A dentist is an expert in the health and maintenance of the teeth and gums. In addition to the general practice of dentistry, some dentists may choose to specialize in their field. Read further for a more in depth look at a dentist salary and what their job description may include!
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is certified to execute surgical procedures involving gums, impacted teeth, head, and neck. Orthodontists are sought after for their expertise in applying implements like braces to straighten out teeth. Prosthodontists are skilled in the use of dentures, bridges, and other oral appliances to replace missing teeth.
According to the ADA, the practice of dentistry has been around as early as 5000 BC, with documentation of a patient's dental decay being attributed to worms. However, the Egyptian physician Hesy-Re was credited in a tomb description dating back to 2600 BC, as one proficient in the dealings of the teeth.
Our modern-day society still has a demand for skilled dentists proficient in the health, maintenance, and repair of the teeth. Especially with the increase of sugar in food, modern lifestyle habits such as smoking, and many standard diets contributing to teeth decay and gum disease, dentists are capable of educating the public about the importance of dental health.
Demand for dental services is also driven by aging populations who need services, an increase in dental procedures like teeth implants, and addressing forms of oral cancer.
After attending an institution that provides general formal education, and then attending a school to focus on the practice of dentistry, a competent dentist should be able to carry out the following procedures for clients.
Execute and be able to correctly assess X-rays of a client's teeth, gums, and jaw to diagnose dental problems
Clean the teeth and gums of decay-causing materials, make repairs to damaged teeth, and fill cavities
Educate clients about oral hygiene and best practicing methods to floss, brush, and maintain health.
The workplace for a dentist is fairly comfortable, whether working in their own private practice, or at a clinic, school, or hospital. However, dentists are subject to exposure to specific workplace hazards.
The ability to have patience and stamina is necessary for a dentist, as they may spend long periods bending over a client while executing a procedure. Also, dentists have to work with small tools in a client's mouth, which presents the risk of potential exposure to biological hazards if not careful. Tools must be carefully maintained and sterilized before every use, and properly handled if they are not disposable.
To protect the health of their clients and themselves, dentists and accompanying staff take preventative measures. A dentist may don disposable nitrile or latex gloves, apply barrier film for surfaces that will be touched during procedures, and additionally may wear goggles, a face mask, or face shield to protect their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Sharps containers and bins for biohazardous waste should be made available to reduce contact with pathogens. There is also the risk of developing an allergic reaction to chemical cleaners and compounds used for sterilizing surfaces, dental implants, or executing specific dental procedures.
Typical Working Hours
Most dentists who work full-time commit to working 4 to 5 days out of the week, with a total of 35 to 40 hours spent in the workplace. Many dentists are dedicated to their field of practice and may choose to work part-time well into retirement age.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, regarding dentist salary, the median average for 2017 was $76.02 for every hour. The average dentist salary is quite generous, considering that practicing dentists are required to carry a professional or Doctoral degree.
A dentist with a general practice may earn a median of $159,770, whereas a dentist who specializes in maxillofacial surgery may earn over the $200,000 mark annually. When calculating a dentist salary, earnings may fluctuate depending on their specific niche of practice, employer, and years of experience.
Training Required & Education
To legally practice dentistry, one must attend and graduate from an accredited dental school and additionally pass some examinations. A dentist must be certified and licensed to practice in the state that they perform their duties, and exams and requirements may vary from state to state.
Overall, before admittance into a dental school, interested candidates must first attend a college-level institution for at least two years. Many people who enter dental school have acquired their Bachelor's degree before continuing their education.
Preparation for entry into dental school requires that students focus on the Sciences. It is common for students to engage in coursework to ascertain proficiency in Biology, Chemistry, Health, Physics, and also Mathematics.
Aside from ensuring to get prerequisite coursework completed, students must be prepared to take the DAT or Dental Admissions Test. Admission into dental school can be competitive for more sought-after institutions, so students are evaluated for their DAT scores, grade point average, and recommendations from others.
Dental students have to attend classes typically for four years. The first two years focus on laboratory work and science courses. The last two years are when students are allowed to work in dental clinics, treat patients, and engage in hands-on education under the supervision of experienced licensed professionals.
After graduating from dental school with a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM), many students choose to work as an associate under an established dental practice or may start their own practice.
Students who want to specialize in a specific form of dentistry may have to commit to an additional two to four years of training. Anyone who wishes to teach dentistry is expected to undergo advanced training in dentistry for another two to five years, on top of their general dental education.
Must-Have Skills For Dentistry
Working as a dentist is a lucrative position that is attractive to many people. However, before considering working as a dentist, you may want to make sure you have the following skills for the job.
- Sound judgment about spatial reasoning, visual memory, and diagnostic ability
- High amounts of patience and excellent communication skills for working closely with patients
- A high level of manual dexterity for handling tools while working in patient's mouths and scientific knowledge
Investing In The Future
The cost of an education in dentistry is not cheap, but the investment may be well worth it. Depending on the popularity of a dental school due to reputation, and the rigors of its curriculum, the price tag to attend may be steep.
Attending a public U.S. dental school for four years, students may be expected to incur a cost ranging from $21,600 to as much as $64,000 according to sites like Doctorly.org. Some of the more exclusive private dental schools may charge as much as $300,000.
Despite the amount of debt accrued for attending a dental school, many practicing dentists can aggressively repay back any money owed for their education because of their income.
Where To Work As A Dentist
Opening up a private practice is the dream of most dentists. However, before a dentist can make the leap into starting up their own practice, which can be expensive and time-consuming to develop, they need to build up their experience.
Many newly graduated dentists find work as an associate working at an established dental practice. While working under more experienced dentists, they can continue to develop their dentistry skills, and learn the ins-and-outs of what a private practice demands to sustain itself and thrive.
Dentists should consider where they want to work, how many hours they expect to practice, and other expectations for their career.
There are additionally working dentists who practice at clinics, schools, hospitals, government facilities, or work as a partner alongside other dentists.
Deciding To Open A Private Practice
If a dentist is interested in opening up their own private practice, they may be expected to invest anywhere from $300,000 to nearly $600,000 to get things up and running.
It is essential that a dentist consider where they want to practice, a budget for the cost of supplies, the building, insurance, marketing, promotion, and hiring staff. Additionally, after investing in a new practice, it may take time to develop a thriving practice and regular patients to seek services.
Many dentists choose to work as a partner with others under a practice, rather than having to live with the significant start-up costs to start their own private practice. As with any other type of business, it is essential that a dentist interested in starting their own practice commit to thorough research and financial planning before investing their time and money.
Outlook For Dentistry
The practice of dentistry is going to continue to enjoy a demand for licensed and certified individuals. The projected level of growth for 2016 up to 2026 is an increase of 19% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As connections to total wellness and oral health are made more public, the demand for oral care and hygiene services will rise. Aging patients may seek out dentists for surgical procedures, implants, dentures, and partials.