What Do Dentists Do?
Dentists diagnose and treat problems with teeth and tissues in the mouth, along with giving advice and administering care to help prevent future dental problems. They provide oral health education and instruction on diet, brushing, flossing, and the use of fluorides. They remove tooth decay, fill cavities, examine x-rays, place protective sealants on children’s teeth, straighten teeth, extract or repair damaged teeth, and perform corrective surgery on gums and supporting bones to treat gum diseases.
Dentists also prescribe medication, such as antibiotics, and administer anesthesia.
While most dentists are general practitioners, some choose to specialize. Dental specialties include:
- orthodontics (treatment of abnormalities in teeth and jaws using devices such as braces and retainers);
- oral and maxillofacial surgery (surgical procedures on jaws or mouth);
- pediatric dentistry (oral health care for children and adolescents);
- periodontics (treatment of disease of the gums and bones which support the teeth); and
- public health dentistry (promoting oral health through organized community efforts).
Dentists usually employ and work with dental hygienists and dental assistants.
For more information: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dentists.htm.
Where Do Dentists Work?
The vast majority of dentists work in private group or solo practices. Some may also work in dental clinics, hospitals, or in academic settings.
What Do Dentists Earn?
According to the 2019 BLS, the average salary for full time, dentists nationwide was $183,060, varying by specialty and geographic region. Average annual salary also varies greatly across New York State, depending on location. The NYSDOL reports that dentists in New York earned an average annual salary of $167,090, (entry level-$106,680, experienced- $195,520).
Earnings for dentists vary according to number of years in practice, location, hours worked, and specialty. Specialty dentists generally earn more than general dentists. Also, self-employed dentists in private practice tend to earn more than salaried dentists. Dentists who are salaried often receive benefits paid by their employer, with health insurance and malpractice insurance being among the most common. However, like other business owners, self-employed dentists must provide their own health insurance, life insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits and pay for their own business expenses, such as supplies, equipment, malpractice, and staff.
Supply and Demand
According to the BLS, between 2016 and 2026, the number of general dentist jobs nationwide is projected to increase by 19.4%, and in New York by 22.2% during the same time period. The number of specialty dentist jobs nationwide is projected to increase by 13.3%, slightly lower than the 17.8% increase in New York for the same time period. The demand for dental care in New York and around the country is expected to increase as the population ages.
For more information on projections by New York State labor regions, 2014-2024, click here.
Dental education programs are four years in length and generally include two years of classroom and laboratory instruction and two years of practical clinical experience, usually through supervised direct patient care. A growing number of dental school graduates are choosing to enter one- or two-year residency training programs.
Individuals interested in a career in dentistry must complete at least 60 credit hours of college study and usually have a bachelor’s degree. They are encouraged to take courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy, microbiology, and physics as an undergraduate. Students interested in attending dental school must take the Dental Admission Test.
New York Licensure Requirements
Dentists who practice in New York must be licensed and requirements include graduating from an accredited dental education program and passing the National Board Dental Examination. Continuing education is also required for active dentists to maintain licensure. Dentists can also get a certificate to administer general anesthesia, parenteral conscious sedation, or enteral conscious sedation. For more information: http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/dent/dentlic.htm.
The American Dental Association Foundation offers a variety grants, awards, and scholarships to dental students. For more information, please go to: http://www.adafoundation.org/en/how-to-apply.
The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) also has scholarship, awards, and fellowship information: See this page on their website.
Education Programs in New York (subject to change)
College of Dental Medicine
630 West 168th Street
New York, NY 10032
|New York University
College of Dentistry
345 East 24th street
New York, NY 10010
|Stony Brook University
School of Dental Medicine
100 Nicolls Rd
Stony Brook, NY 11794
|University at Buffalo
School of Dental Medicine
315 Squire Hall
Buffalo, NY 14214