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What they do:

Dentists diagnose and treat problems associated with the teeth, gums, and other parts of the mouth. They provide education and instruction on taking care of teeth and gums, as well as on dietary choices that might affect oral health.

Dentists who are not in general practice will often go into a specialty area such as orthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, oral pathology, or public health.


  • Four year undergraduate education in a college or university (Bachelor’s degree).

  • Four year education at an accredited dental school. In the last 2 years of training students usually treat patients in supervised clinical settings.  

  • Pass written and practical state licensing exams.

  • Those who wish to teach or conduct research can spend an additional 2-5 years in advance dental training and specialty education programs.

What they make:

The median annual wage of a dentist in 2015 was $158,310, and the median hourly wage for a dentist in 2015 was $76.11, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Where they work:

Dentists generally work in private office settings. Some own their own business and work alone or with a small staff. Other dentists have partners in their practice. A small percentage of dentists work for other dentists as associate dentists.

Dentists who employ hygienists, assistants, receptionists and other office staff members will need management skills and the ability to work in both a clinical and business capacity.

Dentists may work evenings and weekend hours to accommodate the schedules of their patients. Those attempting to establish a practice may work more than 40 hours per week, while established dentists generally work 35-40 hours per week.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of dentists is projected to grow 18% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. The demand for dental services will increase as the population ages, cosmetic dental services become increasingly popular, and access to health insurance continues to grow.



Updated February 2017