Dentists are responsible for the oral health of individuals. In order to provide care to patients, dentists perform a number of different tasks throughout an average day. These include filling cavities, performing root canals, straightening teeth, removing teeth, performing oral surgery, repairing fractured teeth, and inserting crowns, fake teeth or dentures. In addition, they are also responsible for educating patients on appropriate home dental care, which includes brushing, flossing and nutrition.
Most dentists can be found in general practices, where they perform routine dental tasks. However, some dentists choose to specialize in a specific area. Orthodontists specialize in straightening teeth, while endodontists specifically perform root canals. In addition to choosing what services they provide, dentists can also choose what populations they want to work with.
For example, some dentists specialize in pediatrics, while other dentists work for public health in which they serve low income and non-insured individuals.
Education: Dentists are required to complete 8 years of postsecondary education. This consists of four years spent obtaining an undergraduate degree, and four years as a student in one of the 55 accredited dental schools in the United States. In addition, dentists must pass licensing exams and continue receiving education and training each year to stay licensed. For dentists specializing in a particular area, 2-5 years of additional education is required after completion of dental school. If it's too much education for you to swallow, then look into dental assistant jobs or dental hygienist jobs, both of which provide solid job security and good pay.
Opportunities: According to the ADA, 80% of dentists own and work in their own practice, most with a small staff. However, a few dentists work as partners in practice with other dentists or work under a dentist with no stake in a practice. A few dentists can be found in hospitals and physician offices, although these are rare.
Average Pay: The average yearly salary for dentists is $130,000, although this can vary depending upon a number of factors such as number of hours worked, location, specialty and type of practice. Dentists who own their own practice usually make more than dentists working on salary for another dentist or a hospital or clinic.
Job Outlook: For dentists the job outlook is not as good as other professions, as this career field is expected to grow slower than most. In fact, job openings will not be for additional dentists, but instead to replace dentists who are retiring.
Schedule: Dentists work an average of 35-40 hours each week spread out through 4 or 5 days. Some dentists choose to work evening or weekend hours in order to accommodate the needs of their patients. Of course, most dentists own their own practice, thus they can set when and how long they work to fit their needs and their schedule.