Career Options for Dentists

The dental profession offers a variety of career options. The dentist may choose general dentistry or one of the eight recognized dental specialties. He or she may establish his or her own private practice or work as an employed dentist for another dentist or a public or private agency or institution. The dentist may choose solo or group practice or work with other health professionals in the provision of total health care. Career opportunities are also available in the armed forces. Some dentists serve as administrators or public health practitioners. Dental research or education offers further career opportunities to dentists. Some of these career possibilities are described below.

General Practice
Most dentists engage in general practice, bringing their skills in oral diagnosis, prevention and rehabilitation directly to the patient. The general practitioner is not only called upon to restore damaged or missing tooth structure but can also provide a positive program of preventative oral health care. General practice offers great personal rewards through the improvement of the oral health of individual patients an individuals. Approximately 80 percent of the active dental population is currently engaged in general practice.

Specialty Practice
The American Dental Association currently recognized eight dental specialties. Becoming a recognized specialist usually requires from one to four years of additional training beyond the dental degree. There are about 32,000 recognized dental specialists. The following outlines the dental specialties.

  • Dental Public Health includes the control and prevention of dental disease and the promotion of oral health through organized community efforts. It is that form of dental practice which treats the community rather than the individual as a patient.
  • Endodontics deals with the causes, diagnoses, prevention, and treatment of diseases of the pulp and other dental tissues which affect the vitality of the teeth.
  • Oral Pathology is concerned with diseases which affect the oral mucous membranes as well as other tissues which surround the teeth.
  • Oral Surgery includes a broad scope of diagnostic, operative, and related services dealing with diseases, injuries, and defects in the jaws and associated structures.
  • Orthodontics is the science of tooth and oral structure development. The orthodontist treats problems related to irregular dental development, missing teeth, and other abnormalities in order to establish normal functioning and appearance.
  • Pediatric Dentistry deals with the diagnosis and treatment of children, adolescents, and young adults whose dental development is not complete.
  • Periodontics deals with the treatment of the soft and hard tissues which surround and support the teeth.
  • Prosthodontics is the science and art of replacing missing natural teeth and associated structures with fixed or removable substitutes.

Education and Research
An increasing number of dentists are pursuing careers in dental education and research. The changing character of dentistry reflects recent research findings. New drugs, new and improved dental restorative materials, high speed dental equipment, water fluoridation, and scores of other dental developments of the recent past influence today's dental practice, and new discoveries will modify and improve dentistry in the years ahead.

Postgraduate programs at the College of Dentistry lead to attainment of the Certificate of Specialization in Endodontics, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics, Prosthodontics, and General Practice (GPR).

Postgraduate programs at the College of Dentistry are open to graduates of American Dental Association accredited D.D.S. and D.M.D. programs in the United States or equivalent programs in foreign countries. Candidates for a dental degree may be provisionally accepted into postgraduate programs pending the awarding of their dental degree. In order to be accepted into programs in Pediatric Dentistry, General Dentistry, or General Practice students must be able to obtain a Nebraska dental license.

Admissions to pursue postgraduate work are limited to the number that can be handled to the advantage of the students and the College. Preference will be given to those who have adequate preparation and aptitude for their chosen program. All programs start in July of each year.

Federal Dental Services
Many dentists serve the dental health needs of the nation's military personnel and assist the government in the design, administration, and execution of dental public health and research programs. Currently there are over 6,000 dentists in the commissioned dental corps of the U.S. Army, Navy Air Force, and Public Health service and in the Veterans Administration. Dentists are offered attractive incentives to become career officers in the uniformed services. Dentists employed in the civilian branches of the federal, state, and local governments are frequently compensated at a level approximating that of their colleagues in private practice.

Other Possible Careers
Each year, the horizons of dentistry are expanded and new areas of dental service are created. In practice, industry, government, dental societies, national scientific organizations, and educational institutions there is a critical need for dental manpower.