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So You Want To Be A Dentist?

July 22nd, 2013

You may recognize that line as the song sung by Steve Martin’s character, the dentist in “Little Shop of Horrors”.  The song recounts the not so pretty traits that have come to be associated with the dental profession.  But it may surprise you to hear that in 2013, U.S. News and World Report listed the dental occupation as the No. 1 job in America.  And competition to get into the profession has been increasingly strong in recent years.
In 2011 there were 12,039 applications for 5,311 first year positions in the 61 dental schools in the U.S.  But it is a great profession with many advantages.  It affords the graduates many choices in practice including public health medicine, military service, research, teaching and, of course, private practice.  So who might apply and how would you go about getting into school?
And, naturally, with this sort of competition, grades are very important.  Most agree that a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average in college is required.  Coupled with a strong academic background, a pre-dental club can provide opportunities for public service and shadowing.  You family dentist will often agree to provide some of these opportunities for shadowing and mentoring.
One of the biggest challenges facing recent dental graduates is debt.  The cost of dental schooling is high and , when added to an expensive undergraduate education, can be daunting.  While new schools are opening, they are all private universities and therefore, more expensive to attend than public institutions.  Yo may want to plan to get an undergraduate education in a more inexpensive way thereby leaving you with less debt upon graduation which will generally afford you with more career choices.
Of course, a science background and a strong interest in the sciences is helpful.  The modern practice of clinical dentistry involves quite a bit of technical understanding and skill.  The dental materials involved, the handling of human tissues, and the integration of computer and other technical aspects is required of the modern dentist.  While some may approach the field with an eye towards research or public health, the majority are headed for the clinical practice.  Once graduated, some will continue to a post doctoral course of study in one of the specialties.  All of this points to the need for a strong science education in both high school and college.

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