Dentists are healthcare practitioners specialized in diagnosing, treating, and preventing oral diseases, as well as maintaining and improving their patients’ dental health by giving them tips and recommendations on how to take care of their oral cavity.
Most Dentists work in private practices, but they can also be employed by dental hospitals and public or private healthcare centers, where they may specialize in several branches of their practice, including orthodontics, periodontics, and even maxillofacial surgery.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Dentists are required to complete.
- Reviewing patients’ dental history and examining their oral health status:
- Conducting/ordering and reviewing pre-assessment tests (e.g. x-rays); and
- operating and monitoring technical equipment.
- Planning and providing appropriate treatment:
- Repairing or removing damaged teeth, replacing missing ones, eliminating decay from teeth, filling cavities, installing bridges, and cleaning infections;
- administering anesthesia and nitrous oxide analgesia to limit the amount of patient discomfort experienced during dental procedures;
- performing root canal treatments, dental implants, and other dental/oral surgeries, such as periodontal surgery;
- applying sealants or whitening agents on teeth;
- casting replicas and models of patient’s teeth;
- prescribing oral and dental medications (e.g. antibiotics and painkillers) to patients;
- referring patients to other dental specialists, as needed; and
- explaining payment options and plans to patients.
- Preventing and controlling dental and oral diseases:
- Conducting routine checkups and cleaning teeth, or ensuring they have been properly cleaned by a Dental Hygienist/Dental Assistant; and
- preparing dental kits for patients and educating them on oral hygiene (e.g. brushing, flossing, or special diets) in order to help them achieve continual dental care.
- Maintaining and evaluating patients’ dental records:
- Documenting dental assessment, treatment, and consultations.
- Managing a dental health team (e.g. Dental Hygienists, Dental Technicians, and Dental Assistants) and instructing them on how to implement, coordinate, and evaluate patient care.
- Complying with safety standards at all times, taking precautionary measures to avoid infection and contamination:
- Sterilizing dental instruments or ensuring sterilization is done by qualified staff.
- Participating in dental care awareness programs, promoting excellent oral and dental health, and sometimes being involved in lectures and conferences.
- In some cases, taking part in the budget preparation and other financing or business-related activities.
- Reviewing, maintaining, and evaluating patients’ dental records.
- Evaluating the health of the mouth, teeth, and gums, looking for signs of disease and decay.
- Conducting routine checkups and cleaning teeth.
- Repairing, removing, and replacing teeth, eliminating decay from teeth, filling cavities, installing bridges, cleaning infections, and rearranging teeth’s position.
- Educating patients on oral hygiene.
The average Dentist salary in USA is $42,264 per year or $22 per hour. This is around 1.5 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $30,000 while most experienced workers make up to $59,000. These results are based on 608 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Excellent interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills:
- Communicating clearly, especially verbally, in order to create a comforting and transparent environment with patients and their relatives, providing answers to their questions and addressing their concerns;
- displaying strong customer service skills, setting high standards of patient care and safety, treating every patient with dignity and respect;
- being able to efficiently manage a team while working cohesively with its members; and
- dealing with a diverse group of people, always conveying a positive image and building positive relationships with others.
- Great sense of empathy:
- Demonstrating sensitivity to individual needs of patients; and
- being able to deal with stressed and scared patients in a polite and compassionate way.
- Strong organizational and time management skills:
- Having strong multitasking skills; being able to prioritize tasks and responsibilities; and
- being exceptionally flexible and able to deal with a broad variety of parameters and changing demands in a dynamic, fast-paced environment.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making skills:
- Identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner using critical thinking and good judgment; and
- being able to analyze, assess, and diagnose the patients’ condition in order to provide them with the proper treatments.
- High levels of manual dexterity and motor coordination:
- Displaying exceptional attention to detail and good hand skills, having outstanding hand-eye coordination; and
- being able to use dental/technical equipment in an accurate and meticulous manner.
- Continual focus on hygiene:
- Wearing latex gloves, goggles, lab coat and sterilizing dental instruments.
- Exceptional professionalism and strong work ethic.
- Great sense of responsibility and reliability.
- Demonstrated proficiency in the use of basic computer applications, including electronic clinical documentation software.
Aside from the skills listed above, Dentists must have earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology, Chemistry, or any other relevant science-oriented program, prior to completing a dental school program in any of the 60 schools accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). To be part of this 4-year program, it is necessary to pass the Dental Admission Test and to have excellent grades, an outstanding performance in the exam, recommendation letters, and a great interview as these elements will be taken into account during the dental school selection process. Once the program is finished, aspirants will receive one of the following degrees: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM), or Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD).
Furthermore, Dentists who wish to specialize in a specific dentistry area (e.g. pediatric dentistry, maxillofacial radiology, endodontics, or periodontics) must also complete up to four years of residency training.
In order to be able to practice as General Dentists or as specialists, these professionals need to be licensed by the state where they want to perform their job. Requirements vary from state to state and they might even include the completion of another residency. As a consequence, it is necessary to check each state’s dental board.
Dentists also need to demonstrate an extensive knowledge of dental treatment procedures, equipment, and tools, including the latest technology used in dentistry, as well as relevant medical terminology, medications, and preventive measures. They must also comply with current medical principles and policies, along with established procedures and methods, legislations and regulations, and health and safety standards.
Most Dentist positions require between 2 and 4 years of experience formulating treatment plans for individual patients and performing clinical treatments, while more technical positions may require 3 to 5more years of work experience. However, the most important asset is having a license.
In the long run, Dentists can become partners of practices, hospital consultants, or even run their own practices, in which case, they will need basic knowledge of business management. These Dentists may choose to get a master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) in addition to their Dentistry degree.