What does it take to become a local dentist?
Many dental patients are used to seeing their dentist at the end of a cleaning. If that’s the case, congratulations. You’ve kept your teeth relatively healthy and haven’t needed dental surgery. That’s because a Portland dentist doesn’t spend the majority of their day looking at X-rays. Dentists are skilled surgeons specializing in restorative and cosmetic dental procedures. The road to becoming a dentist is a long one. Dental school is 4-years in addition to a Bachelor’s degree. There are some ways to shorten the distance, but let’s look at the requirements first.
What courses do you need to take before you can enter a dental program?
Portland, Oregon’s leading school of dentistry is Oregon Health & Science University. Dental school is the most common path to dentistry, but every aspiring dentist must take a minimum of three years of college education before they can enroll in the dental program at OHSU. As you may have already suspected the required prerequisites are all related to biology, physiology, anatomy, and chemistry. These provide the foundation that a dentist needs.
Because the surgical procedures they will be trained to perform demand a knowledge of the human circulatory system; a prospective dentist must know how the body responds to trauma at a cellular level, as well as the chemistry behind materials like implants and how the body reacts and heals around it. Another common path is to prepare for a dental career either as a hygienist or in preparation for a dental degree through the Dental Hygiene Program at PCC. The credits gained in the program are transferable and can be used to finish off a 4-year degree at a University like OHSU.
What else do you need to complete before applying to a dental program?
In order to be accepted into a dental program, you’ll need to complete a Dental Admission Test (DAT). This is designed to assess your comprehension of the knowledge you’ve gained from taking prerequisite courses. The DAT is composed of four tests that cover natural science, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, and perceptual ability. You can even view some sample DAT test questions to get a feel for what the test involves.
You’ll also need to have a minimum of 50 clinical observation hours in a dental setting. These arrangements are typically made through the college where you are taking your prerequisite courses.
What will you learn in a school of dentistry?
- The first year is heavily weighted towards the fundamentals of dentistry. This will include a variety of courses that are similar to those taken as prerequisites for your Bachelor’s degree but instead focus on these area’s as they specifically relate to dentistry. These include dental, head, and neck anatomy as well as inflammation regarding dental procedures and surgeries. After that, students will learn about the examination process, preventative methods, and materials used during practice as they begin to examine and treat young patients.
- The focus in year two carries students practical knowledge right into technical proficiency. Classes will skew heavily towards labwork which includes practicing oral surgery, operative dentistry, and how these are impacted by facial growth. Students will also learn more specific biological impacts on dental health as it relates to pathology, immunology, and microbiology. Once this year is over, students will have performed a wide range of mock procedures and understand the immune response and potential procedural complications in full.
- Years 3 and 4 cover clinical practices. That means students will receive a large amount of hands-on experience while treating patients at various Portland clinics as well as the Russell Street Community Clinic. They’ll also learn how to diagnose oral diseases as well as treatment planning and procedures. A wide range of courses also serve a more human purpose. Students will learn bedside manner, dental history, ethics, and how to approach a dental-patient relationship as well as the impact of socio-economic factors on dental care. These teach students to become caring, well-rounded, compassionate professionals in an industry that requires empathy and ethical care in equal measure.
There are also seven specialties that dentists may become certified in. These range in the length it takes to become certified and vary greatly. Options for dental graduates include specializing in orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, oral pathology, and oral surgery. Those who choose a specialization typically focus on an individual certification and it’s rare to find a doctor of dental medicine who has specialized in multiple areas.
How does a D.M.D. become licensed in Oregon State?
The final step in the process is, as you may have guessed, more testing. With the coursework behind you, you’ll need to submit the proper evidence of completion to the Oregon Licensing Board. Obtaining a license to practice dentistry in Portland requires an applicant to submit proof of graduation from an approved dental school accredited by the (CODA/ADA) like OHSU.
The complete Dental Licensure Examination Form includes a full list of requirements that include completion of the Jurisprudence Examination. This exam is open book and must be mailed back in once completed. Once an applicant’s package is approved, they have 180 days to complete their National Board exam.
Applicants are then required to pass part I and II of the National Board dental exam as well as the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Those living in Portland will likely take their exam at the Oregon Board of Dentistry on 1st Avenue. These tests thoroughly cover everything from basic biomedical information to applied skills and abilities via open-ended problem-solving. Test takers are observed at all times by test center staff.
After passing your final exam and submitting it to the licensing board, you’ll simply need to wait for the paperwork to be processed. Once that is completed, you’ll rreceiveyour license. Opening up your own practice is a much longer article for another day and we wish you well on your path to becoming a D.M.D. in Portland!