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Program Description

Just the Facts

Dentistry. A program that prepares individuals for the independent professional practice of dentistry/dental medicine, encompassing the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders, and conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area, and adjacent structures and their impact on the human body and health. Includes instruction in the basic biomedical sciences, occlusion, dental health and prevention, oral pathology, cariology, operative dentistry, oral radiology, principles of the various dental specialties, pain management, oral medicine, clinic and health care management, patient counseling, and professional standards and ethics.

This program is available in these options:

  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

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Related Careers

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Additional Information

Steady hands and strong academic standing will go a long way if you are considering a degree in dentistry.

To get into most dental programs, you'll need two years of college-level pre-dental education with a focus on science. You will also have to pass a series of tests. Academic standing and grade point average also count for a lot.

Dentistry undergraduate programs are four years long. Grads receive a doctor of dental surgery degree.

In a dentistry program, studies include cariology (the decay process), fillings, clinical diagnosis, X-ray treatment, tooth manipulation and more.

Rick Easton is an assistant professor of dentistry. He notes that applicants to his undergraduate program are selected after at least two years of university courses with emphasis on physics and chemistry.

Raymond Braham is a professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of California. He says clinical programs are emphasized in the second year. That includes courses in pharmacology (the effects of drugs), preventive dentistry, oral pathology (diseases of the mouth), diagnosis and treatment planning.

Students spend their third year treating patients while under supervision. By the fourth year, they provide comprehensive patient care.

You'll need postgraduate training if you want to become a licensed specialist in a field such as orthodontics or periodontics.

"Programs are three to six years and usually have a master's degree component," says Easton. Acceptance is based on academic standing, letters of reference and an interview.

"A student must have successfully completed the dental education program before applying," says Richard Ceen. He is a professor of orthodontics at Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas.

Ceen's program consists of about 3,000 hours of instruction. About 60 percent of that is patient care.

Ceen notes that most prospective students emphasize the biological sciences. But he says they should also have a solid grasp of the humanities. "It's important to remember that they are entering a profession that deals with the needs of patients, not machinery," he says.

Textbooks can be expensive. And clinical supplies can cost more than $10,000.

The American Dental Association accredits U.S. programs.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Dentists

American Dental Association -- Education Page
Info on licensing, a list of schools and more

Raid the Kitchen
Do you know what foods are healthy for your teeth?


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