Careers in Dentistry


A dental education opens up a world of professional opportunities. In addition to private practice, today's dental school graduates can choose to work in hospital emergency rooms, conduct advanced laboratory research, teach future dentists or even travel the world with international health and relief organizations.

Follow the ADA News series, Becoming a Dentist, and read exciting stories about three of today's dental students. If you are looking for a rewarding career in health care with a competitive salary and a sustainable work-life balance, dentistry may be for you.

Dental Team Careers

What Does a Dentist Do?
Dentists are doctors who specialize in oral health.

  • Diagnose and treat diseases, injuries and malformations of the teeth and mouth
  • Improve a patient’s appearance by using a variety of cosmetic dental procedures
  • Perform surgical procedures such as implants, tissue grafts and extractions
  • Educate patients on how to better care for their teeth and prevent oral disease
  • Teach future dentists and dental hygienists
  • Perform research directed to improving oral health and developing new treatment methods

What does a Dental Hygienist do?
Dental Hygienists use their knowledge and clinical skills to provide dental hygiene care for patients.

  • Performs patient screening procedures
  • Teaches patients how to practice good oral hygiene
  • Applies preventive materials such as fluorides and sealants to the teeth
  • Counsels patients regarding good nutrition and its impact on oral health
  • Removes calculus and plaque (hard and soft deposits) from the teeth

What does a Dental Assistant do?
Dental Assistants may perform many tasks including taking and developing dental radiographs (x-rays), sterilizing instruments and equipment and taking impressions of patients' teeth.

  • Assists the dentist with a variety of treatment procedures -working with dental instruments and material
  • Helps patients feel comfortable before, during and after dental treatment
  • Takes and processes x-rays
  • Prepares and sterilizes instruments and equipment
  • Communicates with patients, other health professionals, dental suppliers, business contacts and insurers
  • Performs a variety of office management tasks

What does a Dental Laboratory Technician do?
Dental Laboratory Technicians work with a variety of materials, as well as sophisticated instruments and equipment, to create dental prostheses.

  • full dentures for patients who are missing all of their teeth
  • removable partial dentures or fixed bridges for patients who are missing only one or a few teeth
  • crowns, which are caps for teeth that are designed to restore their original size and shape
  • veneers that enhance the esthetics and function of the patient
  • orthodontic appliances and splints to help straighten and protect teeth
  • Dental technicians work with a variety of materials including waxes, plastics, precious and non-precious alloys, stainless steel, a variety of porcelains and composites or polymer glass combinations. Many technicians acquire skill in the use of sophisticated instruments and equipment while performing laboratory procedures. It is important for the technician to help create tooth replacements that are both attractive and functional.