Dentistry is one of the ten most trusted and ethical professions in America. The field of dentistry holds promising and exciting career opportunities in a variety of areas depending on one’s particular talents, interests and commitment to further education and training. The professional challenge, new technology and advancements and ever-growing demand for dental care, make this one of the top medical fields to enter.
Dental assistants, dental hygienists and dentists are all involved in direct patient care and treatment. Education requirements vary depending on the type of dentistry profession. Dental hygienists and dentists, the two professions for which training is provided at The University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry, require licensing. Hence, in order to practice, the student must attend an accredited dental program and pass examinations administered by the governing body for the dental profession.
Dentists may decide to specialize by taking extra training following graduation. There are nine recognized specialty areas in all: endodontics; oral and maxillofacial surgery; oral and maxillofacial pathology; oral and maxillofacial radiology; orthodontics; pediatric dentistry; periodontics; prosthodontics; public health.
Individuals who have an aptitude for science and math, strong interpersonal and communication skills and good manual dexterity are well suited for a dental career. Good vision and an artistic-creative ability are also required because of the type of detailed work involved.
People choose dentistry for a variety of reasons including income potential, status and prestige, and the opportunity to serve others. Some are drawn to the profession’s combination of art and science. One of the most distinctive aspects of a dental career is the considerable control a dentist has over the nature, scope, quality and price of tasks performed. Few health care professions afford such a high degree of independence and flexibility and the chance to balance professional and personal life.
Dentistry is a secure, in-demand, and well-paid field of work and a career! The future opportunities for new dentists are exceptionally bright. Projections show the demand for dental services will grow because the population is expected to increase from 282 million to 420 million from 2000-50. People are also more concerned about their dental health and can better afford dental care. In looking ahead it is important to note that large numbers of dentists are expected to retire in the next 20 years, creating even more demand for new dentists. Advances in technologies such as digital radiography, laser systems and informatics will allow dentists to provide more effective treatments and respond to the public’s expanding interest in cosmetic dentistry.
The most recent statistics from the American Dental Association show that the average net income for general dentists in a private practice was $180,650 and for specialists it was $287,190. According to the 2010 US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission, the national hourly wage for hygienists was $32.81 and the OK hourly wage was $31.63. This equates to a full time annual salary of $68,250 nationally and $62,470 in Oklahoma.
More information about a career in dentistry is available from the following resources:
The American Dental Association (ADA) 312-440-2390
The American Dental Education Associate (ADEA) 202-667-0642
The American Student Dental Association (ASDA) 312-440-2795
The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) 312-440-8930
In addition to private practice, there are also options in teaching, dental research and dental industry. There are also opportunities for work in public health agencies, hospitals and military settings. New research about the relationship of oral health to general health makes dentistry an important health profession for the future.