Dentistry involves treating diseases that impact the teeth, gums, and the rest of the mouth, and August is an excellent time to think about starting a new career in dentistry.
National Fresh Breath Day is on Aug. 6, and it highlights an important reason why oral hygiene and regular dental checkups are essential. You can celebrate National Smile Week, the second week in August, by learning more about some of the positions available in dentistry and how these professionals help people feel more confident about their smiles. Aug. 22 is National Tooth Fairy Day, and kids and adults alike can remember the wonder of a visit from the Tooth Fairy. Many careers in dentistry are available. While you celebrate these holidays, consider these eight dentistry jobs.
Dentists diagnose and treat a variety of oral conditions. Their primary duties include the following:
- Performing oral examinations
- Analyzing images of the teeth and the mouth, including X-ray images
- Developing treatment plans
- Filling cavities
- Removing teeth
- Placing bridges and crowns
Dentists must get a bachelor's degree and graduate from an accredited dental school. Dental school usually takes four years. Dentists must also pass a clinical and written exam in all states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs available for dentists will increase by 6% between 2021 and 2031.
Many dentists work with kids and adults, and some specialize in treating children. Pediatric dentists, also called pedodontists, usually complete a two-year residency focusing on treating children. They learn about child psychology and how to treat kids while keeping them calm and dealing with tantrums. Virtual reality headsets or TVs are often available to entertain children and distract them during exams and treatments. Individuals who get other types of additional training can become orthodontists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, or other specialists. A dentist earns an average of $39.10 per hour.
"People working in dentistry jobs can help patients get treatment for toothaches and other conditions so they feel more confident about their smiles. These jobs are ideal for people interested in science, medicine, and helping others."
Oral and maxillofacial surgeon
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform surgeries on the hard and soft tissues of the mouth, face, and jaws. They often:
- Administer local anesthetic
- Perform surgeries, such as extracting wisdom teeth or placing dental implants
- Administer emergency treatment after injuries to the face or jaw
- Conduct reconstructive surgery that involves areas of the mouth, neck, face, or jaw
- Treat infections in the jaw, salivary glands, and neck, including mouth ulcers and cysts
- Perform jaw realignment surgeries and cosmetic dental procedures, such as chin or cheekbone enhancement
- Collaborate with surgical teams
- Educate patients and their families about treatments
After graduating from dental school, oral surgeons must finish four to six years of residency training. Residency often includes earning a medical degree, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons must pass a written and clinical exam. On average, oral and maxillofacial surgeons make $149.75 per hour.
A periodontist diagnoses and treats the supporting structures of the teeth, such as the gums and the bones and ligaments surrounding the jaw. They can place implants, provide preventive care, remove tissue, and perform grafts. These professionals must complete dental school, four to six years of residency, and written and clinical exams. The qualification requirements are similar to those of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. A periodontist focuses on gum issues rather than surgery during their residency. Periodontists make an average of $128.50 per hour.
An orthodontist treats patients with misaligned teeth. They use braces and retainers to straighten teeth and help align people's jaws. They analyze X-ray images of the teeth and jaw, study patients' medical and dental histories, fit patients with retainers or braces, and maintain treatment records. Orthodontists often treat kids after they get all of their permanent teeth, but they treat adults as well. After graduating from dental school, a certification in orthodontics takes an additional three years. Orthodontists also need a license in the state where they want to practice. Like periodontists, orthodontists make around $128.50 per hour.
A dental assistant helps a dentist, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, or similar professional care for patients and performs exams and treatments. Their duties include:
- Preparing the treatment room
- Leading patients to treatment rooms and seating them
- Answering questions
- Sterilizing tools
- Maintaining patient records
- Ordering supplies
- Assisting during procedures such as adding fillings
Dental assistants usually attend a program through a vocational school, community college, dental school, university, or technical institute. These programs typically take nine to 11 months, but accelerated options are available. A dental assistant can get opportunities for more positions by taking an exam through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and becoming a certified dental assistant. Dental assistants make $20.45 per hour on average.
An orthodontic assistant, also called an orthodontic dental assistant, helps orthodontists straighten people's teeth. These professionals often:
- Help install and maintain braces, retainers, and other devices
- Clean teeth and make adjustments to orthodontic gear
- Clean and sterilize medical equipment and work areas
- Pass instruments to orthodontists during procedures
- Take X-rays, molds, and impressions of patients' mouths
- Greet patients
- Discuss the issues patients are experiencing with them
- Answer patients' questions
- Update patient records
The educational requirements for dental assistants and orthodontic assistants are largely the same. Orthodontic assistants can complete a general dental assistant program or one specializing in orthodontics. An orthodontic assistant will usually take an exam through the DANB to become a certified orthodontic assistant rather than a certified dental assistant. Like dental assistants, orthodontic assistants earn $20.45 per hour on average.
Dental hygienists are similar to dental assistants but focus on providing preventive care. They clean and polish teeth to remove plaque, maintain patient records, and take X-rays of teeth that a dentist or other professional examines later. They also use dental molds to take impressions of patients' teeth. In some states, dental hygienists can remove stitches, administer local anesthesia and nitrous oxide, and help fill cavities.
A dental hygienist needs a high school diploma or GED equivalent and an associate or bachelor's degree in dental hygiene. An exam for licensing is required in every state. On average, dental hygienists earn $39.10 per hour.
A medical receptionist who works in a dental office handles many essential tasks. These professionals answer phones, schedule appointments, greet and check in patients, and keep the office and reception area neat and organized. They can also update patient records, call or text people to remind them about appointments, send bills, and process payments. Many medical receptionists at dental offices give people items such as toothbrushes or appointment reminder cards after their appointments.
Most medical receptionists have a high school diploma or GED equivalent, and some have an associate degree. Knowledge about dental procedures and terminology, prior experience as a medical receptionist, and certification in office or medical administration can also be helpful when searching for a medical receptionist job. On average, medical receptionists make $19.10 per hour.
People working in dentistry jobs can help patients get treatment for toothaches and other conditions so they feel more confident about their smiles. These jobs are ideal for people interested in science, medicine, and helping others. When you celebrate National Fresh Breath Day, National Smile Week, and National Tooth Fairy Day in August, upload your resume to CareerBuilder to check out our vacancies for these great positions.
Related reading: Dentistry jobs
Considering dentistry jobs is a great way to find work you excel at and enjoy.
A dentist is one of the best-paying healthcare jobs you can find.
If you want to work in a high-paying trade career that doesn't require a four-year degree, consider becoming a dental hygienist.