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a dentist and his assistant using a dentist drill on a patient Dentists are medical professionals who perform preventative health, as well as diagnose and treat problems and issues, with the teeth and gums.  Dentists see patients, usually two times per year, to clean teeth, check them for cavities and other problems, and to give advice on brushing, flossing, and other general maintenance.  Dentists also see patients with immediate problems such as toothaches, abscesses, cavities, and gum disease.  Dentists can straighten teeth, repair broken teeth, extract teeth, and replace teeth.  Dentists use a wide variety of dental tools and equipment, including x-ray machines, drills, mirrors and probes, and brushes.  Some dentists handle a wide range of dental issues, while others specialize in a particular area, such as straightening teeth or dealing with gum disease.

In order to be a dentist in the United States, you must graduate from an accredited dental school, which typically takes four years, and pass both written and practical examinations.  Some areas of specialty require additional licensure.  Most dentists prepare for dental school by taking biology, health, chemistry, and math classes in both high school and undergraduate school.

Most dentists are self-employed, or work in offices owned by them and one or two other partner dentists.  In some situations, recently licensed dentists will work at dental clinics or apprentice under experienced dentists at established dental practices before setting out on their own.  While the hours worked vary among dentists, most work 5 days a week.  Some have evening or weekend hours to accommodate patients with different schedules.  Less-experienced dentists typically work longer workweeks as they establish their practices, while more established dentists tend to work fewer hours.

In addition to having the proper education and experience, dentists must have excellent ability to diagnose problems, good knowledge of science, superb fine-motor skills, and the ability to put patients at ease.  Because many dentists are in private practice, good business sense is also very important.

The job outlook for dentists improves as the demand for dental services increases.  As the population ages, and as established dentists retire, there will be more opportunity for new dentists to enter the field.  Dentists who enter fields driven by trends, such as cosmetic dentistry, will have excellent prospects.

For information about dentistry careers, visit the American Dental Association website.  For dental school admissions information, visit the American Dental Education Association website.

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About Dentists' Job Responsibilities, Educational Requirements, and Working Conditions

Related Occupations:  Dental AssistantsDental Hygienists