As everyone has teeth, there will always be a need for highly qualified dental students. There are three primary levels of dentistry in the college major, and they all can lead to the next level. “Pre-Dental” is designed to give the student all of the science pre-requisites for a successful entry to dental school. Dental Hygienists earn a full BA, and is its own long term career. Dental Assistants typically earn a certification or an Associates degree.
What Dentists Do
Dentists diagnose and treat problems with a patient’s teeth, gums, and other parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.
Some dentists own their own businesses and work alone or with a small staff. Other dentists have partners in their practices, and a few work for other dentists as associate dentists.
How to Become a Dentist
Dentists must be licensed in all states; requirements vary by state. To qualify for a license in most states, applicants must graduate from an accredited dental school and pass written and practical exams.
The median annual wage of dentists was $146,920 in May 2010.
Employment of dentists is expected to grow by 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. Dentists will continue to see an increase in public demand for their services as studies continue to link oral health to overall health.
What Dental Hygienists Do
Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventative dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.
Almost all dental hygienists work in dentists’ offices. Hygienists work closely with dentists and dental assistants.
How to Become a Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists typically need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state.
Employment of dental hygienists is expected to grow by 38 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Ongoing research linking oral health and general health will continue to spur the demand for preventative dental services, which are often provided by dental hygienists
What Dental Assistants Do
Dental assistants have many tasks, ranging from patient care to record keeping, in a dental office. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.
Almost all dental assistants work in dentists' offices. More than half work full time.
How to Become a Dental Assistant
There are several possible paths to becoming a dental assistant. Some states require assistants to graduate from an accredited program and possibly pass a state exam. In other states, there are no formal educational requirements. Dental assistants who do not have formal education in dental assisting may learn their duties through on-the-job training. The dentist or other dental assistants in the office teach the new assistant dental terminology, the names of the instruments, how to do daily tasks, how to interact with patients, and other activities necessary to help keep the dental office running smoothly. Most states regulate what dental assistants may do, but that varies by state.
The median annual wage of dental assistants was $33,470 in May 2010.
Employment of dental assistants is expected to grow by 31 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Ongoing research linking oral health and general health will continue to increase the demand for preventive dental services. As dental practices grow, more dental assistants will be needed.