If you’ve dreamed of becoming a dentist, you’re probably already aware that this medical specialty requires extensive education and training.
Whether you’re still in high school or ready to embark on your dental journey, planning ahead for the years of school ahead can help smooth the path to your future success.
Here’s what’s involved in training for a career in dentistry at each stage of your education.
High School Preparation
According to the American Dental Association, students in 9th through 12th grade can already take steps to begin preparing for a dentistry career. Take as many advanced science classes as possible, especially courses in chemistry, biology, and anatomy. Shadowing a working dentist during your high school years can also help you understand the daily tasks involved with the profession. Ask your family dentist, or connect with a local chapter of the ADA to find a willing mentor. Get involved in any clubs at your school for aspiring students in the health professions, or consider starting your own.
Steps to Take During Undergrad
Choosing the right major is an important part of setting the groundwork to get into competitive dental school programs. It’s important to select a course of study that will help you complete the necessary prerequisites for dental school.
According to the American Dental Education Association, common requirements include two semesters each of biology with lab, general chemistry with lab, organic chemistry with lab, and physics with lab. Research the requirements of the specific dental programs you’re interested in attending.
College is also a great time to shadow a working dentist in the field or volunteer at a practice, especially if you haven’t already done so as a high school student. Find a dental-related student organization to join and attend the events and career fairs they offer.
Applying to Dental School
By your junior year, you should plan to take the Dental Admissions Test administered by the ADA. In general, dental school applications should be submitted the year before you plan to apply, so if you want to enter immediately after graduating you should have your applications in before the end of your junior year of college. In addition to your DAT scores, you’ll need to submit official transcripts and letters of recommendation.
What to Expect in Your Dental Program
Most dental school programs last four years, with the first two years dedicated to classroom study and clinical simulations and the last two years comprised of direct patient care and practice management instruction.
If you opt to embark on the path to becoming a dentist, those already in the field, such as Family First Dentistry LLC, as well as professional organizations are an invaluable source of support during your education.