What does a dentist do?

Dentists (credentialed as Doctor of Dental Surgery/D.D.S. or Doctor of Dental Medicine/D.M.D.) examine, treat, and maintain the teeth, gums, and other hard and soft tissues of the mouth and surrounding structures. They instruct patients about good oral health practices in order to prevent gum disease and tooth loss. Dentists also treat patients who have diseases, injuries, or malformations of the teeth, gums, and mouth.

What might a dentist do in a workday?

Developing a career as a dentist?

There are nine recognized dental specialties:

Some dentists teach, practice, and/or conduct research in schools of dentistry. Others plan, organize, and maintain dental health programs for public health agencies. Dentists may establish their own practices, become part of dental or medical groups, or work in hospitals.

How much does a dentist earn?

How do I become a dentist?

Students intending to pursue a Career as a dentist should prepare by taking the most challenging high school courses available in science (especially biology and chemistry), math, and English, including advanced placement courses.

Dental school consists of a four-year curriculum. The first two years include basic and clinical sciences and pre-clinic laboratory courses. The third and fourth years provide the clinical experience where the student performs dental care on patients. To be accepted by a school of dentistry, a student must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or four years of undergraduate study. All dental schools also require applicants to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT).

In order to practice dentistry in the United States, every dentist has to successfully pass National Boards, which are given in two parts. Part I deals mainly with basic sciences and is taken after the second year of dental school. Part II deals with different areas of dentistry and is taken in the fourth year of dental school. At the end of the last year of dental school, each dentist must successfully pass a state board licensing exam where specific dental procedures are performed on patients in a clinic setting.

Where else can I learn about becoming a dentist?

Virginia Dental Association
3460 Mayland Court, Suite 110 / Richmond, VA 23233
tel:  (804) 288-5750 / web:

American Dental Association
211 E. Chicago Avenue / Chicago, IL 60611
tel:  (312) 440-2500 / web:

State License Requirements for Dentists:

A license is required to practice dentistry in the Commonwealth of Virginia. For more information on licensure, applications, and forms, visit

Virginia Board of Dentistry
Perimeter Center
9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 300 / Henrico, VA 23233-1463
tel:  (804) 367-4538 / Email:

Educational Institutions in Virginia for Dentists: