How do I become a public health dentist in USA?

Answered by Stephen Mosley

To become a public health dentist in the United States, there are several steps you need to take. Here is a detailed guide on how to pursue a career in this field:

1. Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree: Before applying to dental school, you must first complete a bachelor’s degree. While there is no specific major required, it is advisable to take courses in biology, chemistry, and other sciences to fulfill the prerequisites for dental school.

2. Take the Dental Admission Test (DAT): The next step is to take the DAT, a standardized exam that measures your academic ability and scientific knowledge. It is administered by the American Dental Association (ADA) and is usually taken during your junior or senior year of undergraduate studies.

3. Attend Dental School: After successfully completing the DAT, you can start applying to dental schools accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Dental school typically takes four years to complete and leads to a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. During this time, you will gain knowledge and practical experience in various dental specialties, including public health dentistry.

4. Obtain Licensure as a Dentist: After graduating from dental school, you must obtain a dental license to practice dentistry in the state where you plan to work. Requirements vary by state but generally involve passing a written and clinical examination administered by the state dental board.

5. Gain Experience as a Dentist: Some dental public health master’s or doctorate programs require applicants to have a few years of experience as a licensed dentist. This experience provides valuable insights into the field and prepares you for advanced study in dental public health.

6. Pursue a Master’s or Doctorate Degree in Dental Public Health: Once you have gained some experience as a dentist, you can apply to master’s or doctorate programs in dental public health. These programs typically require a dental degree and licensure, and some may also require a minimum number of years of clinical experience.

7. Complete the Dental Public Health Program: The dental public health program will provide you with specialized training in public health principles, research methods, epidemiology, biostatistics, health policy, and administration. You will learn how to address oral health issues on a community and population level, develop and implement public health programs, and conduct research in the field.

8. Optional: Become Board Certified: After completing your dental public health program, you have the option to become board certified in dental public health through the American Board of Dental Public Health (ABDPH). This certification demonstrates your expertise and commitment to the field.

9. Career Opportunities: With a degree in dental public health, you can pursue a variety of career paths. You may work in government agencies, community health organizations, research institutions, or academic settings. Public health dentists play a crucial role in promoting oral health, preventing dental diseases, and improving access to dental care for underserved populations.

It is important to note that the specific requirements and steps may vary slightly depending on the program and state regulations. It is advisable to research and consult with dental schools and dental public health programs to get accurate and up-to-date information.

Personal experiences and situations may vary, but this guide provides a general overview of the steps involved in becoming a public health dentist in the USA.