Dentist Job Description

As vital members of the medical community, dentists work to ensure the health of their patients’ teeth and gums. Doing so involves routine examinations, treatments, and surgical procedures using various instruments and medical equipment. To perform their tasks, dentists must be dexterous and have enough physical stamina to stand or hunch for long periods of time. Many dentists head their own business or share an ownership stake in a dental practice. Staff members in a dental practice can include other dentists, dental hygienists, assistants, front office staff, and additional medical personnel.


Dentist Duties and Responsibilities

A dentist’s responsibilities vary depending on the area of focus. However, regardless of specialty, there are several key tasks commonly performed by all dentists, including:

Perform Oral Examinations

Dentists care for the mouth, teeth, and gums of their patients. To provide proper care, dentists evaluate their patients using specific instruments and diagnose conditions that might require treatment.

Operate Medical Equipment

Dentists use specialized instruments to perform evaluations and treatment procedures. This equipment ranges from simple hand tools, such as mouth mirrors, to large, complex machinery, such as x-ray equipment.

Review Patient Data

To develop a proper treatment plan, a dentist must have all relevant information as it to pertains to the patient. Collection of this data occurs during routine examinations and other diagnostic procedures and is kept and maintained in a patient’s file. It’s the responsibility of the dentist to review this information before deciding on a course of action.

Develop Treatment Plan

Each patient has specific needs, requiring a customized plan for treatment. Based on information gathered from the examination, dentists formulate a treatment plan to correct issues and ensure the continued health of the mouth, teeth, and gums.

Perform Administrative Duties

As the head of the practice, dentists are often responsible for performing administrative or managerial duties, such as hiring staff, handling paperwork, and overseeing the business aspects of the practice.


Dentist Skills and Qualifications

Dentists are passionate about oral hygiene and should possess strong people and leadership skills. In addition to the required schooling and certifications, dentists commonly hold these skills and abilities:

  • Diagnostic skills – dentists must be able to leverage their knowledge and analytical skills to evaluate and diagnose patients to determine a treatment plan
  • Dexterity and coordination – to handle small, precise instruments, such as mouth mirrors and probes
  • Stamina – dentists frequently stand or hunch for long periods of time
  • Interpersonal skills – to communicate effectively with staff, patients, and colleagues
  • Intellectual curiosity – a dentist never stops learning—as in any medical field, dentistry is constantly advancing and evolving; intellectual curiosity helps dentists stay current and knowledgeable of all new information, procedures, and research


Tools of the Trade:

Dentists use some or all of the following tools during their workday:

  • Diagnostic equipment (mouth mirror, explorer, and probes)
  • Retractor instruments (cheek, lip, and tongue retractors)
  • Surgical instruments (forceps, elevators, and chisels)


Dentist Education and Training

The educational requirements to become a dentist are not insubstantial. The traditional path includes a bachelor’s degree followed by four years of full-time dental schooling to earn either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD). Additional schooling may be required for accreditation in specialty areas.


Dentist Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median pay for dentists as $158,120 per year, which is equal to a rate of approximately $76.00 per hour. Dentists in the 10th percentile earn slightly less $70,000 per year, while the highest-paid dentists make more than $208, 000.

The BLS projects employment of dentists to grow by 19 percent through 2026, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations. This accelerated rate of growth is the result of many factors, including the increased size of the aging population and a greater demand for more advanced dental procedures. All totaled, the BLS forecasts more than 29,000 new employment opportunities for dentists through the year 2026.


Helpful Resources

Interested in becoming a dentist? Review our list of resources to help get you on your way:

American Student Dental Association – From their own mission statement, the ASDA “advances the rights, interests, and welfare of dental students,” serving as an excellent resource for those starting a career as a dentist.

Oral Surgery for the General Dentist – A useful reference guide for general dentists, this manual offers a step-by-step approach to dental procedures that require surgical intervention. With 250-plus pages of practical information, including color photographs from real-world surgical cases, this reference guide is a worthy addition to any dentist’s library.

Pillars of Dental Success – After you’ve completed your schooling and certification to become a licensed dentist, you’ll need to set up a practice. Billed as a dentist’s roadmap to financial success, this book provides strategies for building and maintaining a profitable dental practice, including topics on controlling cash flow, attracting new patients, and mitigating overhead.

How to Build the Dental Practice of Your Dreams (Without Killing Yourself!) in Less Than 60 Days – From bestselling author and Bachelor of Dental Surgery David Moffet, this 150-page guide teaches you how to improve all areas of your dental practice, from the number of patients you see to the amount of money you charge.


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