If you’re thinking about becoming a dentist, you’re not alone. But the decision to become one of these highly skilled professionals can be a big one—and it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you need to do to get there. This article will help you determine if being a dentist is the right career move for you and will also explain what it takes to become one in the first place. If you think this career path might be right for you, here’s how to become a dentist in the United States of America!

The required education

Becoming a dentist isn’t easy, but if you’re up for challenge, it can also be immensely rewarding. The first step is deciding what kind of dentist you want to be and which training is best for you. There are two kinds of dentists: general dentists and specialists. General dentists perform most routine dental procedures and must complete four years of post-secondary education, as well as state licensing exams and national board certification.

Applying to dental school

There are three ways of getting into dental school: apply during your senior year of college, take time off and reapply, or have an undergraduate degree in another field. The majority of applicants have completed their bachelor’s degree before they start dental school. Check with individual schools for specific admission requirements.

The Dental Board Exams

Every state has a dental board that administers exams, issues licenses and sets educational standards for dentists. All states require dentists to pass both written and clinical exams before they can practice. The process will vary by state but typically you’ll have to log 1,500 hours of supervised patient experience in an accredited dentist office. Passing these boards is no easy feat, so start studying early and make sure you’re ready! And no matter how much time you spend brushing your teeth (at least twice daily), don’t forget about your flossing habits! There are lots of incredible benefits associated with regular flossing like preventing gingivitis and bad breath. Best of all it only takes about three minutes per day!

Becoming a licensed dentist

Each state has its own regulations for becoming a licensed dentist. In most cases, you’ll have to complete a four-year degree at an accredited dental school—preferably one that’s approved by your state’s Dental Board. But gaining admission into an accredited program isn’t always easy: Competition is stiff, and students often need near-perfect grades and letters of recommendation in order to be considered. Once you are admitted, however, things get easier: Most dental schools offer both undergraduate programs and graduate programs, meaning that completing your studies can take anywhere from two years (undergraduate) up to six years (graduate). And while no single program is exactly alike, there are some general similarities that all programs share.

Where you can work as a dentist

Becoming a dentist requires between eight and twelve years of schooling. However, there are lots of options for dentists when it comes to work environment and specialty. Depending on what you like, you can choose from general dentistry, orthodontics (correcting irregular bites), periodontics (gum disease), endodontics (root canal), pediatric dentistry (children’s teeth), oral surgery (dentures) or restorative dental medicine. If you are interested in advanced training, there are also options available such as becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon that deal with both medical treatment of cancer patients and extensive plastic surgery related procedures for those with facial injuries.

Earnings as a dentist

As of 2012, dentists earned an average of $158,240 annually. The salary varied based on factors such as location and number of years in practice. A dentist practicing less than three years could expect annual earnings between $94,000 and $122,000 per year; someone practicing from three to six years could earn up to $125,000 per year; and dentists with more than 15 years’ experience made approximately $169,000 each year. In addition to their salaries, dentists also receive income from premiums paid by private dental insurance companies that offer benefits beyond basic government coverage. Estimates show that premium payments added anywhere from 10 percent (for low-cost plans) to 27 percent (for comprehensive plans) on top of annual wages for insured dentists in 2011.

Is being a dentist right for you?

Dentistry is certainly not for everyone, but you should at least make sure that it fits with your personality and character. If you are an organized person who likes working with people, has a passion for helping others, and can handle being in school while also working long hours, then maybe dentistry is right for you. The truth is that some personalities just aren’t cut out for certain professions (and dentistry is no exception). Remember that if becoming a dentist isn’t going to be fulfilling personally or professionally, then it might not be worth pursuing. As always, think things through carefully before making any decisions!