WHAT IS A DENTIST?
A dentist is a healthcare provider who is trained to diagnose, prevent, and treat conditions and diseases in and around the oral cavity. To become a dentist, a student must first attend college (generally four years) and then be admitted to a dental school. Since there are only around 60 accredited dental schools in the United States,1 admission to dental school is highly competitive. A dental education almost universally requires a minimum of four years of training following four years of college. Dental school curricula is rigorous. Students are sometimes required to take as many as 30+ credit hours in a single semester. A dental education provides instruction in the basic sciences and in the dental sciences. To gain a command of the health sciences, dental students take many of the same courses as medical students, including biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, pathology, microbiology, pharmacology, etc. In fact, dental and medical schools essentially have the same curricula during the first two years.2 To gain a command of the dental sciences, dental students take multiple courses specific to each dental discipline (preventive dentistry, operative dentistry, oral surgery, etc.). Then, they receive training to perform procedures in these disciplines that include cleaning teeth, filling cavities, preparing teeth for crowns, extracting teeth, making dentures, etc. Dental schools award degrees of Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.). The degrees are
equivalent, and universities decide which degree is awarded.3 Following dental school, some dentists receive advanced education and training in either general dentistry (usually requiring 1-2 additional years after dental school) or in one of the nine recognized dental specialties (usually requiring 2-4 additional years) after dental school.2
http://www.ada.org/1444.aspx#education (accessed 8/14/13)
http://www.ada.org/sections/publicResources/pdfs/brochure_dentists_drs.pdf (accessed 8/28/13)
3. https://www.ada.org/2555.aspx#definition (accessed 8/19/13)