How Long Does it Take To Become A Dentist?

September 27, 2023


Becoming a dentist can take eight to ten years of your life. As rewarding as the degree seems, the long time it takes requires a lot of patience and dedication. It is very easy to engage in the debate of whether a dentist should be using the prefix doctor or not.

On the contrary, when it comes to following the pathway to becoming a dentist, only a few have the determination to stand firm for that long.

Let us take you on a step-by-step journey to becoming a dentist and the time it is going to take respectively;

Who Are Dentists?

dental practice

Dentists are the people you go to whenever your teeth hurt or for any oral discomfort. They are the health care professionals who specialize in the medicinal study of the human oral cavity.

Their areas of study are usually inclusive of mouth, teeth, and gums. They make sure that your oral health is maintained and that your teeth are in perfect condition.

They also help in cosmetic procedures when it comes to getting that picture-perfect smile. Dentistry as a field is very dynamic, especially these days when dentists can be seen in almost every office one walks into.

Is it Hard to Become A Dentist?

It is definitely hard to become a dentist when there is much competition going on in this field. Just in the US, 45% of people fail to pass the test for admission to colleges. This is the proportion that remains unsuccessful in getting admission into any dental college throughout the US.

This is the kind of fierceness you should be expecting in the field when you are thinking of going for dentistry. Moreover, all this tussle becomes more difficult once you have graduated and are looking for specializations for your post-graduation.

In the same way, the dental admission test (DAT) is more like a nightmare for people who are passionate about dentistry. It is because, in the US, it has become a trend in the field to score up to 20 in DAT.

To add to this, most of the applicants who are applying are people who have a 3.5 college GPA. In such circumstances, one should be sure to never take a backseat unless you have reserved a seat for dentistry in a US dental college.

Let us tell you all this hassle goes on even after you have graduated with the post-graduation and residency processes!

How Should High School Students Be Preparing For Dental Colleges?

If you are a high school student and want to get into a dental school, this is the best time to get your priorities right. For this, we would strongly recommend that you try to explore the science subjects as much as possible.

This is going to complement the drive you have for dentistry. You can also try not to miss out on those monthly dentist appointments. The more you are closer to them, the better understanding you will develop about the field.

To add to all this, always try to interact with the public. This is because communicating and interacting with other people is going to bear fruits when you are going to be a public healthcare professional one day!

Five Steps That Make Dentistry An 8 To 10 Year Venture:

The five most time-consuming steps when you are becoming a dentist are;

  • Complete Your Bachelor’s Education

how to become a dentist after bachelor degree

This alone is going to take four years of your life. If you are interested in dentistry, the best advice is to go for a major in life sciences. This is to develop the primary scientific knowledge of the aspirants.

You might have heard about the advanced placement (AP)courses. These are the courses that you can take in your high school years to learn how a dental college works. This is not necessary but through this course, you will be connecting to a lot of professional dentists.

In the same way, even if you do not major in biology, just know that if you choose one that is even remotely connected to science, as in fundamental science, it would work just as fine.

One important thing to add here is that being on this stage also lets you apply for the pre-dental programs. You get to meet top-notch dentists in your area and you can ask them the questions that you find confusing about their discipline.

If your school does not offer this pre-dental program, it does not matter. You can start discussing it with your principal and learn the ways you can incorporate that program into your study schedule.

The point of all the struggle should be to maintain a college CGPA above 3.5 otherwise you might not even qualify for dentistry. This is why being vigilant as an undergraduate is important if you want to fulfill your dream of becoming a dentist. 

  • Practice Volunteering After Undergrad School

Let us share with you the best secret to getting into a dental college. It is to volunteer for dental campaigns as much as possible. It is so important that you should not think twice before volunteering for different dental programs.

This can help you live with the dental community and examine their life closely. This can also help you make a better decision about your intention of joining a dental program. You can start by making notes so that you have rules to follow when you are in the field.

People usually consider volunteering programs as overrated which is a false perception. Taking a year gap to go for volunteering and helping dental health professionals carry out their daily tasks can be of incredible help.

