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18 Different Types of Jobs for Dentists (Career Opportunities)

Mature woman having dental appointment at dentists office.

Dentists are medical professionals who examine, diagnose and treat our teeth and the surrounding tissue. There’re various rewarding career opportunities in the dental field, including general dentists, orthodontics, prosthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, pediatrics, etc., which we’ll discuss in detail in this article. I was surprised to discover that for over 37% of people, a smile is the first thing they notice about whoever they meet.

That only explains how important it is to keep those teeth looking clean and healthy. Subsequently, it’s estimated that the average American spends roughly 38.5 days just brushing their teeth in a lifetime. That’s more than a month of your life!

While brushing our teeth is alone essential, there are trained professionals who are obligated to help us care for our teeth and mouth- the dentists. Dentists are the diligent professionals behind most healthy smiles by providing various preventive and corrective services. Though many dread a visit to the dentist, it’s indispensable in maintaining dental health and overall well-being.

Some form of dentistry has been practiced since prehistoric times. In an early attempt at tooth replacement, missing teeth were substituted with animal teeth and bound into place using a cord, a practice that dates to 600BC in Phoenicia (modern Lebanon). Modern dentistry, though mainly focused on oral care and dental health, has a number of career options.

Despite feeling well suited for the career, you may possibly wonder where to start. The fact is, if you want to work in specialist medical roles involving contact with patients’ teeth, you’ll need some specialized qualifications — and a passion, too.  Read on to find comprehensive details about the duties and qualifications of each career opportunity for dentists.

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Dentist examining dental scan of a patient on the computer screen.

Quick Answer: Types of Jobs for Dentists

  1. General Dentist
  2. Dental Assistants
  3. Dental Assistants
  4. Dental Laboratory Technicians
  5. Orthodontist
  6. Periodontist
  7.  Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
  8. Cosmetic Dentist 
  9. Dental Ceramist
  10. Prosthodontist
  11. Pediatric Dentist
  12. Endodontist
  13. Dental Anesthesiologist
  14. Dental specialist
  15. Dental Nurse
  16. Public Health Dentist
  17. Medical Biller
  18. Medical Receptionist

Just Before We Discuss Various Dentists’ Jobs, Who Is A Dentist?

Close-up of unrecognizable dentist doing dental scanning of patients teeth.

Those who love working with people and enjoy providing dental care can find positions in the density industry. Their career path involves offering support and resources that make dental patients feel better while improving their oral health. General dentists account for 80% of dental professionals, and the other 20% are dental specialists with advanced training focusing on specific aspects of dentistry.

The dentist uses modern technology and equipment like drills, X-ray machines, scalpels, lasers, brushes, and other medical tools to perform various dental procedures. They also put on protective gear like gloves, safety glasses, and masks to prevent the spread of bacteria or germs.

Young male dentist in clinic.

Dentistry responsibilities may vary from one specialty to another. Some common obligations may also overlap, though each specialization has a major unique role. The general duties done by professionals in this field include the following:     `

  • Teaching about dental care and dental hygiene practices like brushing and flossing
  • Filling cavities
  • Removing buildup or decay from affected teeth
  • Repairing or removing damaged or fractured teeth
  • Teeth straightening and whitening
  • Reviewing diagnostics, X-rays, medical  and dental histories
  • Giving anesthesia
  • Putting in fillings or sealants
  • Checking the growth of teeth and jawbones.
  • General check-ups to ensure the patient is on top of their oral health
  • Performing minor surgical procedures such as tooth extraction and cleaning and polishing teeth.
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Career Opportunities for Dentists

Dentist man with assistant treats teeth patient in hospital office.

Each professional dentist works within a team to provide quality dental services. Dental specialty practice requires additional education in a residency for in-depth knowledge of the area of specialization. In most cases, the specialists must also have a valid license according to the state where they practice.

Their salaries are generally commensurate with advancements in education and expertise. Check out our overview of diverse career opportunities in the dental field, ranging from lowest to highest earning potential.

1. General Dentist

Dentist treating his teeth and filling cavity in modern clinic.

General dentists provide a wide range of ‘general’ services for continued oral health, focusing on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. In their daily work, general dentists offer more advanced treatments, such as bridgework, cavity fillings, fitting for dentures, and root canals, placing permanent implants, and performing oral surgeries and treatments, like periodontal surgeries. Other primary duties may include performing examinations to discover abnormalities and misalignments, analyzing X-rays, developing treatment plans, general tooth and gum maintenance such as cleaning and fluoride treatments, or referring a patient to specialized dentists.

A dentist must be licensed in the state they work. Though licensure requirements differ by state, candidates must graduate from an accredited dental school and pass written and clinical exams to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery license. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the approximate median annual income for dentists is $164,010.

2. Dental Assistants

Portrait of a dental assistant in a dentist office.

Dental assistants are essential for every smooth operation of a dental practice. If you wish to start out in the dentistry profession without first spending years at college, working in this role could make an excellent start for you. Dental assistants offer hands-on support to dental practitioners.

