What You Should Know Before You Become A Dentist.

Becoming a dentist can be a difficult goal, but one that is certainly worth the effort. Of course, every profession comes with perks and one or two cons, informing yourself before making any long-term decision is a wise thing to do. With a career as a dentist you’ll find that the pros of the profession are largely more significant than the cons. But before you ask how to become a dentist you must know exactly what you’re getting into. In the spirit of full illumination allow us to share with you what you should know before you become a dentist.

If you’re a dental student or pre-dental student you might have some facts mixed up with what other people say. One of the most common things people like to say about dental school is that is really expensive. However, others will tell you that you will be able to get out of any debts quickly, rendering the last point mute. In order to navigate this more easily we first have to separate what people say based on their past experience and how things are right now.

how to become a dentist

Before we continue, know that being a dentist isn’t something to take lightly. You’ll be faced with some challenging tasks and people will depend on you. You have to know if you’re up for it or not, this is a good moment to think about that. And as you might expect the question, hoe to become a dentist will be changed for, what should I expect from becoming a dentist. On that note, let’s begin with the pros and cons of being a dentist. Just so you know what to expect.

The pros of being a dentist.

dentist providing treatment another dentist looking forward

Respected profession.

Dentistry is a very well-respected profession in most civilized countries. Dentist as a part of medical professional is viewed as a community figure for people in your vicinity. Patients and people alike, rely on advice given by dentist, as such their social status is quite good.

Ability to help people.

As a well train dentist, you will be considered a person with medical training to some degree. This means that you have a set of tools and knowledge that can be applied to help people deal with dental issues. This also means that you can cause a great impact on people’s lives by fixing their teeth and smiles. This does improve their confidence and quality of life.

You will be exposed to constant gratification based on the job you perform, not to mention that you’ll charge for it.

Job stability.

Dentistry offers an extremely stable career, it has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. Oral healthcare is always needed regardless of where you are, especially since older generations are now retiring. There’s a high demand for younger dentist. This means that you won’t have to wonder whether you’ll get a job, or not, once you’re done being a student.


Dentist have some of the highest paying jobs the U.S. According to the data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013. A dentist makes on average 146.340$ per year. Dentist are able to control how much money they make based on how much work they do and the kind of work. But that is just an example, you can specialize on different procedures that can bring you even more income based on a few hours of work.

Balanced lifestyle.

Becoming a dentist can provide you with a balanced lifestyle based on work, family and social life. You can choose how much time you spend working, therefore taking the rest for other activities like spending time with your loved ones. Being a well-respected dentist in your community, your social life will have little to no problems in flourishing.


As mentioned several times now, you can self-employ yourself and make your own work schedule. You can be your own boss and open an office all by yourself. So long as you have the money to do so that is. This is something that is not really common with other health professionals, you can certainly take advantage of this in multiple ways.

Cons of being a dentist.

dentist providing treatment


Becoming a dentist is something that is certainly not an easy feat. You’ll be looking at 7-8 years in school after high school. A bachelor degree is not always a requirement but it is highly encouraged you get one before entering dental school. This means that you’ll be spending 3 to 4 years studying at a university earning a bachelor degree, likely more if you’re looking for a particular major.

Most people that apply to dental school usually get a science major as it provides a good background for what follows. In fact, there are some specific classes required before entering dental school. Aside from that the courses required to enter can vary for different schools. You can of course get more information on what courses you may require and what to expect on DATPrep. This resource is particularly useful as a way to prepare for the Dental Admission Test.

After graduation from university you will have to take the DAT (Dental Admission Test) before enrolling in the dental school. You can get help prepping for the DAT based on a great service that can do wonders for you, PATCrusher.

Dental school represents a 4-year doctorate program, it can be very stressful and demanding at times. Depending on what school you choose, after graduation you’ll receive your DDS or DMD degree.

After all that you’ll be a dentist, you can opt-in to do past-graduate programs to gain more experience and enhance your skill. You can also choose to specialize in a particular field of dentistry, this last choice can range from 2 to 6 additional years of preparation. The how to become a dentist question is a heavy one and as we told you, becoming a dentist is no easy feat.


