Using the definition of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, dentistry is a branch of medicine focused on the study, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases and conditions involving the oral cavity and associated structures and their impact on the human body.
With dental health being important to human’s overall health, dental professionals are able to help their clients and community by contributing to keeping them in top shape.
Highlighted courses and degrees in dentistry
There are numerous dentistry courses that can educate, train and provide experience for individuals with an interest in dentistry. For example, there are degrees such as Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM), Master of Dental Surgery (MDS) and Master of Science in Dentistry (MSD). At the undergraduate level, there is the Bachelor of Dentistry, Bachelor of Dental Surgery, Bachelor of Dental Medicine and the Bachelor of Oral Health. For those interested in dental assisting, an associate’s degree program may be taken. The different types of degrees can be dependent on the country wherein you plan to study and practice.
Majority of required courses of dentistry programs will be on theory, technical and practical knowledge on dentistry. Topics generally include anatomy, biology, patient care, pharmacology and very specific courses on the different facets of dentistry.
Most universities provide specialisation options for their students, either through optional electives or as a mandatory part of the degree program. Availability of specialisations would also depend on the offerings of each university. Aside from taking courses or further education on these topics or fields, individuals must also gain experience and training to be able to claim the specialisation.
Below is a short list of some specialisations in the field of dentistry, majority of which are provided by the American Dental Association:
The accreditation of a degree usually depends on the country where the degree is awarded. In most cases, countries have their own accrediting systems for universities, students and graduates.
Graduates of dentistry degree programs will need to obtain licensure before being able to practice in the field. Requirements per country and state vary, but fulfilment is usually based on education, training and clinical experience and examination results.
A bachelor degree in dentistry typically takes around four years of full-time study, while an associate’s degree will not take as long. Adding a master’s can take anywhere from five to eight years. The exact period of time would depend on the university of your choice and the country wherein it is located.
Entrance into a dentistry degree program varies from institution to institution. Some universities require you to take an entrance exam, while some will take into consideration national or standard exams. For dental school applicants in the US and Canada, the Dental Admission Test is a standardised exam that dental schools consider. In some cases of master’s and doctorate programs, an applicant may be required to have completed a bachelor degree in a related field.
Most programs require prerequisite courses and a certain Dental Admission Test score. Some schools may also have an interview process and/or require letters of recommendation and an application essay.
For a complete list of requirements, you are advised to contact the institution you are interested in applying to.
If you do not meet the entry requirements you may want to consider a pathway course.
Almost all graduates of dentistry programs, provided they also fulfill the licensure requirements of the state or country wherein they want to practice, end up as dental professionals. Career paths included private general practice, specialist practice, aid agencies, research and teaching. A significant number of dentists are in the private sector, either as general practitioners or specialists. In the public sector, dentists can provide services in hospitals, schools and health agencies and departments.
Those who go through dentistry degree programs, training and work are known to be effective communicators. Most dentists and those studying to be dentists are good at interacting with a variety of people as well as working independently. With their vast knowledge on technical areas of the field, they have a high level of understanding of sciences.
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