What are Dentists?
A dentist has either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. The degrees are equivalent and both allow dentists to practice all types of dentistry. In general, dentists examine, prevent, diagnose and treat diseases, injuries and abnormalities of teeth, gums and adjacent tissues and structures of the mouth. Dentists work in highly personal contact with patients and supervise the work of dental hygienists, dental assistants and dental laboratory technicians. Most dentists are heavily involved in the business side of their practice as well.
What are the Dental Specialties?
The American Dental Association (ADA) believes that the public is served best when most dentists are general practitioners. However, the ADA recognizes and certifies nine dental specialties. Most of the specialties require post-doctoral study. The largest group of specialists are orthodontists (who correct and prevent poorly positioned teeth) followed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons (who perform surgery on the mouth and jaw). The remaining specialties are dental public health (interested in community-level dental issues), endodontics (treat diseases of dental pulp), oral pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, pediatric dentistry, periodontics (treat disease of tissue surrounding teeth), and prosthodontics (make artificial teeth and dentures).
There are about 181,725 dentists in the US with about 85% in general practice. The Department of Labor Statistics predicts a 16% increase before 2018. The mean income of dentists was $142,870 in 2008 and has been stable over the last several years. Most dentists are self-employed.
There are 58 dental schools in the US and two in Florida (Univ. of Florida and Nova Southeastern Univ.). Applications to dental school are submitted electronically via AADSAS (www.adea.org/aadsas). Last year, there were 12,178 applicants to dental school for 4,794 seats nation-wide. The UF program received 1,401 applications and matriculated 83, while Nova-SE received 3,364 applications for 110 spots. Entering students at both FL schools had mean undergraduate GPAs of 3.5 and average academic DAT scores of 19.
The prerequisite courses for UF are:
- 1 year each of General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Introductory Biology and Physics, with labs.
- Biochemistry, Microbiology, Molecular Biology or Genetics, and PSYC 101.
- 1 year of English.
- DAT score (DAT is electronic and can be taken by appointment at any time).
During dental school, students take courses in basic and dental sciences and are trained in clinics associated with the school.
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