Aside from the long and sometimes tiring school life, you will also have to spend long hours operating on a single patient depending on a number of factors. You will be expected to work long hours from time to time. Depending on the specialty you get and the problems your patients have.

Some dentists work full time, including evening and weekends, sure you have flexibility in your schedule. But at the expense of expending more time in continuous work. Depending on the debt you have based on whether you’re self-employed or not can dictated just how much you have to work weekly.

If you, or your office, offer an emergency line, then you can expect to be operating on someone at 9pm in a weekend from time to time. Dealing with patients means that they’re your responsibility and you have to make sure to give them your best performance. This usually comes at the expense of some of your time.


Debt is constant companion of dentist and it’s something you better get used to if you’re looking to become one. Dental School is actually one of the more expensive graduate programs available in the United States. Just to give you an idea, an average dental student will graduate with over 250.000$ in debt, just from dental school. While the most expensive dental schools will have an average of around 500.000$ of debt upon graduation.

If you add to this he debt you’ll get from a house, car, renting an office and more, your debt will get much higher. If you’re looking to be self-employed then you can either rent an existing practice building or buy it. Prices can vary depending on the area, services, state and condition. You can expect a buying price for around 500.000$. All this debt is something that can be very tiring and hard to keep up with. One more reason to be aware of all the cons before jumping in to become a dentist.


A person can get very stressed just by reading all this. Stress is something that you’re going to have to learn how to handle. Remember that dentist are still medical professionals and as such you will be expected to be able to work under pressure. But you will be dealing with stress in more places than just your operating chair.

Depending on whether you’re self-employed or not, you can expect to handle managing tasks, scheduling, stocking your supplies and more. You can pretty much expect to always be stressing over your competition and whether a procedure is going well.

Your practice facility can largely contribute to your stress. Just think about being inside the same room for hours and hours not being able to leave your focus from the patient at hand. It doesn’t sound so good. The work you’ll do is considered to be of high-precision and requires a lot of attention, this also contributes to your mental stress.

Not to mention that you need to be able to deal with blood and other fluids that are expected from patients. This can prove to be very stressful for some people and not so much for others. You should consider which type you are before applying to be a dentist.

Physically demanding.

Most people think that being a dentist is not a physically demanding job, well most people are wrong. Precision work that can last long periods of time will require the performer to maintain a good mental and physical condition just to be able to perform. If you add to that the fact that you would ideally need to perform at your best. Then it’s certainly something that requires a dentist to be fit, mentally and physically.

Your back, hands and shoulders are the main body parts that you need to take care of when you become a dentist. Otherwise you might develop carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic back problems and/or hypertension.

Cost of a dental practice.

The same way that dental school is expensive, so too it is to maintain a dental practice. While you will count with a good income and a stable career, you won’t make as much as people think you do. As an example, some people complain about the cost of a crown work but little do they know that most dental practices have an overhead of around 50% to 70% and sometimes it can be even higher.

It would be nice to think that all the money you’ll charge will go straight to your pocket, sadly this is far from the truth. In fact, most of the money you make will go to you supplies, rent for services, dental equipment, taxes and other costs. Take the house milling machine used by dentist, that alone costs over 100.00$. But that’s not all, every piece of equipment or supply for dental care is expensive. Also, you will be expected to purchase the latest most efficient equipment available, adding even more to your costs.


While it’s true that you won’t have any problems finding work as a dentist this is two-way street. You will also face a lot of competition, not only as a dentist, but as a student too. Dental schools are very competitive and every year more and more students apply. Precisely because it’s a profession with great perks and a good income.

You will be expected to come from a good university, have a good GPA and get a great score on your DAT. Even then, once you’re in dental school you will have to compete against other students to get patients.

As a dentist you will have to be mindful of where you live and practice. Major metropolitan areas can often have around 3 -4 dentists near one another. This does make getting patients harder and will increase the cost and effort of your marketing strategy.

Managed care.

Right now, dentistry is one the areas in the U.S that has been less affected by managed care. However, this can easily change in the near future, and since it’s a career that takes a long time, you can expect a change in this by the time you graduate.

