Figuring Out How Long Does It Take to Become a Dentist
Completing a Bachelor’s Degree before Dental School
The majority of dental schools require students to complete a bachelor’s degree prior to attending. In general, students take anywhere from three to six years to complete a “four-year” degree. However, research by the U.S. Department of Education shows that the type of college you attend actually affects the median completion time.
The median time 2008 graduates of a public four-year institution took to finish their degree was 55 months. For non-profit private school graduates, it was nearly a year less at 45 months. Graduates of private for-profit institutions took a whopping 103 months—around 8.5 years.
Whether or not you have transferred schools also plays a factor. The median length of time to graduate for students attending one four-year institution is 45 months. Students who transfer from one four-year institution to another take 11 months longer. Those who transfer two or more times take 83 months. Students who start out in community college and then transfer take a little longer than those who only attend a four-year college. These students take a median time of 63 months to earn their degree.
Studying for and Passing the Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
When considering how long it takes to be a dentist, do not forget about the time it takes to apply for schools. Applying for dental school requires the successful completion of the Dental Admissions Test. Think of it like the SAT or ACT for dental school. It is four consecutive multiple-choice tests: Survey of Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning. You have 4 hours and 15 minutes to take the test, which is administered at approved testing centers. Most students take the DAT after their third year of college.
Getting a good score on the DAT is essential for dental school admission. You will find many study resources online to help with your preparation. The American Dental Association offers a lot of test prep including a full practice test on its website. The amount of time that students study for this exam greatly varies. Some study plans recommend studying 40 hours per week for around eight weeks. Other plans suggest studying for 3-6 hours per day for around five months.
The test is scored on a scale of 1 to 30 with the average score being 17. You can retake the exam a maximum of three times, but you must wait 90 days between attempts. To get an idea of how well you need to do, check out this table of the average DAT score held by students at each dental school.
How Long Does it Take to Earn Your DDS or DDM Degree?
Dental schools offer two different professional degrees: the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM). The curriculum is a combination of classes and clinical rotation hours. Both programs prepare you for licensure and take the same amount of time to complete. Full-time students can expect to finish their degree within four years.
Earning a Dual Degree Takes Longer
Many schools allow dental students to pursue their DDS or DMD along with another degree. Students wishing to earn a dual degree will spend additional time in school. Popular choices are an MBA, a Master of Public Health, or a Master of Science in a related discipline. Some universities even offer a way to earn your Ph.D. Those adding a master’s degree might spend an extra year while a Ph.D. can take an extra three or four years. Don’t forget that the master’s degree won’t be cheap either!
Combination Programs for Dentistry Save You Time
Although not very common, some dental schools accept students right out of high school. Students walk away with a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in fewer than eight years. For example, the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC accepts students into a six-year dental program. They earn a bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene while they work toward earning their DDS degree. Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine offers a similar seven-year program. Combination programs save you both time and money. However, they are extremely competitive and selective.
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Pursuing a Specialty Takes Additional Time
Dentistry includes nine recognized specialties that all require additional training after becoming licensed. These include dental public health, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, pediatric dentistry, prosthodontics, and periodontics. The time to complete each specialty is as follows:
- Dental Public Health: Competitive residency program lasting an average of 14 months
- Endodontics: Two-year residency program and an independent research project
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: Four-year residency program; six years for a medical degree
- Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: Two-year in-hospital residency program; two to five years for M.S. or Ph.D.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Four-year residency program; six years for an MD degree
- Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics: Two to three years in a graduate program
- Pediatric Dentistry: Two-year residency program
- Prosthodontics: Three-year residency training program
- Periodontics: Competitive residency program lasting 30 to 36 months
Dentists can also choose to become a teacher or researcher—also known as an academic dentist. This too takes additional time. Aspiring researchers and teachers will spend an added two to five years in residency. Dual degree programs, as mentioned above, let you earn your doctorate quicker, saving you both time and money.
How Long Does It Take To Become a Dentist?
Becoming a dentist will typically take 8 years but can vary based on specialty. Once you finish your 4-year bachelor program, you would have another 4 years in dental school. If you choose any additional specialties the time it takes to could increase.
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College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. (1)College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine. (2)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. (3)$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. Information advertised valid as of 9/24/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. (4)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 9/24/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
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Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
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