Careers: Dentist

Picture of a Dentist Working on a PatientDentists are licensed health care professionals who are trained in diagnosis, prevention and treatment of oral disease. This includes treating soft and hard oral tissues, restoring teeth, making cosmetic improvements and performing oral surgery.

Requirements include a high school diploma, three or four years of pre-dental courses at an accredited college or university and four years of dental education at an accredited dental school. Two to six additional years of training are required for dental specialties, including orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, endodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, oral surgery and oral pathology.

Dentists may receive a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. Dentists who complete required training in recognized specialty fields receive post-graduate certificates.

The two dental schools in Florida are the University of Florida College of Dentistry in Gainesville and Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine in Fort Lauderdale. There are 54 accredited dental schools in the United States.

The cost to attend four years of dental school, including tuition, books, instruments and room and board, averages $80,000 for Florida residents at the University of Florida College of Dentistry. Yearly tuition at Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine is about $25,000.

There are several private, state and federal loans available to help qualified applicants with dental school expenses. The Florida Dental Association has a student-loan program for Florida residents who are sophomores or above in dental school.

Licensure requires graduating from an accredited U.S. dental school and passing the national board written exam and a state or regional written and/or clinical board exam.

After meeting state licensure requirements, dentists may practice anywhere in the state. They may practice by themselves or as associates, partners or members of a group practice. They also may practice in dental clinics or franchises, in the military, at public health facilities, at correctional institutions and at hospitals.

Salaries vary depending on the type of practice and geographic location. Dentists in private practice earn up to $125,000 for general practice and $197,000 for specialty practice.