How long does dental school last? How to become a dentist?

How long does dental school last?

How long does dental school last? In the US, dental school lasts for about four years. It is also the same in all other countries in contrast to med school which has different durations in different countries. Dental school in the US starts after four years of college. In countries such as the UK, India, Pakistan, Australia, dental school starts straight out of high school.

In all countries, there is either a medical college admission test (MCAT), medical and dental college admission test (MDCAT), or a dental college admission test (DCAT) which is required before admission to a dental school or college. In the US, nowadays DCAT is taken and required instead of the MCAT and both have been disjointed. Previously MCAT was also accepted by dental schools widely but it has now changed. Though some colleges still do accept the MCAT for admission to their dental programs.

How long does dental school last?
Photo by Anna Shvets

How do I become a dentist in the USA?

First, you need to go to college for four years and major in the following subjects which I have mentioned in the list below. These subjects are required by med schools to have been part of your college curriculum in order to be accepted. These include:

  • Biology subjects such as neuroscience, scientific psycology, etc.
  • Chemistry subjects such as organic chemistry, etc.
  • Physics subjects such as applied and modern physics , etc.
  • English, if english was not the medium of instruction before. As most medical subjects are taught in english worldwide english is a necessity to enter med school

Is it hard to find a job after dental school?

After dental school, you will have to complete a residency. Many students are not aware that dentists also have to undergo residency training which is compulsory. The number of years of training will differ based on the specialty. Most specialties will have mandatory training for at least 3 to 5 years after dental school. After you graduate from your residency training and clear your board exams only then can you go on to find a job for yourself.

I must also mention that during residency training you will get a salary, but it is around 55,000 to 60,000 dollars. Hence it is not enough to pay your student loan debts at all. It is just enough so that you can afford to rent an apartment now and pay your regular bills so you don’t have to take on further loans.

What is the next step after dental school?

After dental school, you would have to clear your boards and enter residency training. Dentistry offers residency training in one of the following fields:

  • Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
  • Periodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial surgery
  • Endodontics
  • Pediatric dentistry
  • Prosthodontics
  • Oral and maxillofacial pathology
  • Public health dentistry
  • Oral and maxillofacial radiology
  • Cosmetic dentistry
  • Reconstructive dentistry
  • Implant dentistry
  • Oral microbiology
  • Geriatric dentistry

This is a very extensive list and plenty to choose from. The most common among these which most dentists choose to specialize in include orthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and periodontics. After completing residency training in the US you would become an attending dental surgeon and will then be able to work independently either as private practice or with a hospital. After completing your residency training the job you want is dependant on you and you alone. You can decide to move to any place and start a private practice as most dental procedures are not carried under general anesthesia so you can perform almost all procedures in a private practice setting. Hence you don’t need to be indirectly associated with a hospital if you plan on going the private practice route.

Is dentistry worth the debt?

To be honest, dentistry features a very relaxed and laid-back lifestyle and the perks of having the option to practice independently as a private practitioner. You won’t have to deal with night calls and life and death situations are nonexistent. So you can generally lead a very stable and relaxed lifestyle. Hence if dentistry is on the table then you should definitely consider choosing it. But you need to weigh it with the cons as well. You will not be a physician. Dentists are not considered physicians and hence some people tend to shy away from it for this reason.

But other than this the second major dilemma most dentists face is the high amounts of student loan debts that you have to undertake in order to get into dental school. Taking on loans will be required by most higher college degrees but medical and dental degrees tend to cost the most. You will need to ask a CPA or a financial advisor and discuss with your parents before you take on such large sums of debts. I am neither a CPA nor a financial advisor so I can’t advise you in this regard.

What happens if I don’t get into dental school?

You can apply again the next year and can improve your DCAT also if you were unable to score high during your first attempt. You can consider applying to med school if your DCAT score was low by sitting an MCAT. You can also consider applying to nursing or physician assistant schools. Life goes on. Not getting into med school or dental school is not the end of the world. You can even take a few gap years and consider working in a few different fields and career paths before you apply to med school again. I would definitely recommend that you take the time to expose yourself to different career paths before embracing medicine as I see many students regretting choosing medicine because of family pressure and rash decisions later on. You should also check out my article on career fields that you can enter with a biology major here.

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