If you're like most people, you've probably been to the dentist's office at some point to have your teeth cleaned, to have a tooth filled or pulled, to have a crown or implant placed, or to have any number of other oral procedures performed. However, if you're reading this, you are probably not like most of the people that have been to the dentist. This is because most people would not consider pursuing a career as a dentist due to the negative way the profession is sometimes perceived. This perception, a result of the fact that most people don't like people tinkering around in their mouths, not only makes it difficult for dentists to practice their profession, but also makes it difficult for some individuals to gain the guidance and the financial and emotional support they need to enter the field.
Fortunately, there are dental schools that will be able to help you learn the skills that you need to become a dentist, as well as offering you the guidance and support that you need to enter this extremely rewarding field. If you are interested in a career in the dentistry field, there are a few key things that you should remember about dentistry programs and the careers that these programs will allow you to pursue.
- One of the things that you should remember about the field of dentistry is that you don't necessarily have to be a dentist to work in the field. You may be able to pursue a number of other careers as long as you have the appropriate degrees and/or experience. Other career options include work as a director of dental programs, an endodontist, an oral surgeon, an oral and maxillofacial pathologist, a periodontist, a pediatric dentist, or any of a variety of other similar subfields.
- Another thing that you should remember about the field of dentistry is that you will typically need a master's degree or a doctoral degree from an accredited dental school to obtain a position in the field. Most individuals are legally required to have a master's degree and/or a doctoral degree in dentistry, dental medicine, dental science, dental surgery, or general dentistry. Dental schools will not only allow you to learn the skills that you need to perform the duties of a dentist or another similar position, but will also allow you to earn the degree that you are legally required to have in order to take these positions.
- The third and final thing that you should remember about the field of dentistry is that a career in the field is typically very rewarding. A career in dentistry will not only give you the opportunity to help people, but will also give you the opportunity to earn over $140,000 a year (even more if you specialize in certain types of dentistry).
Top Dental Schools
If you're looking for a dental school, you may be trying to figure out what makes one school better than another school out there. There are a number of factors that go into determining whether or not a school is one of the top dental schools. In fact, there are so many different factors involved in the process of determining a dental school's rank that the magazines and college publications that typically rank schools don't actually publish rankings for dental schools. This means that it can be very difficult to determine if a school is a top school or not, and you may find it helpful to know some of the things that you should consider when you're attempting to find a top dental school.
- The first thing that you should consider when you're attempting to find a top dental school is the level of difficulty of getting into that school. A school with stringent entry requirements will typically have better students and, therefore, have classes that are designed for students who are able to learn at a faster pace. A program is typically better if it is harder to get into.
- The second thing that you should consider when you're attempting to find a top dental school is the student to professor ratio, which is the average number of students that a professor will typically be required to teach. A teacher with 5 students on average will be able to spend more time helping you refine your dental techniques than a teacher with 30 students.
- The third thing that you should consider when you're attempting to find a top dental school is the size of the school's research department. A school with a large research department will typically have more money than a school with a smaller research department, and a school with more money will typically have the resources to hire better professors, stay up to date with the current technologies and procedures, and, of course, conduct important research within the field of dentistry to invent new procedures.
- The fourth thing that you should consider when you're attempting to find a top dental school is the current whereabouts of the alumni. Are the alumni practicing dentists, or are they still looking for jobs? Do most of the graduates from the school end up as associates, or do they become partners and eventually open their own practices? These are useful questions to answer.
- The fifth thing that you should consider when you're attempting to find a top dental school is the school's reputation with the students. This is important because a school that has failed to impress its students in the past will probably fail to impress you. Do the students love the school or do they hate it? If they hate it, why do they hate it? Are the classes too hard? Are the professors poor instructors? Are the tools so old that a bow drill might actually be a suitable alternative? These are all important questions that you may be able to answer by talking to former students and/or reading some of the evaluations that former students have posted online.
