What type of education do dentists receive?
In the US, all dentists must receive a doctorate degree. This typically requires 8 years after high school graduation. Most dentists receive a bachelor’s degree in college, often in a science-related field, as dental schools require entering students to have completed extensive coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. I attended Furman University and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.
Then dental school is an additional 4-year program. Most programs are full-time and year round. The first two years of the program are full of courses related to general health and dental health, such as gross anatomy (complete with dissection of human cadavers), physiology, pharmacology, and nutrition.
The first two years also introduce students to dental techniques and procedures. Most schools have a simulation lab where students practice on life-like models of human teeth and/or extracted teeth. We also got to serve as guinea pigs for each other on non-invasive techniques such as taking dental impressions and delivering anesthesia. Students are tested rigorously before being allowed to work on
The last two years are mainly spent delivering clinical care to patients. Students are required to successfully complete certain numbers of all common dental techniques and extractions, such as fillings, crowns, dentures, extractions, and root canals. They are supervised by the dentists on the faculty of the school.
US dental schools offer two degrees, depending on the school: DDS and DMD. While the initials are different, the degrees are, in actuality, the same degree and all dental schools use the same curriculum. DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery and DMD stands for Doctor of Dental Medicine (from the Latin, Doctor Medicinae Dentariae) I received a DMD from the University of Florida. All dentists must also complete a licensure exam after graduation to be able to practice. Licensure exams consist of successfully completing certain dental procedures on live patients and on models as well as an extensive written exam.
Dentists are, of course, encouraged to keep up with the latest science and techniques in dentistry. Most states require dentists to take a certain number of Continuing Education (CE) courses related to dentistry in order to maintain their license. Tennessee requires dentists to take at least 40 hours every two years. I really enjoy learning about new techniques and materials and usually take far more CE than required.