Your Online Resource for Dental Degrees
DentalDegree is an online guide to dental degrees and careers. There are several online programs that can help start a career in dentistry, but more training may be required to pursue your career of choice.
Most dentists complete their undergraduate work in biology or a similar science degree before obtaining their master’s or doctoral degree in dentistry. A strong foundation in the sciences is useful for those studying for a dental degree because most programs focus on physiology, anatomy, and pharmacology.
About Dental Degrees
Dental degrees allow students to work in the dental community as a dentist. There are many types of dental degrees, including:
- Doctor of Dentist Surgery (DDS)
- Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM)
- Master of Dental Surgery (MDS)
- Master of Science in Dentistry (MSD)
There are also undergraduate dental degrees, such as:
- Bachelor of Dentistry
- Bachelor of Dental Surgery
- Bachelor of Dental Medicine
- Bachelor of Oral Health in Dental Science
Do I Have to Have a Master’s Degree to Become a Dentist?
To become a dentist, things work a little differently than other fields. A student with a bachelor’s degree does not need a master’s to obtain a doctoral degree in the subject. Instead, students go straight from finishing their undergraduate degree to working in the dental field for training and work experience, or go on to obtain their doctoral degree. It is common for dental assistants or hygienists to return to school after working for a few years to become a dentist. After working in a dental environment for a while, students see the dentist at work and often want to obtain an education that will allow them autonomy in the work place, as well as the earning power of being a dentist.
You must have a bachelor’s degree to enter most accredited dental school programs, although some schools allow that to be a degree in any area versus a science degree, provided you have the prerequisite courses complete. Whether participating in a traditional school’s online or conventional program, most of these established schools do require a degree in biology, microbiology, or a similar science field. The stronger your background in science is, the better chance you have of getting into the dental program of your choice.
Why Do I Need a Background in Science for a Dental Degree?
Some dental programs have a list of prerequisites for applying to the program. These are science courses that provide students with a base for building their dental education. These prerequisites include courses like microbiology, organic chemistry, chemistry, physics, and biochemistry. The exact list of prerequisites varies from program to program, but for the most part, these are the types of classes you can expect to see on any accredited program’s list. If you do not have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, you will have to take these classes on their own in order to have grades to submit to a dental program. This is not common, but it can be done and is accepted by most dental programs as long as the grades in the courses are high enough. High scores in a class will not automatically admit you to a select program.
What is the Dental Admission Test (DAT)?
This is the test that’s required to enter all accredited dental programs in the United States and Canada. Scores and prerequisite classes also transfer between the two countries, provided they are from accredited colleges and universities. The DAT is taken on a computer and is administered throughout the country at designated testing centers. The cost to take DAT is $320 and must be paid each time a student takes the test. The DAT can be taken up to three times. After that, the student must get permission to take the test again. A duration of 90 days must pass between taking the test each time. The DAT is only taken after preliminary applications for dental school have been sent out to potential schools.
What is the DAT like?
The DAT is considered a standardized test and is comprised of four sections. It is a timed test; students have 90 minutes to complete the survey of natural sciences portion of the test. This section tests a student’s knowledge in biology, chemistry, and organic chemistry. The next portion of the test is the perceptual ability test (PAT), in which students have 60 minutes to finish. For reading comprehension, students are given 60 minutes and 45 minutes for the quantitative reasoning portion of the exam. The latter explores math and problem solving skills. The total duration of the test is five hours, which includes the testing sections mentioned above, as well as 15 minute breaks (scattered throughout the test) and an optional test survey at the end.
How Does a School Get My DAT Score?
In the past, students put their DAT score on an application to be sent to each dental program. Starting in 2011, schools now download a student’s score off the DAT website. If the test is taken multiple times, all scores are downloaded and viewed by the program. When registering for the DAT, a student designates which schools should have access to their score for application consideration.
Do I Need a Letter of Recommendation for Master’s and Doctoral Dental Degrees?
This varies widely, as some established programs only require prerequisite courses and an appropriate DAT score. Other schools do require a letter of recommendation. Because many students in the dental field have limited work experience in the area, this letter of recommendation usually comes from a past professor or academic instructor. This should be from an instructor who teaches a science course that was on the institution’s list of prerequisite courses. For those who have worked in the dental field, the letter can be completed by a colleague or former supervisor. The letter should be written by someone you have known awhile and who understands your work ethic and career goals. Because a letter of recommendation can take time to write, be sure to make the request a few months in advance. Most people will let you look over the letter to make sure it is what you need.
Differences Between DDS and DDM
The DDS degree typically takes eight years to complete, from undergraduate school through the doctoral stage. A DDS is a general dentist, much like a primary care physician. It is the first line of contact when encountering trouble with the teeth or gums and is the doctor people see for maintenance, regular teeth cleaning, and minor dental work. A DDS refers patients to more specialized dental doctors who care specifically for the gums or treat extreme cases of tooth decay. The DDM does the same thing, it is simply a different title at some dental schools. Most schools do not offer both a DDS or DDM program because they are such similar degrees, and courses are virtually interchangeable.
Is There an Interview Process for Dental School?
Many established schools have an interview process for applicants. After reviewing your application, a student is sent an interview form. Students are expected to answer questions with honesty. The application displays a student’s passion for the field and may also request a letter of recommendation. After this application is received by the school, you may have to set up a time to meet with a pre-dental community to learn more about the program and tell them why you’re a good candidate for your select degree.
Is Dentistry Growing?
Dentistry is set to grow slightly faster than other industries in the coming decade. Dentists will experience a 16 percent increase in the need for their services. The vast majority of dentists work for themselves in private practices, though some dentists work with other dentists in one facility that offers general dentistry, an orthodontist, an oral surgeon, and other specialized areas of dentistry. This allows patients to visit the same facility for all of their dental needs. Pediatric dentistry is also on the rise, as parents look to prevention methods to ensure their children have good oral health practices from a very young age.
Changes in the Dental Field
In large cities, the dental field is changing and taking a more cosmetic approach to dentistry. Now dentists in cities like Manhattan and Los Angeles are looking to provide patients with a relaxing experience at the dentist to make the environment less threatening. General care dentists are partnering with cosmetic dentists and technicians that are certified to perform Botox and other cosmetic injections, along with the latest in teeth whiteners. This spa-like experience is what’s changing the dentistry field and taking it in a new direction. Dentists are finding that patients enjoy this treatment and are willing to spend money for dental aesthetics and oral health.
There are also many baby boomer dentists retiring from the field soon, or seeing far fewer patients. This opens spots for new dentists. Dental demand is increasing due to a growing population. The business of dentistry tends to follow general business trends since services are often paid for by insurance companies.