This is where most of the people’s perceptions about dentistry change. They realize that this field demands 100% of your investment of time and focus and even one percent lacking won’t let you get far ahead in your career.

This is the reason that we strongly recommend the aspirants experience volunteering at least once in their lives!

  • Go For The Dental Admissions Test (DAT)

This is where you are going to stand at the crossroads. Passing the 4.5 hours long DAT test will open the doors of dental colleges to you. It is usually considered one of the toughest tests in the medical field.

Scoring well in these tests can help you choose the dental college of your choice. You need not worry if you do not ace it in the first attempt, the DAT lets you go for it three times. Irrespective of where you are from, the DAT centers are all across the US for the convenience of the students!

  • How Long Do Dental Schools Take?

This is the step that takes the longest time. The dental schools are going to take four years of your life. There are two factors that you should have in mind while going to a dental school.

The first one is that you should try to assess the cost of the college you are willing to be admitted to. This is going to help you from wasting your time by constantly sending applications to the college.

A careful observation of the tuition fee and other charges can help you choose the college you can easily afford. Mostly, students tend to apply to the colleges that are usually too expensive.

The second factor is that you should always go to the colleges that are nearest to your place. This is important because you do not want to financially strain yourself with a college that is far away from your place.

This is also going to add to the financial expenditures. To make it easier for students, the dental colleges themselves provide a list of the areas where you can find their branches. This comes in handy when you are not in the state to put up with the financial burden of transportation costs. 

  • How Long Does A Residency Program Take?

A residency program takes 2 to 3 years, depending on the area you are interested in working on. Let us make this clear that you can start practicing once you get the degree from your dental school.

There is no doubt about that. However, in this age, when hospitals are over-staffed with dentists, you do not want to start your career in dentistry with just your degree in your hands.

This is the reason that dentists always prefer going for the residency programs which give them an edge over the others. This program helps you choose one area and study it thoroughly for at least two years.

Dental institutions offer a wide variety of post-college programs as periodontics or endodontics. For students interested in working on neuropathic pain disorders, the orofacial pain and dysfunction residence program can be the right choice.

If you are more inclined towards being a radiologist in dentistry, then oral and maxillofacial radiology is an apt program to begin with. Hence, the residency program can be a feather in your cap after you are done with the dental school.

Tips To Remember Before Investing Your Peak Years In Dentistry:

  • Choose Programs Recognized by the CODA

When there are so many dental schools, it is common to fall prey to programs that are not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. To avoid this from happening, the best way is to ensure that the program you are applying for is on the list approved by CODA.

Going for an unaccredited program won’t trouble your career during dental school, but once you are out, the colleges are going to give you a tough time. This is why it is always important to be on the safe side when it comes to choosing programs in dental schools.

  • Dentistry can be Expensive

Consider it a privilege if you think you can afford to go for dentistry. Recently, dentistry has risen as one of the most expensive fields to pursue in the world. This is because the tuition fee alone in the US costs more than $300,000.

Not everyone can afford to be in that place of choosing their favorite dental college to go to. This fee does not include what you will have to spend for the residence programs.

There are scholarships that can help you continue with your passion, but mostly, they are also partially funded. It is beyond the reach of a common student to afford even a partial scholarship to a dental college.

This is the reason that knowing how much you are going to spend on a degree can save you from a lot of mishaps.

  • Substandard Salary 

After spending so much money on dentistry, the biggest mistake students can make is expecting that their degree will return that fortune in the future. In dentistry, this is not the case. Unless you are specialized in many programs and have a distinctive educational record, the salary you are going to receive will be lower than your expectations.

For instance, if you choose general dentistry which costs lower than other fields, you are going to be making the lowest income in your dentist circle.

Contrarily, for the people who are orthodontists, the pay scale ranges up to $200,000 which is considered as the best one among all the dentistry fields. This is the reason making a smart choice in choosing residence programs can decide your career in the future.


It can take eight to ten years to become a dentist; four years for your bachelor’s and four for the dental college. Don’t forget to add two more years for your residence program if you choose the shortest one for your post-graduation.

All these years are going to take a lot of your time and money. It is only with sheer determination and perseverance that you can make sure that all your hard work does not go down the drain! 

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