THE DENTAL CAREER everyone is most familiar with is the private practice dentist, meaning an individual dentist or a partnership working with local patients in their own practice. That’s the kind of dentist we all go to for our normal dental health needs, but not everyone who graduates from a four-year dental program goes in this direction.
Training and Dental Specialties
About 20% of dentists undergo additional years of training in one of the nine dental specialties: Dental Public Health, Endodontics, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics, and Prosthodontics.
The Many Career Paths for a Dentist
Academic dentists add a teaching role and help usher in the next generation of dentists. Research dentists get to be on the cutting edge of new advancements in treatments and technology. Some dentists work internationally with organizations like the WHO, UNESCO, and FAO. Finally, there are dentists who work alongside physicians in hospitals.
The Rest of the Dental Team
Aside from the dentists themselves, other essential roles in the field of dentistry are dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental lab technicians. Hygienists and assistants interact closely with patients to ensure a high level of care, while dental lab technicians work behind the scenes designing the dentures, crowns, and braces dentists use. Most of these support roles require at least an associate’s degree or training program.