Who doesn’t love a great smile? With studies showing that the smile is the first physical feature that most people notice, it would be remiss of us to not think it’s important. Consequently there is a real need for skilled people to help the rest of society stay on top of their game when it comes to their smiles and dental hygiene. Do you have a passion to help people bring out their inner Chip Skylark? Read on for information on pursuing a career in dentistry.
What is Dentistry?
Dentistry, also referred to as dental medicine, is a branch of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of conditions and disorders in the oral cavity and nearby structures including the head, face, jaw, neck, tongue and salivary glands.
Careers in Dentistry
There is a healthy number of career options in this field from which you can choose and we have provided a non-exhaustive list of some of these below:
- Dentist – would work with patients and the general public to prevent and treat dental and oral disease, correct dental irregularities (particularly in children) and treat dental and facial injuries.
- Dental nurse – help dentists to treat their patients and do reception work and other tasks in the practise.
- Dental hygienist – in this role, your job would involve preventive work. You would evaluate patients’ dental health and focus on identifying and treating any gum disease or issue.
- Dental therapist – working with a variety of patients, in this role you would give advice on oral health to patients, provide periodontal treatments and carry out routine restorative work.
- Orthodontist – In this role, you would be concerned with the development and alignment of the face, teeth and jaws to reach the best possible function and aesthetics. You would achieve this through the use of fixed braces or clear, removable aligners.
- Dental technician – also known as a dental technologist, you would be responsible for helping to improve teeth (for aesthetic reasons) and for replacing lost teeth. You would work to the prescription of a dentist to make bridges, crowns, dentures, braces and other orthodontic devices.
- Dental surgeon – having undergone additional studies, you would have specialised knowledge and be able to carry out a full range of procedures including more complex ones that dentists are not able to perform (including surgical work like apicoectomy or removing part of the bone structure).
- Pediatric dentist – in this role, your duties would be dedicated to the oral health needs of children from infancy through to adolescence.
- Periodontist – as a periodontist, you would specialise in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal (gum and bone) disease, and in the placement of dental implants. You would also be an expert in the treatment of oral inflammation.
- Prosthodontist – as a prosthodontist, you would specialise in restoration by dealing with the replacement of missing teeth and restoration of natural teeth and other structures
- Endodontist – you would be responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases of the dental pulp and the surrounding tissues. (The dental pulp is soft tissue in the centre of the tooth; it contains the nerve, blood and lymphatic vessels, and connective tissue.)
Dentistry is a regulated area and, as such, it is crucial that your degree is recognised by the regulating body for your region. It is also a requirement that you register with your regulating body before you can begin practising dentistry. The regulating body in the UK is the General Dental Council (GDC) whereas, in the USA the regulating body is different per state. The Board of Dentistry in the USA provides a list of regulators by state here so you can contact the relevant body for your area to become licensed as a dentist or similar professional.
For many careers in the dentistry field, the starting point would be a degree in dentistry which would then be topped up with additional studies based on the career you are pursuing. From our list above, we will consider the careers that do not mandate this route first.
To pursue a career as a dental hygienist, your degree options would include oral health science, dental hygiene, or dental hygiene and dental therapy. These can be obtained at foundation level, higher education diploma, or bachelor’s level. Similarly, to become a dental nurse, you can choose between a degree in oral health science or dental hygiene which, again, can either be at foundation, higher education diploma, or bachelor’s level.
To become a dental therapist, you will need to complete an accredited degree in an area such as dental therapy, whereas, to work as a dental technician, completing a degree in dental technology would be ideal and this can be done at BTEC level 3, foundation level, or bachelor’s level.
To pursue a career as a dentist, you must complete an undergraduate degree in dentistry (in the UK this is a 5 year degree whereas in the US, a bachelor’s degree is needed before entering dental school). Typically, once practising, you would be required to undertake continuing professional development to be allowed to continue to practise. If you wish, you could also complete postgraduate studies to specialise further in this field.
