Are you confused about how long it takes to become a dentist? The dentistry field can be both rewarding and lucrative. But you’ll have to invest additional time and education to achieve the title.
After finishing undergrad, the standard time for completing a dentistry program is about four years. Although this can increase based on exceptions and other factors. Timelines of continued education can differ, and dentistry is no exception.
So if you’re asking yourself, “how long does it take to become a dentist?” you’re not alone.
How long is dental school?
The short answer is four years following completion of your undergrad degree. The total length typically depends on the school you attend, your state of residence and whether or not you plan to pursue a specialty.
Some schools admit students after three years of undergrad and only require three more years for dental school. The catch? These schools tend to be very expensive.
Three-year vs. four-year dental programs
University of the Pacific offers a three-year dental school. In 2018, tuition was $113,000 a year. This is significantly more than the average four-year private dental school, with an average tuition of $67,399 a year in 2018.
So, you could end up paying a tuition total of $339,000 for a three-year program. Or $269,596 total for a four-year program somewhere else.
In this case, you’d have to decide if finishing a year early is worth the extra $69,404. And for many, the additional expense isn’t worth the shortened time in school.
Especially if the extra cost is paid for with student loans.
Factors that impact the length of dental school
When considering dental school, these factors will affect the length of your time in school:
- Required years of undergrad education
- If your state requires residency after dental school
- If you plan to pursue a specialty program
The exact length of your education is contingent on the state where you live and plan to practice. Since different states have varying educational requirements.
Additionally, a post-dental school residency would extend your time in training.
How long are dental residencies?
In general, you will most likely have to complete a residency for at least one year to be eligible for a dental license. Some specialties, however, require additional education and longer residency requirements. These can be anywhere from three to six years.
The length of dental residencies differ significantly depending on the state in which you live.
For example, California has a maximum residency of two years for general dentistry graduates. While New York has a minimum residency requirement of one year.
In Ohio, your residency simply has to be approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation — meaning the validity of the residency matters more than the length of time.
How long does it take to become a dental specialist?
Getting your dental license is different than the process of becoming a dental specialist. You’ll likely need to go through more specific training for the latter.
Here is a chart outlining dental specialties and the amount of time it takes to become one:
After Dental School
|Administer anesthetics for |
dental procedures and surgeries.
|Endodontist||Specialize in dental pulp |
and periradicular tissues.
|2 to 3 years|
|Oral surgeon||Perform surgical procedures on hard|
and soft tissues of the oral region.
Identify and diagnose diseases,
injuries and defects.
|4 to 6 years |
(depending on whether
an MD degree is added
|Orthodontist||Realign teeth and jaws|
to improve function
and cosmetic appearance.
|Provide therapeutic and preventative|
dental care to children and teenagers.
|2 to 3 years|
|Periodontist||Diagnose and treat gum |
disease. Help patients
maintain overall gum health.
|Prosthodontist||Construct prostheses for the purpose of |
cosmetic or restorative oral construction.
Adding a specialty to your dental school training can add years to your training. But may also improve your chances of finding high-level work post-graduation.
How long does it take to become a dentist?
Regardless of whether you decide to take up a specialty, becoming a dentist (or any medical professional for that matter) takes time.
When accounting for your education in dentristry, don’t forget to research the standard residency time for your state. In many cases, residency programs are added to the years spent in school.
Having an idea of how long you’ll be in school can impact a variety of factors. It can also help you make a more specific plan when it comes to paying for your dental education.
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