Dental School Accreditation
You probably already know that it is extremely important for a dental school to be accredited. However, you may still be wondering what accreditation is and what a school actually has to do to become accredited. Accreditation, as it applies to the field of dentistry, is the process by which an outside organization examines a school to determine if it has the resources to effectively teach the basic concepts and the procedures that a student needs to learn in order to become a dentist. This process is extremely important because it makes it easier for the field of dentistry to maintain the high standards of quality that people expect it to maintain, makes it easier for financial aid organizations to distinguish schools that offer more questionable programs from the schools that offer legitimate programs, and makes it easier for individuals to prove that they have received the required education before they enter a graduate program and/or receive a license to practice dentistry.
There are a number of different organizations that offer accreditations to dental schools, and some of these accreditations are more important and/or reliable than others. Most of the major accreditation organizations in the field of dentistry can be separated into one of two categories, national or regional, based on the area that the organization oversees. A national accreditation organization can accredit any college, university, and/or dental school that offers a dental program in the United States. The main national accreditation organization in the field of dentistry is the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation (ADA CODA). Regional accreditation organizations can accredit the colleges, universities, and/or dental schools located in a specific area.
There are six major regional accreditation organizations in the U.S. :
- The Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools
- The New England Association of Colleges and Schools
- The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- The Northwest Association of Colleges and Schools
- The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- The Western Association of Colleges and Schools.
Dental School Quality Standards Assurance
Accreditation is important for a number of reasons, but one of the major reasons that accreditation is so important is that it allows the field of dentistry to promise a certain level of care to its patients. This is important because the dental field has had a long history of some less-than-reputable individuals using dental practices and procedures that were based more on superstition than on science (see the “History of Dentistry” article for more information). These questionable practices and procedures ultimately led to a strong sense of mistrust between the individuals offering dental care and the individuals receiving it; but the field of dentistry has since established a series of standards to combat this mistrust and prevent individuals who lack the training, the scientific knowledge, and, in some cases, the basic common sense necessary for high quality dental care from entering the dental field.
The only way for the field of dentistry to ensure that every dental school is actually
in compliance with the standards that it has set is for the ADA CODA and regional organizations
to evaluate every school and accredit only the schools that comply. To receive its accreditation,
a school must conduct regular assessments of its ability to teach students, must have the
financial resources to fund the programs that it intends to run, must have a series of written
admissions requirements, must offer biomedical science courses that meet specific guidelines,
must offer dentistry courses that cover every major practice and procedure that a general
dentist may perform, and must meet a variety of other similar requirements.
Dental School Financial Aid Programs
The accreditation process is important for a number of reasons, but one of the reasons that you should be concerned with whether your school is accredited or not is that you may not be able to obtain financial aid if you go to an unaccredited school. A financial aid organization is concerned with making sure that you can actually put the education that you will receive in dental school to good use.
- Unfortunately, a degree from an unaccredited college, university, and/or dental school won't be able to help you do as much as a degree from an accredited school because you need a degree from an accredited school in order to obtain your license to practice dentistry.
- A financial aid organization will typically refuse to pay for your tuition or, in some cases, even demand that you repay your tuition (when the financial aid organization has already paid some of it) if you go to an unaccredited school or if you switch from one of the dental schools that is accredited by the ADA CODA to a dental school that is not accredited.
Dental School Graduate Studies
There are a number of benefits to finding an accredited dental school rather than an unaccredited school, but one of the major advantages of an accredited school is that it will allow you to do more with your degree once you leave. All of the dental schools and the state licensing boards in the United States want to make sure that you have learned the things that you should have learned in school before you apply to a graduate program and/or apply for a license. Unfortunately, there is no practical way for a dental school or a licensing board to check all of the material that every school teaches because there are simply too many schools to check. Most dental schools and state licensing boards, as a result, use the accreditations that a school has earned from other organizations to determine if that school is teaching the basic concepts, practices, and procedures that it should be teaching.
Most dental schools will require you to obtain an undergraduate degree from an accredited school
before you apply to the program, and most state licensing boards will require you to obtain a
graduate degree from an accredited school before you apply for a license. These organizations
not only use accreditations to ensure that a school has taught an individual everything that he
or she needs to know to safely and effectively perform the duties of a dentist, but also to compare
one accredited school with another. This means that you must not only ensure that your school is
accredited but also that it has been accredited by a number of different accreditation organizations.
Last Updated: 08/20/2013