All the following careers, are specialist areas and so the undergraduate degree in dentistry is the mandatory starting point for each of these.
With that being said, to become an orthodontist you must first train to become a dentist and then undertaken a further postgraduate course at masters or doctorate level in orthodontics (typically three years). It might also be a requirement that you have prior work experience in maxillofacial surgery, restorative dentistry and/or pediatric dentistry.
To pursue a career as a dental surgeon, postgraduate studies is a must. Relevant postgraduate courses include – doctor of dental surgery or any medical related degree (including medicine). There is also a need to gain a license for your specialty and complete a residency.
A residency is a training program for those in medical fields such as dentistry which is completed post dental school.
For you to become a pediatric dentist, you would need to complete additional studying and training in dentistry for infants, children, teens, and children with special needs – this can come in the form of postgraduate study and/or a residency training period.
If you would like to be a periodontist, it will be necessary to complete additional postgraduate studies or a residency in periodontics which are both typically 3 years in duration. Likewise, in order to become a prosthodontist, you would have to complete further prosthodontic training at postgraduate level or via a residency (again typically 3 years).
Lastly, a career as an endodontist would require you to have two to three years of additional education in an advanced specialty program in endodontics. Again, for these specialty professions, the additional study would follow the base undergraduate degree in dentistry/dental school.
For all of the careers listed above, it is a requirement that you first be registered with the regulating body before practising in the field.
Other skills and competencies that would benefit you in this field include:
- knowledge of medicine and dentistry
- communication skills
- physical skills like movement, coordination and dexterity
- good eyesight and steady hands/fine motor skills for carrying out precision work
- thinking and reasoning skills
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- physically stamina to stand and lean over for long periods of time
- basic computer skills at the very least
- sensitivity and understanding
- CAM/CAD knowledge of implants systems.
To see more posts like these subscribe for monthly updates:
How to Stand Out
In most cases, it is a requirement that you undergo continuing professional development training to stay abreast of industry standards and expectations. However, as far as certifications are concerned, there is still a fair amount of options available to you to help you stand out even more. For example, you can obtain certifications in health and safety or even in your area of specialty like oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, endodontics, and dental public health. Browse platforms such as Coursera, Udemy and even LinkedIn to find free or affordable certificates suitable to your chosen career.
Get Hands-On Experience
As with any of other field, experience is essential in setting yourself apart in the recruitment process. For this reason, we highly suggest taking advantage of available volunteering and/or internship opportunities wherever possible. You can try approaching local dental clinics such as Paradise Smiles TCI, Mark Osmond Dental Clinic, Dental Services Ltd, or Smile TCI for opportunities that they offer.
The Clinical Exploration Program also provides amazing opportunities across different health careers including dentistry as they have partnered with a number of offices to provide internships to young people interested in the field – you can find them here.
You also may contact the Turks and Caicos Government’s Dental Health Department to enquire on any internship opportunities they may have available available.
While it is difficult to get practice in this field at home, you can stay abreast on the latest in the industry by following dental magazines like The Dentist, or Dentistry Today. You can subscribe to each of these to receive regular articles and updates or simply visit their website and social media pages on a regular basis to read the latest information.
You may find the links at the bottom of this post useful in getting started in this field. Alternatively, feel free to browse our other career topics if you are still undecided or send us a message if you would like more personalised advice. An excellent way to help you stand out regardless of your industry or career is to have a professional and tailored CV/resume so feel free to contact us to help you make your recipe for success once you are ready to take the next step in your career.
Fun fact – Teeth can be implanted to help restore eyesight.
Learn how to pursue a career in Dentistry within these regions
Resources: Use the links below to sign up for free online courses and you may be able to get a certificate upon completion (NB. there may be a small fee to obtain the certificates). You can also watch the video lecture on basic dental terminology.
‘Introduction to dental medicine’ course at Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/learn/dental-medicine
‘Dentistry 101’ course at Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/learn/dentistry101
- British Association of Dental Therapists (BADT) – available to members only
- British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) – available to members only
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)