How Hard Is It (Actually) to Become a Dentist?

Uncover the truth about the journey to becoming a dentist in this insightful article.

Posted February 16, 2024

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The journey to becoming a dentist can be a challenging one, filled with rigorous academic requirements, demanding practical training, and a commitment to lifelong learning. However, the rewards of this profession, including the ability to improve patients' oral health and the satisfaction of helping others, often outweigh the challenges. This article will delve into the various stages of becoming a dentist, the difficulties encountered along the way, and the strategies to overcome them.

Academic Requirements

Becoming a dentist starts with a strong foundation in science during high school. Subjects like biology, chemistry, and physics are crucial for understanding the human body and the processes involved in dental care. Additionally, mathematics is essential for understanding the measurements and calculations used in dentistry.

After high school, aspiring dentists typically pursue a bachelor's degree in a science-related field, although this is not always a requirement. Some dental schools accept students with a diverse academic background, as long as they have completed prerequisite courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and math.

Challenges in Academic Preparation

The academic preparation for dentistry can be intense and demanding. The science courses require a deep understanding of complex concepts, and the workload can be heavy. Balancing studies with other responsibilities, such as part-time work or extracurricular activities, can be challenging.

Moreover, competition for admission into dental school is fierce. Applicants must not only excel acadically but also demonstrate leadership skills, community service, and a commitment to the field of dentistry. This requires strategic planning and time management to build a strong application profile.

Dental School

Once accepted into dental school, students embark on a four-year journey that combines classroom learning with practical training. The first two years typically focus on basic sciences and laboratory work, while the last two years involve clinical practice under the supervision of experienced dentists.

Dental school is rigorous and requires a significant commitment of time and energy. Students must master a wide range of skills, from diagnosing oral diseases to performing complex dental procedures. In addition to technical skills, they must also develop strong interpersonal skills to communicate effectively with patients and colleagues.

Challenges in Dental School

The intensity and pace of dental school can be overwhelming for many students. The volume of information to learn is vast, and the practical training can be physically demanding. Long hours in the clinic, combined with studying for exams, can lead to stress and burnout.

Furthermore, dental school is a significant financial investment. Tuition fees, equipment costs, and living expenses can add up, leading to substantial student debt. Financial stress can add to the challenges of dental school and impact students' mental health.

Licensure and Continuing Education

After graduating from dental school, dentists must pass a licensure exam to practice professionally. This exam tests their knowledge and skills and ensures they meet the standards of the profession. Once licensed, dentists are required to participate in continuing education to keep up with advances in the field.

Continuing education is an integral part of a dentist's career. It involves attending workshops, seminars, and conferences to learn about new research, techniques, and technologies in dentistry. This commitment to lifelong learning is essential for providing the best possible care to patients.

Challenges in Licensure and Continuing Education

The licensure exam is a high-stakes test that can be stressful for many graduates. It requires thorough preparation and a deep understanding of all aspects of dentistry. Failure to pass the exam can delay a dentist's ability to practice and earn income.

Continuing education, while beneficial, can also be challenging. It requires time, money, and the ability to adapt to new ways of doing things. Balancing continuing education with professional and personal responsibilities can be difficult, but it is a necessary part of maintaining competence and staying current in the field.


Becoming a dentist is undoubtedly a challenging journey, filled with academic rigor, intense training, and a commitment to lifelong learning. However, with determination, resilience, and a passion for improving oral health, these challenges can be overcome. The rewards of the profession - the ability to make a positive impact on patients' lives and the satisfaction of mastering a complex skill set - make the journey worthwhile.

Read next: Everything You Need to Know About Dental School

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