To become a dentist one must attend a dental school that is accredited by the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).Programs take approximately four years to complete, but those who want to specialize must then spend an additional year or two in a residency. To get accepted by one of the more than 50 dental schools in the US, one must complete at least two years of pre-dental education but most programs require a bachelor’s degree. Applicants face a great deal of competition. All must take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). Visit the ADA website for a list of accredited schools.
To practice as a dentist, one must be licensed by the state in which he or she wants to work. Requirements for licensure vary from state to state but all include graduation from an accredited school and passing of Parts I and II of the National Board Dental Examinations. This multiple choice test is administered by the ADA’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. Candidates for licensure must also pass a clinical examination. To find out what the specific requirements are in the state in which you plan to practice, contact that state’s dental board. The American Association of Dental Boards website has links to every state board in the US.
In addition to education and licensing requirements, a dentist needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this occupation. Strong critical thinking skills will allow him or her to weigh the pros and cons of alternative solutions to problems in order to select the best one. He or she also needs excellent judgement and decision making skills.