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They perform a wide array of tasks, including sterilizing equipment, taking and developing X-rays, preparing dentures for elderly patients, creating impressions or molds of patients’ teeth, and guiding or preparing the patients through their procedures. More advanced duties of dental assistance include topical anesthetic, fluoride applications, and sealant applications. They may also schedule patients’ appointments and help with other administrative tasks.

There’re several ways to become a dental assistant. While some states require you to complete a dental assistant course from an accredited program and take a state exam, there are no such formal educational requirements in other states. If you’re fascinated by becoming a dental assistant, you need good communication and collaborative skills.

Apart from being the first and last touch point for many patients, you’ll need to regularly collaborate with other dental professionals and navigate multiple equipment and dental records.

3. Dental Hygienists

A smiling dental hygienist holding her clients profile.

A dental hygienist is a mid-level dentistry career with a higher responsibility level than dental assistants. They provide preventive dental care to patients, including performing exams for signs of oral diseases, dental cleanings, and advising on oral hygiene practices. In certain states, dental hygienists perform additional duties under a licensed dentist.

Such duties include administering anesthesia during minor procedures, removing stitches, operating metal components, and sculpting cavity filling materials. Working as a dental hygienist requires a dental hygiene degree from an accredited college. Depending on the state in which the hygienist works, some practitioners have a bachelor’s degree while others have an associate degree.

If a career in dental hygiene sounds interesting, you can look into the HLT45015 Certificate IV in Dental Assisting – Oral Health Promotion Specialisation.  

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4. Dental Laboratory Technicians

Dental technician coloing dental prosthesis with a paint brush at the laboratory.

A dental laboratory technician, also known as a dental technician, works closely with dentists to manufacture dental prosthetics like bridges, crowns, and dentures, all with exact specifications. There are other specializations in this field, namely ceramics and orthodontic appliances. If you wish to become a dental laboratory technician, you can choose four significant fields: Fixed Prosthesis, Removable Prosthesis, Orthodontics and Auxiliaries, and Maxillofacial Prosthesis.

Most of the skills within the four fields are learned on the job. But though education requirements for dental laboratory technician roles are limited, an understanding of dentistry may place you in an excellent position to understand your role and get hired in the first place.  

5. Orthodontist

Female dentist examining teenage boy wearing braces.

An orthodontist primarily deals with the mouth structure- jaw alignment and teeth positions. Using various oral appliances and advanced techniques, these dental specialists typically ensure your jaws are straight, teeth are well aligned, and the overall quality of life is upheld. Further duties may include analyzing the patient’s dental and medical history, reviewing X-ray images, developing treatment plans, and fitting, maintaining, and removing braces, headgear, retainers, and other dental appliances.

Orthodontists mainly practice on younger patients since their teeth are easier to change. But adult patients do consult with them, too – particularly for concerns that weren’t treated in younger years. The requirements for becoming an Orthodontist include completing a bachelor’s degree and a postgraduate certificate focused on orthodontics.

They must also hold a viable license in the state where they practice. On average, orthodontists are paid  $237,990 per year.

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6. Periodontist

Dental doctor standing in clinic wearing mask.

A periodontist prevents, diagnoses, and treats periodontal diseases — which involve infection and inflammation of the gum tissue and bones surrounding the jaw. They perform several procedures such as scaling, root planning, root canals, root debridement,  placing implants, and giving surgical and non-surgical options to treat gum problems. Apart from having interpersonal skills and a passion for handling periodontal problems, periodontists attend dental school.

On graduating from an accredited dental school, they must receive advanced training in periodontics. Periodontists must also pass clinical and written exams and have current licensure. And to compensate for all those qualifications and duties, they get an average annual salary of $207,456.

Not bad!

7. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Oral surgeon in the process of bone augmentation after teeth extraction.

These dental specialists are responsible for surgical procedures on the mouth and jaw, mainly to correct structural abnormalities or treat jaw problems. They work in different environments like hospitals, dental practices, or private clinics. Some maxillofacial surgeons specialize in reconstructive surgeries and other invasive procedures such as wisdom teeth extraction.

They can also handle pediatric maxillofacial and craniofacial, preparing patients for complex implants and reviewing patients’ referral documents from a dentist. Like most other dental specialists, oral and maxillofacial specialists must go through dental school, and postdoctoral training focused on surgical techniques. Professional in this field takes home approximately $234,990 per year.

8. Cosmetic Dentist 

A cropped patient holding her cosmetics.

This is another interesting type of job for dentists. Most cosmetic dentists are typical dentists offering a specialized range of services, specifically focusing on improving your dental appearance. Also known as aesthetic dentistry, this dentistry field involves refining the outlook of teeth and gums rather than the overall health.

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Common cosmetic dentistry procedures may include veneers, teeth whitening, bonding of teeth, and correcting underbites and overbites. Cosmetic dentists are well qualified in general dentistry practices and can offer a full range of services. It’s a great career if you’re keen on specializing to attract an upper charge for your services, as well as enhance the dental formulas. 

