Careers in dentistry

Share This Article

May 10th, 2017

It’s graduation season, which means a lot of recent high-school graduates are thinking about future careers. For those interested in dentistry, we’ve put this guide together to help you decide which role is perfect for you.

The field of dentistry is exciting and always evolving. There are multiple unique and interesting roles within this career choice, and there’s even an artistic side of dentistry which emphasizes working with one’s hands. Like other careers in medicine, people interested in dentistry are typically science-minded, and are attracted to careers where their communication, health care, leadership and customer service skills are put to good use.


  • Diagnoses and treats dental problems (removes dental decay, fills cavities, repairs fractured teeth, etc.)
  • Has the ability to own a dental practice
  • Enjoys a long college career! (Doctorate degree, 7+ years)
  • May continue their education for two additional years to become a specialist in a dental specialty:
    • Orthodontics (braces)
    • Pediatric dentistry
    • Endodontics (root canals)
    • Periodontics (gums)
    • Oral surgery
    • Prosthodontics (dentures)

Dental Therapist/Advanced Dental Therapist

  • Evaluates and assesses dental problems, usually under the supervision of a licensed dentist
  • Performs basic preventive services like dental cleanings and X-rays, as well as restorative procedures like fillings and simple extractions
  • Enjoys the excitement of working in a growing field, as dental therapy is a new and emerging provider level in dentistry
  • Degree required: master’s degree

Dental Hygienist

  • Performs preventive services like dental cleanings as well as therapeutic interventions like scaling and root planing (gum disease treatment)
  • Educates patients on how to care for teeth and gums
  • Degree required: associate or bachelor’s degree

Dental Assistant

  • Assists the dentist during dental procedures
  • Takes X-rays, updates patient charts and sterilizes instruments
  • May work in a general or specialty dental office
  • Degree required: certificate or associate degree

Dental Office Manager

  • Manages the day-to-day operations of the dental office
  • Checks in patients, submits claims to insurance, hires staff
  • May manage the dental office’s marketing efforts, such as social media outlets
  • No degree required, however many dental office managers have bachelor’s degrees or previously worked as dental hygienists or dental assistants

Dental Technician

  • Creates crowns, bridges and dentures out of porcelain, metals and other materials for dental offices
  • May work independently or as an employee of a dental lab
  • Training required