you select a specialty that excites you, you’ll be able to enjoy what you do. Also, choosing a career with a combination of subjects you like will give you a better chance of passing with high grades.


There’s how long it takes to become a dentist. The most challenging part of the whole process is attending dental school. It takes a higher dedication and commitment to navigate through the level than any other school that you’ll attend.

You’ll write many exams on the way to becoming a dentist: university exams, DAT, dental school exams, state licensure exams, and the rest. Studying specifically for each test is the key to passing them. Note that not performing as expected in these exams can potentially lengthen your study time.

Lastly, you should carefully select the dental school that you attend. When you do this, you’ll find more satisfaction in chasing the career of your choice. Factors influencing your school choice include location, prestige, and tuition fees.

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