Valparaiso (219) 531-8914
951 Southpoint Dr.
Valparaiso, IN 46385
Chesterton (219) 926-5445
1830 South 11th Street
Chesterton, IN 46304

Becoming a Dentist is Challenging

Question: “Dr. Arnold, would you recommend dentistry as a profession to teenagers considering what they want to do with their lives? How long does this process take?”

Answer: Dentistry is a wonderful profession. As a dentist, you get to help improve patients’ health. alleviate pain, and change lives with orthodontic care, cosmetic or rehabilitative dentistry. Additionally, it allows you a creative outlet and an opportunity to meet many interesting people. Many of these people will feel like a part of your own extended family.

Becoming a dentist is a very challenging endeavor, but is well worth the effort. Before embarking upon this path, however, I would strongly encourage you to spend a few days with a dentist to ensure that you know what a typical day at a dental office is like. It is imperative that one sees how an office operates and how dentists spend their time from day to day. Otherwise, it’s impossible to know whether or not it is the right profession to embark upon.

If dentistry seems like a good choice, it is imperative to work hard to achieve good grades, especially in the areas of math and science. Candidates will take many required “pre-requisite” courses in order to qualify for dental school and prepare for the Dental Admissions Test (DAT).

Some students complete their pre-requisites and DAT in three years and move on to dental school without actually finishing their college degree. Most students will complete college, however with a degree in Pre-Dentistry, Biology, Chemistry, or some other subject and apply to dental school after four years.

Acceptance to dental school generally hinges upon the combination of GPA, DAT Scores, extracurricular activities, and an interview. The dental school curriculum is usually four years. These four years are quite rigorous with many lecture and laboratory courses each semester (generally 23 to 27 credit hours). Additionally, dental students see patients and have specific clinical requirements to complete during their four year program.

In order to practice in Indiana, two written National Board Exams must be passed during dental school. Graduates must also pass the clinical State Board Exam to obtain a license. If a graduate wishes to continue in school to become a specialist, it generally requires another intensive interview process and an additional two to four years of training.

It is a significant financial investment as the average dental student finishes school with close to $200,000 in student loan debt. It often costs another $300,000 to $700,000 to purchase or begin a new practice.

New technology, materials, and techniques are being introduced on a regular basis and this makes dentistry tremendously interesting. Becoming a dentist requires a significant investment of time, money, and energy, but if it is something that you feel passionately about, you should go for it because it is well worth the effort.

Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Valparaiso and Chesterton. Additionally, he serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics and is involved with many other local, state, national, and international dental organizations. Questions for Dr. Arnold can be emailed to: or sent to: 1830 South 11th St., Chesterton, IN, 46304. More information on this and a variety of other dental topics can be found at: