what they do

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with a patient’s teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.

Educational Requirements for Dentists

To become a dentist one must attend a dental school that is accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA). To be accepted into one of the 56 (as of 2006) dental schools in the U.S., one must complete at least two years of predental education. Most dental school applicants have a bachelor's degree. All dental schools require applicants to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). There is a great deal of competition for admission to dental school.


  • Dentists held about 141,900 jobs in 2008. Most were general practitioners (120,200), followed by orthodontists (7,700), oral and maxillofacial surgeons (6,700) and prosthodontists (500). There were 6,900 dentists working in other specialty areas
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of dentists will grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2018, but outlook will vary by specialty. Employment growth for prosthodontics, for example, is projected to be faster, through 2018, than it will be for all occupations requiring at least a master's degree.
  • Quick Facts: Dentists

    2012 Median Pay $149,310 per year
    $71.79 per hour

    Entry-Level Education Doctoral or professional degree

    Work Experience in a Related Occupation None

    On-the-job Training See How to Become One

    Number of Jobs, 2012 146,800

    Job Outlook, 2012-22 16% (Faster than average)

    Employment Change, 2012-22 23,300

On a typical day a dentist may:

  • remove decay from teeth and fill cavities
  • examine x-rays
  • extract teeth
  • apply sealants to teeth
  • administer anesthetics
  • prescribe medication
  • treat gum disease by performing surgery on gums and supporting bones
  • straighten teeth
  • take impressions of teeth in order to make models that will be used to make dentures to replace missing teeth
Dentist Career Information : How to Become a Dentist