Do you have plans to attend dental school? If you want to become any type of dentist, you need to complete additional education before you can work as a professional. There’s a lot to consider during your time in dental school, so you should keep a few things in mind along the way.
1. Consider Standard Entry Requirements
Remember that dental school isn’t like college in the traditional sense. It comes after undergraduate education, as you need a bachelor’s degree to be accepted into almost all dental schools in the United States. There are also a few requirements you might want to tackle in college to improve your acceptance odds.
Administrators love to see that applicants were involved in extracurriculars and other activities throughout their undergraduate careers. If you can, you should explore health-related organizations so you can build skills and make connections. It’s also necessary to shadow dentists as an undergraduate to gain experience.
If you’re currently an undergraduate student who wants to pursue dental school, you must check with your academic advisor to ensure you take the proper courses over the next four years. This way, you’ll be well-equipped for the Dental Admission Test in your senior year. Then, you can build an application that includes:
- An application form
- DAT scores
- An official college transcript
- Two or three recommendation letters
- A personal essay
- A resume
- Proof that you shadowed dentists for the required hours
- An application fee
Be sure to prepare in advance so you can get into dental school on time.
2. Remember Patients and Processes Differ
During dental school, you learn about anatomy, biochemistry, and other subjects to prepare you for the future. It’ll also be necessary to learn about specific tools used in various procedures. Clinicals are usually mandatory for students in their third and fourth years.
This information certainly sets you up to be a successful dentist, but you might feel like the processes are a bit mechanical. Try to remember that patients and processes differ. It might be easy to fill a cavity on a model — but when you have someone actually come in for the same procedure, you have other variables to handle.
What happens when your patient refuses care because they’re too anxious? As a dentist, you need to account for emotions and personalities that might make your job a bit harder. It’s up to you to make them feel comfortable and safe throughout the procedure.
3. Be Open-Minded About Future Paths
There are various paths you can pursue in the dental field. While you’re in dental school, you’ll learn a curriculum to become a general dentist upon graduation. However, you can continue your education in a specific residency program, too. If you don’t want to be a general dentist, you can explore a few specialty areas during dental school:
- Pediatric dentistry
- Oral surgery
Each one focuses on more than just general oral care. For example, endodontists work specifically with the dental pulp, which exists in the gums. These professionals are qualified to perform root canals. If you want to branch out, you should see whether a specialty would be a better fit for you.
There will be opportunities to test numerous career paths — and you should learn about them so you can find what you love. It’s key not to underestimate yourself, either. While children might seem like a lot to handle in a dentist’s office, you may find that pediatric dentistry utilizes your talents perfectly. It all depends, but you’ll never know unless you try.
4. Partake in Hands-On Internships
As you work through dental school, you’ll be able to learn under dentists in professional settings. If you have the chance to partake in other hands-on experiences, you should. It’s always smart to gain whatever knowledge you can.
That’s also important to start early. If you’re in undergraduate school, you’ll likely need to shadow a dentist so you can highlight that experience on your dental school application. This internship will help you decide what you want to do in the future.
5. Network With Professors and Students
All professionals benefit when they form strong relationships with their colleagues. It’s never a bad idea to network with professors and students when you enter dental school. Actually, you can start even earlier when you’re in college.
These connections could help you land your dream job. If you want to do a residency after you’re done with dental school, you might need a referral — and your microbiology professor’s word could be the deciding factor. While you don’t necessarily need to network, you can sometimes get ahead faster as a result.
These Points Will Help You Succeed in Your Career
There’s no denying that dentistry isn’t the most straightforward profession. To become a dentist, you need a lengthy education under your belt. If you keep specific points in mind, you’ll be successful. There may be a long road ahead — but you’ve got this.