Author: James Menzies | Last Updated: 11 Mar 2021
There is no one perfect path to determine how long it takes to become a dentist, and in the modern world the methods to achieve a career in dentistry are much more flexible. With the right knowledge, becoming a dentist can easily be adapted into anyone’s long-term plan over the course of several years.
Before taking the steps to look into medical programmes, consider the goals and skills you already have. There are quite a few personal requirements needed to succeed as a dentist, including good hand-eye coordination, the ability to focus on precise and detailed work for long periods of time, a caring bedside manner, and good communication skills.
Though it takes several years to begin practicing, dentists are well-compensated for their work and experience, earning nearly $100,000 annually in Australia. So, how long does it take for one begin their career as a dentist?
After high school, a bachelor’s degree in a dentistry-related subject, such as dental science, surgery, or medicine is the first and most common qualification to be achieved. To take this path, review your high school ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank), which is usually expected to be a minimum of 99. For some, a double-degree in Bachelor of Science/Doctor of Dental Medicine is a more fluid path into the requirements to register with the dental board of Australia.
Several universities in Australia offer bachelors in these subjects, such as the University of Adelaide, the University of Queensland, and the University of Western Australia. Some universities offer direct entry pathways or joint programs in dental medicine, which would streamline the process towards a degree qualification. A helpful tool in determining your potential proficiency in dentistry, is the UCAT ANZ (University Clinical Aptitude Test for Australia and New Zealand).
Though it isn’t required, doing well on this test is an opportunity for applicants to stand out amongst their peers, and put them a step ahead in their career path.
The duties of a dentist are much more than cleaning teeth, dentists also provide dentures and bridges, use sensitive equipment, prescribe medicine, perform both routine and complex operations on the jaw, and refer their patients to specialists.
Choosing what sector to work in is the next step. Most dentists in Australia work in the private sector – more than 80%! Joining the public sector workforce means providing safe dental care for patients in rural areas, hospitals, and community health centres. To find more detailed information, refer to the AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) Dental Board.
Registering with the Dental Board of Australia is the final legal requirement to become a dentist. Re-registration is also necessary every year, and a completed application should take two weeks to finalize.
After registering, it could be beneficial to consider pursuing a specialization in dentistry. Having a specialist title means work will revolve around a specific field of work and further distinguishes from a general dentist. These specializations include public health, paediatric dentistry, and maxillofacial surgery. For most specializations, at least two years of real dental practice are necessary for admission to the programme.
How long it takes to become a dentist takes commitment and perseverance, but leads to a career full of opportunity, personal, and financial fulfilment. It is well worth the time and effort to reach.