Dentistry offers many rewarding career options combining science and technology with helping people enhance and maintain their oral health. Tomorrow's dentists will be on the cutting edge of advanced technology, making the practice of dentistry even more challenging and rewarding.
Dentistry - A Unique Opportunity
- Service To Others: Dentists help people maintain and improve their oral health, quality of life and appearance. Dentists receive a great deal of personal satisfaction by providing an essential community health service, by educating future dentists and by doing valuable research. Dentists treat everyone-the healthy, the ill, the young, the elderly, the disadvantaged and those with special needs.
- Balanced Lifestyle: Dentistry is an appealing career because it offers the flexibility to balance a professional life and personal goals.
- Self-employment: Dentistry affords the opportunity to be one's own boss and own a dental practice. As independent entrepreneurs, dentists set and maintain their own regular hours.
- Earning Potential/Demand: A dentist's average income is in the highest
5 percent of U.S. family income, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The demand for dental care is projected to grow. As baby boomers age, they will continue to need preventive services and many baby boomers will require maintenance on existing dental work. Large numbers of dentists are expected to retire in the next 20 years, creating a need for new dentists.
- Status and Prestige: Dentists are socially conscious, talented, civic-minded professionals who work with community leaders and other health professionals to promote oral health care. Dentistry has a distinguished history of leadership in improving world health.
- Creativity: As artists, dentists combine keen visual memory, excellent judgment of space and shape and a high degree of manual dexterity in the delivery of patient services. Computer applications complement scientific knowledge and technical skills.
- Variety: Dentistry is changing rapidly, creating many opportunities and challenges. Dentists treat a diverse group of patients in a variety of settings using a variety of techniques and procedures.
- Detection of Diseases: Dentists are often the first health care providers to recognize and identify a number of illnesses- including cancer and cardiovascular problems. Research suggests an increasing number of links between oral diseases and other health concerns.
- Diagnosis and Treatment: Dentists diagnose and treat conditions affecting the teeth, tongue, gums, lips and jaws. Exciting technologies, such as digital radiography and laser systems, along with enhanced new materials and techniques, can be used to correct dental problems.
- Surgical Restoration: Dentists perform trauma surgery, place implants, graft tissue to repair, restore and maintain the teeth, gums, and oral structures that have been lost or damaged by accidents or disease.
- Cosmetic Improvement: Dentists improve their patient's appearance by using a wide variety of modern dental materials and equipment to help patients feel better about their smiles.
- Prevention/Education: Dentists educate patients and the general public on how to maintain oral health and prevent disease. Dental professionals play a leadership role in implementing community-based preventive programs, such as community water fluoridation, sealant programs or oral cancer screening.
- Research: Dentists are involved as scientists to further the knowledge of oral diseases, treatment techniques and materials used to correct dental problems.
Demand for dental care continues to grow due to the increasing number of older adults keeping their teeth longer, increased awareness of oral health care and the need for additional dental services. Advancements in technology like lasers and computer-assisted diagnosis allow dentists to provide more effective treatments.
- Exceptional career opportunities exist for underrepresented minority students. The American Dental Association is strongly committed to attaining diversity in the dental profession to reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity of American society. The role of minority dentists is vitally important in eliminating disparities in oral health and access to care. To achieve a more balanced workforce to adequately serve the public, the dental profession is interested in attracting African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians and other underrepresented minorities to careers in dentistry.
- Career opportunities for women in dentistry are especially favorable. More women are now entering dental school than ever before. They represent more than 40% of students enrolled in U.S. dental schools.
Dentistry Career Options
Dentistry offers stimulating career options. In addition to private practice, excellent opportunities exist in teaching and research, careers with government agencies or in industry.
- Private Practice: Many dentists work either in solo private practice or in partnerships with other dentists. The majority of private practice dentists own their own practices.
- Academic Dentistry: An academic dentistry career combines teaching, research, community service and patient care. Faculty members work in an intellectually stimulating and exciting academic environment. Career opportunities for academic dentists are excellent at this time.
- Public Health Dentistry: This career focuses on community settings rather than private practice. Promoting dental health, developing health policy and preventing disease are the major roles of a public health dentist. Numerous opportunities exist in research and teaching within public health dentistry. The U.S. Public Health Service offers dentists an opportunity to provide dental care in unique cultural environments (e.g., an Indian Reservation, Coast Guard base, or Federal Prison).
- Research: Research careers offer opportunities to generate new knowledge and be on the cutting edge of scientific discoveries that ultimately impact patient care. Some of the latest research improving patient care includes lasers in surgery, implants to replace damaged bone and computerized x-rays. Many researchers are faculty at universities while others work in federal facilities, such as the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or in private industry. A career in research requires an advanced degree or additional training beyond the dental degree.
- International Health Care: Dentists provide services to populations abroad and work for such agencies as the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Many dentists volunteer to bring dentistry to aid people in third world countries.
- Hospital dentistry: Hospital dentists treat patients with medical conditions and disabilities alongside physician colleagues, often in operating rooms and emergency departments. Hospital dentists usually have a strong interest in medicine and collaborative care and have spent a year or more training in a hospital-based setting after dental school.