9. Dental Ceramist

Dental ceramists or dental technicians, in other words, are specialists who design and repair devices such as dentures, implants, and crowns, as required by dentists. They make patient teeth models based on exams and x-rays and complete the required metal framework for dentures and other dental tools. Dental ceramists need to pay attention to detail since dental devices like crowns, dentures, and implants must be accurate to fit as intended.

They also need good technical skills to operate complex devices and software. The national average salary for the practitioners is estimated at $26.62 per hour.

10. Prosthodontist

Professional male dentist in gloves showing dentures teeth to senior female patient.

The primary duties of prosthodontists are to improve the function of your mouth and jaw,  as well as the appearance of your teeth and mouth. They make expressions on patients’ mouths and create, place, and adjust prosthetics as necessary to ensure correct treatment and patient comfort. Earning an average salary of $214,870 per year, these professionals must complete a doctoral dental program and attend specialized training to gain advanced knowledge of the head, mouth, neck, and spine.

They may also be required to earn a license in the state where they practice.

11. Paediatric Dentist

Cute young boy visiting dentist, having his teeth checked by female dentist in dental office.

A pediatric dentist examines, treats, and educates young patients. They examine X-rays, take molds of mouth and teeth, recommend treatments such as braces or retainers, and instruct on best oral hygiene practices for children. Pediatric dentists should complete advanced training in a pediatric dentistry residency and pass licensing exams.

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They also are required to complete an advanced training in paediatric dentistry, which takes two to three years. Their annual estimated salary ranges at  $218,216 per year.

12. Endodontist

Concept of research and diagnosis.

An endodontist takes care of teeth infections and conditions, such as decay. They administer treatments like root canals or surgeries to mend traumatic dental damages and decay and place implants as required. This profession requires completion of a bachelor’s degree, dental school, advanced hands-on training in endodontics, and passing the licensing exam for their specific state.

It’s estimated that they earn $218,216 per year.

13. Dental Anesthesiologist

Dental anesthesiologists are responsible for administering pain relief and anesthetic for lengthy or complex dental procedures like impacted removal of wisdom teeth. They explain the procedure to prepare patients for the anesthetic, review medical history to ensure they give an appropriate dose, administer the anesthetic, monitor the patient during the procedure, and help them recover after the procedure. Dental anesthesiologists must complete dental anesthesiology training after earning a bachelor’s degree and graduating from dental school.

According to the BLS, anesthesiologists earn an average salary of $271,441 annually.

14. Dental specialist

A senior prosthodontist wigh a mustache gray hair is making a denture.

Dental specialists are typical dentists with advanced training in specific dentistry fields. Their duties vary depending on the specialty, including identifying how heredity, accidental, and health issues require intervention from specialists. Dental specialists can also perform general dental procedures like tooth extractions, root canals, gum treatment, and other processes that improve dental health.

The average salary for these dental professionals ranges from $159,576 per year.

15. Dental Nurse

dentist puts inhalation sedative mask on his patient.

Dental nurses prepare the necessary materials for procedures and provide patients with support and reassurance during procedures or surgeries. Other primary duties of a dental nurse are sterilizing instruments, ensuring procedural areas are hygienic, processing x-rays, advising on the best dental hygiene practices, and obtaining medical records from previous dentists. As a dental nurse, you need good communication skills to communicate and obtain information from patients and dentists.

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The average annual salary for this profession is around $67,049.

16. Public Health Dentist

Public health dentist deals with improving population health, handling oral health problems, and improving the overall quality of dental services. Dental Public Health is an art and science of preventing oral illnesses, supporting oral health,  and improving the quality of life in society through organized efforts. If you’re interested in becoming a public health dentist, evaluate whether you have a passion to improve the quality of dental services on a bigger scale, promote the population’s oral health, and tackle oral health inequalities.

Dental public health is your field if you also focus on prevention and want to deal with the determinants of oral diseases. You only need to meet some education requirements, such as a bachelor’s degree and further training related to the field.

17. Medical Biller

Patient at doctor office consulting her medical bill.

A medical biller’s work is to calculate and obtain payments for dental services performed by the dentist and other specialists. They’re responsible for updating and verifying patients’ information, preparing invoices, collecting payments, submitting bills to insurance companies, and collecting payments investigating claims that insurance companies may deny. A medical biller needs to have a degree in business, accounting, and healthcare administration-preferably dental office, and perhaps a few years of experience.

Furthermore, they need good analytical, mathematical, and communication skills since the profession requires lots of calculations and communicate with many professionals and insurance companies on regular basis. The estimated earning of a medical biller is $15.94 per hour.

18. Medical Receptionist

Portrait of a smiling dentist with arms crossed in dental clinic.

A medical receptionist handles basic clerical and administrative tasks in dental offices. Their duties include answering phones, navigating daily correspondence, scheduling appointments, overseeing the appearance of the front office, filling medical records, and ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of patients’ data. The receptionists have one more important task: greeting and checking in visitors arriving at the dental office.

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If a career as a medical receptionist sounds promising, consider obtaining the necessary experience for the job. You need good interpersonal skills to greet clients and ensure they feel welcome. Also, consider having organizational and professional skills to maintain the overall management of a dental office and interact with other professionals appropriately.