What Does It Take To Be A Dentist?

Author: Dr. Alison Vitelli, DMD, FAGD

Good question!  In my humble opinion, dentistry is one of the most beautiful and rewarding professions in the healthcare field. There are multiple aspects to the word d-en-tristy: combines the science of dental medicine, the engineering of three-dimensional thinking and the artistry required from our hands at work. When I think of this, it really brings a feeling of completeness to my profession. A lot of my patients have heard me say how much I love what I do, and that if I ever had the chance to pick another profession, I would be a dentist all over again.

But, what did we have to go through to be a dentist?  Well, at least 8 long years of intense schooling is involved. Right after graduating high school, we have to complete an undergraduate degree or complete the minimum required credits for admission to dental school.  Most dentists have a degree in biology, natural sciences or chemistry, like me. 3 to 4 years after that, we have to take an admissions test called the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) and start the dental school application process and interviews. Nerve wracking, to say the least!  Now, after celebrating the acceptance to dental school, the real adventure is just about to begin. In order to receive our doctorate degree in dental medicine (DMD) or dental surgery (DDS), we have to go through 4 more years of intense schooling. The first 2 years are mostly didactic and a lot of laboratory work, dissecting the human anatomy, learning how to shape and carve teeth out of wax, use mannequins as our “patients” to learn how to use our handpieces and instruments, learn the intricacy of root canals and dentures, etc.  Before heading to 3 year, we have to take the first part of our written National Dental Boards, so we can be prepared to head to the clinical years to follow. Our last 2 years are mostly based on treating patients under the close supervision of a practicing dentist. Did I mention how nerve wracking this was? 

Finally, the 4 years of dental school are over. Now, second part of National Dental Boards and clinical state board are waiting for us before our graduation. After passing these, all licenses applications to practice dentistry have to be completed and processed. But, wait, it does not end there! Our profession is constantly advancing and science keeps taking us ahead in patient care, requiring us to stay up to date with continuing education.

I am more than happy and blessed to be a dentist and I would not change that for anything. Seeing the smiles of my patients after finishing a their treatment is one of the most amazing rewards anyone can have. I definitely have so much fun while I’m working and getting to talk to you when you come in! Can’t wait to see you next time!