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Health Sciences Careers: Dentist

Health Sciences Designation: Pre-Dentistry (PDEN)
Career: Dentist
Job Outlook: 19% from 2016-2026
Median Pay: $156,240 annually in 2018 (approximately $75.12 per hour)
Entry-level Education: Doctoral or professional degree



Dentists are health care providers that specialize in oral health. They are able to diagnose oral diseases, create treatment plans to maintain or restore the oral health of their patients, monitor growth and development of the teeth and jaws, among others. Dentists play a crucial role in promoting oral health and disease prevention. They can counsel patients on diet, flossing, use of fluoride, and other aspects of dental care to improve the patient’s oral hygiene. During a comprehensive exam, they examine the teeth and the gums as well as actively look for lumps, swellings, discolorations, ulcerations, or other abnormalities. They can spot early warning signs that appear in the mouth which may indicate disease in the body.


Work Settings:

Dentists can work in a variety of settings including private practice and public health dentistry. Private practice allows dentists to work by themselves or in partnerships with other dentists in a medical office. Dentists can also offer their services in the public sector. The U.S. Public Health Service which offers dentists unique opportunities to provide care in an Indian Reservation, Coast Guard base, or Federal Prison. Research is an area for dentists to focus on expanding the knowledge of the profession that will ultimately impact patient care. Hospital dentistry allows dentists to work alongside an interprofessional health care team, often in emergency departments and operating rooms.


Academic Requirements:

Dentists are required to obtain either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry/Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). Most applicants have a bachelor’s degree and although there is no required major, some programs prefer applicants to major in a science field. Drake’s Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree is an excellent preparation for dental school! Applicants usually take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) when they apply to dental school. Dental education programs review academic qualifications, DAT results, GPAs, letters of recommendation, personal interviews, and dental office shadowing experiences. Once you’ve earned your Drake degree you’ll complete four years of studies in an accredited dental education program. The first two years of dental school consist of didactic learning in the classroom with some training in practical procedures on models of the mouth and teeth outside of their core classes. Their third and fourth years are mostly clinical doing rotations through clinics, hospitals, and other community settings.


Additional Information:

Following graduation from an accredited program, candidates need to be licensed in each state that they are going to practice in. All dental specialties require additional training in the form of a 2- to 4-year residency program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Surgery programs take up to 6 years and allows candidates to obtain a joint Medical Doctor (MD) degree. Dentists who are interested in academia or research may need to enroll in a postdoctoral program in general dentistry. Some of the specialties that a dentist can choose are:

  • Dental Anesthesiology
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Orofacial Pain
  • Pediatrics
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics


Why is Health Sciences a great major for Pre-PA?

As a student in our Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree, you’ll get the best of both worlds: a rigorous science curriculum that will prepare you for the academic challenges in dental school and an education in healthcare that will help you succeed in your professional career.  All Health Sciences students take core courses in the sciences that you can customize based on the required prerequisite coursework you’ll need to get into your top choice graduate program.  But beyond that, you’ll also complete our Health Sciences Core Curriculum, which teaches you about every aspect of healthcare and how to be a successful professional once you graduate.  The Health Sciences Core Curriculum includes coursework in professionalism, innovation and problem solving, cultural sensitivity, healthcare ethics, and an overview of what to expect when you enter the workforce.  This unique curriculum is only offered to Health Sciences majors at Drake and is one thing that will make you stand out when you apply for dental school.

In addition to the coursework you take, the Health Sciences Core Curriculum also includes a full year of internship and research for every Health Sciences student.  In your senior year, you will be paired with a healthcare professional in a career that relates to your own interests and complete a full year internship with that person at their practice site or office.  You will also do an original research project along with your internship, which is something graduate schools value in the admission process.  100% of our Health Sciences students do an internship and research, which is why our graduates are so successful at getting into many of their top choice dental schools!



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