This seems to be a common joke on TV shows and in the movies. If you’ve seen The Hangover, you know what I’m talking about. The truth is — being a dentist is a tough gig. It’s stressful, it can be difficult, and you have no control over your time as you are being pulled every which way all at once. Dentists not only have to run their business at a managerial standpoint and keep on top of everything which can prove to be a challenge, but also have to complete treatment on patients, give hygiene exams, take calls, give consultations, give advice to other doctors, etc., all at the same time. Phew!
To become a dentist, you have to first complete a 4-year college degree, preferably with a science emphasis. You don’t have to have a science background, but you do have to complete the pre-requisites for dental school, which include science courses.
Then, there is the task of actually getting accepted into dental school. This can be very tough. At some point prior to applying to dental school, you will need to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). This test is to analyze your comprehension of natural science, perception, reading and reasoning. All dental schools in the US require students to take this test prior to applying.
Of course, Admissions is not only going to be looking for a respectable GPA throughout your educational career, a high score on the DAT, and job shadowing of other dentists, but they also look for other qualities in each student, which is why you need to have an interview. The interview goes over things like self-confidence, drive to help others, and the ability to work independently.
Once you are in dental school, it’s going to be one heck of a ride for the next 4 years, but well worth the time. Usually people know from early on if they want to be a dentist, so being able to focus their energy on learning actual dentistry is an exciting time.
And then comes the time for another test: The National Dental Board Examination. It takes about 3 days to complete each section (YIKES!).
Once dentists get to actually practice within an office setting outside of schooling, it is quite a feeling of accomplishment and pride that they are able to help others. This is what they have been focusing on for so long and to be able to care for the well being of patients, that is what their hard work has all been for.