You can expect to have some liberties when running you own practice but this can change based on the government taking a more active role. Insurance companies are already dictating a lot of the treatment that patients receive. Be prepared to not be allowed to have your own practice in the future, if you live in the U.S that is.

Vulnerability to infectious diseases.

As a dentist, you’ll be susceptible to illness and infectious diseases every single day that you treat a patient. This is especially true depending on the season. You will be exposed to people suffering from colds or even other contagious illnesses.

Since you’ll be working with needles, scalpels blades and more, an accident that jeopardizes your health might occur. In the worst-case scenario, you have to worry for blood-transmitted diseases like Hepatitis C.

The actual chance of something like this happening is very low, regardless it’s still something you need to prepare for. as you might see the how to become a dentist will have you be ready for something like this.

Emotionally demanding.

You will need to be emotionally resilient. Patients will show up daily and tell you that they don’t like the dentist. And this last part can be for a good reason, people often experience discomfort or anxiety when being a dentist-patient. You are expected to be able to calm them down so you can treat them.

You will also be performing procedures that can sometimes be painful for the patient, thus you’ll have to deal with the fact that you’re hurting some else for their own good that is.

Some people might even come out as straight out disrespectful or insulting. You’ll need to keep calm and maintain your professional status at all times. All of this can be very tiring and emotionally challenging. Therefore, being a dentist is an emotionally demanding job.

Business management.

Running a business can be challenging, especially when you were trained for something entirely different. You will spend most of your academic life preparing to tend to your patients while suddenly you will also be forced to deal with accounting for your practice and all sorts of administrative tasks. Not only that, but you have to run your business successfully.

Essentially, it’s up to every dentist to learn how to run their business. This does come with some extra problems. Aside from all the stress of dealing with patients you will also be handed responsibilities over scheduling, accounting and much more that will add even more workload and stress.

Being, boss, doctor and business person all at once is something hard. Not impossible but challenging because just doing it doesn’t count, you also have to do it successfully.

Lack of benefits.

Benefits such as long vacations are off the table for most dentists. This is largely due to the fact that they would still need to pay expenses for practice, rent and services. Taking more time off means that you won’t be able to generate income necessary to keep your practice operational. Even taking two weeks off can be something really expensive for a dentist.

And since being self-employed means that you’re your own boss, it also means that you won’t get any benefits from such a figure. The benefits you give yourself based on schedule and such can oftentimes seem like they’re not worth it based on the responsibilities of maintaining a dental practice.

Some other miscellaneous facts.

Here are a couple of facts about dentistry that can shine more light into the profession.

  • Top 10 careers: Dentist is consistently ranked among the top 10 careers in the United states. This is largely due to the comfortable income, job stability and good work-life balance.
  • Suicide rate: Dentists also offer one of the highest suicide rates in the country. This is due to the amount of stress and pressure they are constantly being subject to. The emotional demands on dentistry cannot be overlooked and it’s something that every dental student should be aware of.

Dentistry profession overview.

Likely you started this article by wondering how to become a dentist when you should had been be wondering what to expect. Hopefully, you have a better and clearer picture on this last part now.

As a dentist you will hold a title of doctor of dental surgery (DDS) or doctor of dental medicine (DMD). This means that you will have high academic formation and an above average academic background. As a dentist you will have many choices to make, you could star your practice right away after graduation. Choose to opt-in for a post-graduate program and gain further specialization. You could specialize on 9 different areas such as Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics, Endodontics, Periodontics, Prosthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, and Dental Public Health.

Your options in the work field won’t be limited in the least. There’s always a crying need for dental professionals in every sector from military to civilian and international health. And since it’s a profession where people are largely self-employed, you can decide which course of action you take all by yourself.

Over all dentistry is a great and very rewarding profession. If you’ve read all of this and are still confident that you can deal with all the cons posted here then you’re well on your way. As a next step you can begin to prepare for the DAT right now, using the best service available for this PATCrusher will offer prep work that will ensure you’re ready and prepped for the DAT. This site is one that will make that will get you from wondering how to become a dentist to actually being a dental student.

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