Careers That Help Your Community Succeed.

Dentistry needs more people like you!

In the United States, nearly 60 million people live in areas where there aren’t enough dental care providers to meet the needs of the community. In these areas known as Dental Health Provider Shortage Areas (DHPSA), only about 30% of the residents receive the dental care they need to be healthy.

In these areas patients can wait a year or more for a dental appointment. Each year up to two million patients end up in the emergency department of their local hospital to get treatment for dental pain.

In many rural areas and also in urban communities where there aren’t enough dental offices that will take their insurance or offer discounted or donated services, people may travel for hours just to get a dental check-up. That can be a real problem for families that lack a reliable vehicle or don’t have access to public transportation.

Many families don’t understand what causes dental diseases like tooth decay and gum disease and that these diseases can be prevented by brushing and flossing every day, while people who have limited understanding of English may avoid seeking dental care until the pain of tooth decay makes life unbearable.

Poor oral health can cause other serious health issues, effect school attendance, and can make it more difficult to land a good-paying job. Because of this, the lack of access to dental care contributes to the vicious cycle of poverty in many communities across the United States.

See yourself working in dental care!

It’s one of the top careers in 2024! There are many professions that help families have better oral health. Some pay very well and offer an excellent work-life balance, especially compared to other healthcare careers. Dental care careers can help you use all of your talents, people skills, creativity and love of technology to help others.

Dental career examples:

• Dentist
• Dental Hygienist
• Dental Assistant
• Dental Lab Technician
• Plus specialists including orthodontists, endodontists, and oral surgeons.

Dentists monitor the health of their patient's mouth, gums and teeth, and detect and treat disease. Their duties include extracting teeth, fitting dentures and filling cavities. Some dentists specialize in pediatric care, oral surgery, straightening teeth (orthodontists) and treating serious oral problems and diseases.

Earnings (average): $102,000 to $208,000 per year*

• #10: USA Today’s top careers in 2023 
• #4: USA Today’s Best Health Care Jobs in 2023
• #17: U.S. News & World Report Best Health Care Jobs 2024
• Pediatric dentists generally earn more.
• Oral surgeons can earn up to $400,000 per year.

Education or training: Doctorate (DDS or DMD)

• 3-4 years of undergraduate education plus 4 years of dental school.
• Additional post-graduate training is required to become a dental specialist such as an orthodontist, periodontist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

How to prepare:

High School:
• Take college prep courses including algebra, trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, biology, physics and English composition.
• Consider taking Advanced Placement science courses and maintain a strong GPA.
• Prepare for college admissions tests (ACT/SAT) in Junior year.
• Talk to your dentist about job shadowing
• Develop fine motor skills: playing a musical instrument, carving and sculpting, drawing, pottery, sewing, tying boat knots, even playing video games.

• Take premedical courses in math, chemistry and biology. 
• Maintain a good undergrad GPA.
• Take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
• Strong letters of recommendation are needed to get into dental school

Dental Hygienists work with dentists to inspect and clean teeth and gums, educate patients on preventive oral care, take x-rays, get the patient’s medical history related to the mouth, and apply basic treatments. They also assist dentists during some oral care procedures.

Earnings (average): $34,000 to $110,000 per year*

• #24 in US News 2024 Best Jobs
• #3 in US News Best Health Care Support Jobs

Education or training: Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree

• Graduating from a program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation is required for licensure.
• Experienced dental hygienists can also work in education, with insurance companies, in pharmaceutical or dental supply sales, as a dental office manager, or as a hospital/nursing home consultant

How to prepare in high school:

• Take a college prep program that includes English composition, math, anatomy and physiology, computer basics, health education, safety and first aid
• Shadow a dentist or hygienist

Dental Assistants perform administrative and clinical tasks. They also prepare patients for the dental exam or procedure, sterilize and disinfect instruments, update patient records with treatment information, take medical and dental histories, instruct patients in oral hygiene, order dental supplies, schedule appointments, and create orthodontic appliances.

Earnings (average): $34,000 to $51,000 per year*

• #22: USA Today’s Best Health Care Support Jobs

Education or training: Certification requirements vary by state

• Attend the dental assisting program at a technical school or community college program to get the laboratory, patient-related and office skills you'll need to become a dental assistant.

How to prepare in High School:

• A high school diploma or its equivalent is required. 
• Take science and health courses: anatomy and physiology, computer basics, health education, safety and first aid, English composition, math
• Shadow jobs in a dental office.

Dental Lab Technicians combine art, science and technology to design and make replacement or corrective devices for natural teeth. Dental Lab Technicians make replacements for when the patient loses a part or an entire tooth due to the decay, disease, illness or accident. They also make orthodontic devices when teeth need to be moved or stabilized. The dentist provides the dental laboratory with a prescription detailing the device for the patient’s mouth. The dental technician is responsible for fabricating the final prostheses or corrective device.

Earnings (average): $30,000 to $70,000 per year

• This job is in high demand!

Education or training: Most receive on-the-job training

• Becoming a fully trained technician takes an average of three to four years of experience on the job.

Learn more about careers in dentistry at:

Encourage students to consider a career in dentistry!

Join us for Share Your Smile, the Oral Health Month campaign of America's ToothFairy this June. Learn more at


*Based on 2022 annual survey. Earnings vary based on experience and location.

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