So you love trips to the dentist so much that you’ve decided to become one? Or maybe you saw how much loot the Tooth Fairy was raking in and thought you’d get in on a bit of that action? Or perhaps you’re just curious about what goes into becoming a dentist? Regardless of what peaked your curiosity, we thought we’d share some of the steps along the path to dentistry. Of course, there is no one set route, but in Canada it’s a safe bet that most dentists have gone through this experience.
High School and University
First thing’s first: education. You need to love learning to succeed as a dentist, because once you start your education, you’ll continue for the rest of your life. But to begin, nearly all dentists studied science and math in high school, and then even more in university.
Starting early is always a good idea as so much of the knowledge is cumulative. Having a strong foundation in high school will mean that you’re well prepared for the courses you take as you continue your education. You won’t need quantum physics (unless there are some very dramatic changes in dental science), but biology, chemistry, anatomy, statistics and physics all contribute to a dentist’s knowledge set.
Dental schools will usually have lists of required courses that must be completed before you apply. Believe it or not, courses in 2D and 3D art are also quite valuable to dentists, as they will help you develop the fine motor skills needed to navigate people’s mouths. Plus, it will help for the manual dexterity section of the Dental Admission Test (or the DAT).
When you’ve completed the required chemistry and biology courses, you’ll take the DAT. Most people take it after their third year of university, or at least one year before you want to go to dental school. If you don’t do well on the DAT, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll be able to re-take it, but you’ll have to wait a bit, as it’s only offered in November and February. Dental schools will only see your most recent score, but they’ll also know how many times you’ve taken it.
The DAT tests science proficiency, reading comprehension, a shape-recognition element that includes paper folding and a manual dexterity test that will have you carving a bar of soap! If you want to start practicing for this now, be sure to get your parents’ or roommates’ permission before slicing up their favourite fruit-scented decorative bath bombs.
Dental School and The Final Requirements of Becoming a Dentist
Dental school usually takes four or five years and Canada has fantastic dental schools spread all across the country. You’ll continue to study biology and anatomy, but you’ll also take clinical courses like periodontics and oral surgery. Once you graduate, you’ll be able to take the National Dental Examining Board of Canada’s certification exams. These will test just about everything you’ve learned. When you pass those, you’ll have completed most of the requirements to practice.
Your Career after Becoming a Dentist
We talked about a lifetime of learning, and we’re still learning ourselves because dentistry is always changing — new research leads to new treatment and new tools. Dentists are also required to complete a certain amount of continuing education courses throughout their careers.
And if you want to be an orthodontist, periodontist, oral surgeon or any of the other specialties, you’re going to require additional schooling.
Eventually, you’ll either offer your services to an existing practice as an associate or open your own clinic. Either way, you’ll apply the knowledge you gained from nearly a decade of training to serve your patients.
Take it from us: dentistry is an incredibly fascinating, deeply rewarding profession. Every day brings the opportunity to help people feel and live better.
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a dentist please feel free to chat to us about it at your next appointment! We’re always happy to share advice with fellow tooth enthusiasts of all ages.