Dentistry career options

A dental education opens up a world of professional opportunities, says the American Dental Association (ADA). 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.

PennWest California offers advantages to students who want a career in dentistry with an Early Acceptance Program at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM). This program enables PennWest California biology majors in the pre-professional concentration to pursue a pathway to professional education in dentistry, osteopathic medicine or pharmacy.

Under the Early Acceptance Program, qualified PennWest California undergraduates in the B.S. in Biology: Pre-professional program can be assured of provisional acceptance – in essence, a “reserved seat” – in LECOM's School of Dental Medicine. [link to related page #5], College of Osteopathic Medicine or School of Pharmacy. [link to related page #4] Students in the Early Acceptance Program must complete a successful interview and meet all academic requirements.  

 Strong Job Prospects

Overall employment of dentists is projected to grow 19% through 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job prospects for dentists are expected to be good. There are still areas of the country where patients need dental care but have little access to it. Job prospects will be especially good for dentists who are willing to work in these areas.

Dentists typically:

  • Remove decay from teeth and fill cavities.
  • Repair cracked or fractured teeth and remove teeth.
  • Place sealants or whitening agents on teeth.
  • Administer anesthetics to keep patients from feeling pain during procedures.
  • Prescribe antibiotics or other medications.
  • Examine X-rays of teeth, gums, the jaw, and nearby areas in order to diagnose problems.
  • Make models and measurements for dental appliances, such as dentures, to fit patients.
  • Teach patients about diets, flossing, the use of fluoride, and other aspects of dental care.


Dentists use a variety of equipment, including X-ray machines, drills, mouth mirrors, probes, forceps, brushes and scalpels. They also use lasers, digital scanners and other computer technologies.

In addition, dentists in private practice oversee a variety of administrative tasks, including bookkeeping and buying equipment and supplies. They employ and supervise dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental laboratory technicians and receptionists.

The median annual wage for dentists was $158,120 in May 2017.

Range of Professional Paths

The demand for dental services will increase as the population ages and as research continues to link oral health to overall health, says the BLS. Dentists will need to provide care and instruction aimed at promoting good oral hygiene, rather than just providing treatments such as fillings. 

Many members of the aging baby-boom generation will need dental work. In addition, there will be increased demand for complicated dental work, including dental implants and bridges. The risk of oral cancer increases significantly with age, and complications can require both cosmetic and functional dental reconstruction.

Most dentists are general practitioners and handle a variety of dental needs. Some dentists teach or do research. Other dentists practice in one of nine specialty areas:

  • Dental public health specialists promote good dental health and the prevention of dental diseases in specific communities.
  • Endodontists perform root-canal therapy, by which they remove the nerves and blood supply from injured or infected teeth.
  • Oral and maxillofacial radiologists diagnose diseases in the head and neck through the use of imaging technologies.
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons operate on the mouth, jaws, teeth, gums, neck, and head, performing procedures such as surgically repairing a cleft lip and palate or removing impacted teeth.
  • Oral pathologists diagnose conditions in the mouth, such as bumps or ulcers, and oral diseases, such as cancer.
  • Orthodontists straighten teeth by applying pressure to the teeth with braces or other appliances.
  • Pediatric dentists focus on dentistry for children and special-needs patients.
  • Periodontists treat the gums and bones supporting the teeth.
  • Prosthodontists replace missing teeth with permanent fixtures, such as crowns and bridges, or with removable fixtures, such as dentures.


Get your start today in the dynamic field of dentistry with foundational study in biology at PennWest California. Apply now!   

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Lake Erie College of Medicine

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Early Acceptance Programs

Vital Head Start

Qualified biology majors can be assured of provisional acceptance in LECOM's College of Osteopathic Medicine, School of Pharmacy or School of Dental Medicine.

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Study Dentistry

Go Further

The pre-professional biology program at PennWest California and the Early Acceptance Program with LECOM can put you on the path to a successful career in dentistry.

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Changing Healthcare Landscape

Many Opportunities

Healthcare occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups. Discover professional opportunities in pharmacy, dentistry and osteopathic medicine.

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