How to Become a Dentist
Becoming a dentist is anything but easy. The hours are long and certification requires many years of school on top of the average four-year undergraduate degree. However, it is a very rewarding career path for the right, dedicated person. If you want to become a dentist, follow these tips.
Work on your people skills
Let’s be honest, not many Americans love going to the dentist, the way they might enjoy going to a movie. In fact, it is said that 15 percent of residents in the United States will skip their dentist appointments out of anxiety or fear of what will happen to them while there. While this might seem unreasonable, it’s not uncommon. Steve Weinstein, DDS, a private practice dentist working out of Philadelphia, Pa., suggests that being a people person can be your biggest asset when applying for these jobs. “Most people don't enjoy going to the dentist,” he says, “so if they interact with office members who are upbeat, kind, and friendly, it helps make the experience more positive.” Established offices and new patients would much rather visit an easy-to-talk-to dentist than someone who makes the already-nerve-wracking time that much more awkward.
Make it your passion
Like any other job, you need to really want it in order to be successful. Nancy Rosen, DMD, a dentist working in New York City, said that it takes more than good grades to make a great dentist. You need to want to help people, and she says to take the leap and become a dentist if you are “interested in making people feel good and healthy about themselves, and if you like creating beautiful smiles.” If you fit that bill and are passionate about helping people attain a great smile and therefore gain lots of self-esteem, than dentistry could be for you. Hiring managers will be able to tell.
Have a strong stomach
Being a dentist is no different from medical doctors who see a variety of health conditions and diseases, and one of the most common recommendations for young dental students is be prepared to treat even the most unsavory dental conditions. People tend to blow off problems with their mouths more often than issues with other areas of their bodies, which allow cavities to fester and in extreme cases, teeth to fall out. Being able to keep your composure during an intense wisdom-tooth removal is crucial.
Must love school
Becoming a dentist is not just a quick four-year program, but actually takes seven to nine years to finish a degree for a DMD or DDS. Throughout school, you must get good grades, especially in science classes, pass qualifying exams and be ready for anything they throw at you. If you’re looking to delve further into specialties like orthodontics or periodontics, there is even more schooling involved. Be ready to add on another two to three years to specialize. Dentists not only have to be smart, but they cannot be afraid of taking tests or logging long hours in the library.