Most of us hate our dentist – we dread the smell that hits us the moment we enter. We hate the sounds of drills and clinking metal – it is just gross. But, we cannot deny that amazing feeling of coming out of a dentist trip and when that toothache subsides.

But, have you ever thought about it from the perspective of a dentist? How many years of preparation goes into becoming qualified to poke at your teeth and bring you the pain it does? Why do your dentist trips cost you so much?

In conjunction with World’s Dentist Day, today’s blog post will feature a basic step-by-step plan of how to become a practising dentist. So, let us find out more!

1) Starting early

Something to consider would be whether you have a general interest in science and dentistry. Certain skills such as coordination, attention to detail and effective communication must be considered, as dentistry is an extremely hands-on career.

The most basic criteria to start off with would be to take subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics for your pre-university course. These subject requirements are set by the Malaysian Dental Council. The qualifications are similar in any other country, but checking with the university to ensure you do not miss anything else would be the best choice.

Screenshot from mdc.moh.gov.my where you can find more information about dentistry and dental practise in Malaysia.

The road to becoming a dentist is a long one, usually averaging around seven years. Due to the long period, it usually costs a lot and can be very burdening on the individual and those around them. If finances are bound to be a problem on your journey, start your research on scholarships or financial alternatives early! Many of them have quotas or vigorous application processes, so do not miss out. Some of the scholarships available in Malaysia can be found here and here.

2) Pursuing a dental degree

The first step to becoming a dentist would be to get into dental school. Dental school is extremely competitive, and it is usually preferred, if not required that the applicant has a bachelor’s degree in either pre-dentistry or in science. In some countries including Malaysia, a degree in dentistry does not require a bachelors’ degree in any other science field. However, the competitiveness in dental schools usually requires applicants to go through an interview process.

Besides that, some dental schools have admission tests. For example, in the USA, the examination to get into dental school is referred to as the Dental Admission Test (DAT). On the other hand, dental schools in the United Kingdom require applicants to take three examinations – UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT), Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GMSAT).

A dentistry degree is usually at least 5 years long and divided into 2 parts, similar to a medical degree. The first half will be more based on theory. Modules such as anatomy, oral biology and pharmacology are examples of what would be learned, with the end goal of the student becoming familiar with the human tooth structure. The second part would consist of clinical training, in which students will be trained in schools or hospitals or given opportunities to shadow specialists. This part aims to give real working experience to students before they graduate.

This tooth is on its way to graduation!

Image source: x

In Malaysia, dentists are required to complete one year of compulsory service in the Ministry of Health or an institution approved by the MOH, before being able to practise. Other countries usually require certifications and examinations to be taken before practising.

3) Becoming a specialist

There are two types of dentists – general practitioner (GP) or a specialist. To become a specialist, a dentist would have to finish a training course in a residency. Potential dental specialities that a dentist will be able to venture in can include dental public health, endodontics, surgery and orthodontics.

However, some residency programmes require the dentist to have an advanced degree – either a master’s degree in dentistry, science, or dental surgery.


Before considering this career path, here are some questions that have to be considered:

  1. Do you enjoy science?
  2. Do you enjoy studying and do you excel in it?
  3. Do you feel passionate about health care?
  4. Are you willing to have tight schedules and travel time only once in a while?
  5. Do you enjoy looking and working with teeth?

If you said yes to everything listed above, perhaps becoming a dentist can be something you can consider. But if it is not, then either way, you have learned more about the hardships of becoming a dentist.

Happy Dentists’ Day!

Featured image credit: International Business Times

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