Becoming a Dentist is Well Worth the Effort
Question: “Dr. Arnold, I am in high school, and I am interested in becoming a dentist. What do I need to do, and how long will it take?”
Answer: I’m happy to hear that you are interested in dentistry because it is a wonderful profession. As a dentist, you are in a position to help alleviate pain, improve patients’ health, and change lives with cosmetic or rehabilitative dentistry. Additionally, it allows you a creative outlet and an opportunity to meet a LOT of interesting people. After practicing for several years, these people will begin to feel like a part of your own large, extended family.
Becoming a dentist is a challenging, but “doable” endeavor. Before embarking upon this path, however, I would strongly encourage you to spend a few days in a dental office to ensure that you know what a typical day at a dental office is like. Without seeing how an office operates and how a dentist spends his or her time from day to day, it’s impossible to know whether or not it is really the profession for you.
Once you have determined that you’re ready to “take the plunge,” it is imperative that you achieve good grades, especially in the areas of math and science. In college, you’ll take many “pre-requisite” courses in order to qualify for dental school and prepare for the Dental Admissions Test (DAT).
Some students complete their pre-reqs and DAT in three years and move on to dental school without actually finishing their college degree. Most students will complete college with a major in Pre-Dentistry, Biology, Chemistry, or some other subject and apply to dental school after four years.
Acceptance into a dental school program is generally based upon a combination of GPA, DAT Scores, extracurricular activities, and an interview. The dental school curriculum is generally four years. These four years are quite rigorous with many courses each semester (in my case twenty-three to twenty-seven credit hours) which include lecture and laboratory work. Additionally, dental students see patients and have specific clinical requirements to complete for their second through fourth years.
Upon graduation, there are two written National Board Exams and a clinical State Board Exam to pass if you want to practice in Indiana. If a graduate wishes to continue in school to become a specialist, it generally requires an additional two to four years of training, after another intensive interview process.
Dentistry is becoming more interesting all of the time with new technology, materials, and techniques being introduced on a regular basis. Obviously, spending seven to eight years of your life in school to become a dentist is a significant investment of time, money, and energy. If it is something that you want to do, however, you should go for it because it is well worth the effort!
Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Chesterton and Valparaiso. He is also a clinical mentor with the Hornbrook Group and serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics as the Fellowship Chairman. You may send questions to his office at: 1830 South 11th Street, Chesterton, IN 46304 or email them to: drarnold@SmilesByArnold.com. More information on this or many other dental topics can be found at www.SmilesByArnold.com.