How Long Does It Take to Become a Dentist?

From 2021 to 2031, the U.S. dentistry market is expected to grow by 6%. Are you thinking about joining this competitive and rewarding industry? 

Becoming a dentist requires following a specific set of academic and professional steps. As you attend dental school and requisite training, you will learn how to prevent, diagnose, and treat common dental conditions. When you complete this journey, you will be well-prepared as an expert in oral health. 

Before you begin, it's important to know what to expect. Today, we're sharing how long it takes to become a dentist, and how our test prep resources can help you along the way. 

The Path to Become a Dentist: General Timeline

The short answer is that it can take between six and eight years to become a dentist. However, the exact timeline can vary based on a few different factors. Let's take a look at the most common ones. 


If you choose to specialize in a certain type of dental treatment, such as oral surgery or periodontology, you will need to complete additional training and educational programs before you can offer those services to your clients. Some of the top specializations include:

  • Endodontics: Treat diseases and injuries related to the soft tissues inside the tooth
  • Orthodontics: Treat irregularities of the teeth and jaws, specifically misalignments and occlusions
  • Pediatric dentistry: Treat dental conditions in younger patients
  • Oral and maxillofacial pathology: Treat diseases that affect the mouth and jaw
  • Periodontry: Treat conditions that affect the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth
  • Prosthodontics: Treat cosmetic dentistry conditions through crowns and dental implants 

If you choose not to specialize in your practice, you will focus on a general dentistry path. These dentists typically work in an office and offer services to the public. In addition to performing checkups and educating patients on dental care, you may also perform surgeries as required. 

Most specializations require you to complete a residency in your field of interest. These usually take an additional one to two years to complete. If you choose an in-depth specialization, such as oral surgery, the residency program can take between four and six years. 

Academic Program

There are two general routes you can take when studying to become a dentist.

The first is to complete four years of undergraduate studies, followed by an additional four years at a separate, dedicated dental school. This would take a total of eight years. 

The other option is to attend a combined dentistry program that merges your undergraduate degree with dentistry training, all within the same institution. Students who choose this route often complete their studies in around six years.  

Undergraduate Studies

Did you know that the major you choose as an undergraduate can affect how long it takes you to begin your dental career? Students who choose to major in a scientific or medical field may not need to complete as many credits in dental school. If you know you want to work in this industry, undergrad degrees to focus on include chemistry, biology, and pre-med. 

Before you can start applying to dental schools, you'll need to have a bachelor's degree. In a combined dentistry program, you can choose to combine this degree with a Doctorate of Dentistry program, which can help you complete your education two years faster.

Dental Program

If you go the traditional route, you'll attend a dentistry program after you complete your undergraduate degree. The first step is to complete the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). 

If you pass the test and are admitted into the program, you'll attend for four additional years. In the end, you'll achieve your doctoral degree, which can be one of two options:

  • DDS: Doctor of Dental Surgery
  • DMD: Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry

The licensing and educational requirements are the same for both DDS and DMD. These degrees are the same, but they can be named differently depending on the dental program you attend. 

Throughout the program, you can expect to attend a variety of classroom-based and on-the-job learning. Some of the courses you may take include:

  • General biology
  • General chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Oral microbiology 
  • Dental anatomy
  • Dental radiology 

In addition, your program may also offer internships and residencies for dental students. These allow you to work in a hands-on environment within your field. 

Admission to Dental School

If you aren't accepted into a dental program on your first application, it can delay your progress and affect your timeline. This is a very competitive process, but you can improve your standing by being well-prepared. By studying ahead of time for the DAT, you'll know what to expect. 

Not sure where to start? We offer up-to-date DAT training resources that can help guide your studies.

In addition to textbooks, we also offer tutoring services, as well as in-person training classes and virtual online sessions. Studying ahead of time can make all the difference when it's time to take the DAT and apply for the dental school of your choice. Our team has decades of experience in the dental, academic, and business fields and we're ready to share our knowledge with you.

In addition to a minimum score on the DAT, you'll also need a solid GPA and strong recommendations. Your college professors can write the recommendations, along with any previous employers who can testify to your work ethic and dedication. 

State Exam

Once you've completed dental school, you can sit for the National Board Dental Exam. When you successfully pass this exam, you be licensed to practice dentistry in your state.

The exam consists of two separate parts, with 500 questions in all. If you've chosen a specialization beyond general dentistry, you will also need to complete a board exam for each field. 

Are You Ready to Become a Dentist?

Now that you know a little more about how to become a dentist and the timeline to expect, are you ready to take the first step toward your future career?

At Orgoman, we're dedicated to helping the dentists of tomorrow ace the academic portion of their training. We offer books, training, and tutoring sessions that make core concepts more accessible and easier to understand. If you're planning to take the DAT, check out the resources on our website, including our upcoming classes!

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