A Descriptive Guide on the Different Kinds of Dental Careers

Updated on June 11, 2021
Dental Chair

As the baby-boomer generation ages, the demand for dental services will rise.

So, if you’re looking to pursue a career in a field that has lots of employment opportunities, look no further than the dental field.

What comes to your mind when you think of the dental industry? Dentists, right?

Well, here’s the thing. There are several career paths you can pursue. Continue reading to learn more about the different types of dental careers.

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants play an important role in the provision of dental care services. They work in dental clinics, helping dentists to provide quality treatment to patients.

Their specific duties include:

  • Scheduling patient appointments
  • Answering patient questions before they see the dentist
  • Sterilizing dental equipment before a procedure
  • Preparing patients for various dental treatments
  • Performing and processing x-rays and scans under the supervision of a dentist
  • Keeping accurate patient records
  • Processing patient payments.

What does it take to become a dental assistant?

Although job requirements vary from state, most aspiring dental assistants start by earning an associate degree in dental assisting from an accelerated dental assisting academy. This program typically takes two years to complete.

Depending on the laws in your state, you might be required to obtain a dental assistant license before you can be hired. If your state requires licensure, you might need to undertake continuing education in order to maintain your license.

Dental assistants earn a mean annual wage of $39,770.

Dental Laboratory Technician

Dental laboratory technicians are the professionals behind a wide range of dental appliances, including bridges, dentures, braces, and crowns. In instances where a patient needs a custom dental appliance, these technicians will use digital impressions of the patient’s teeth to create an appliance that fits well.

Dental laboratory technicians are also responsible for repairing malfunctioning dental appliances and finding materials that will improve the quality of these appliances.

If you’re aspiring to pursue this career path, you need to pursue a postsecondary program, such as an associate degree, in dental laboratory technology. You’ll gain the professional knowledge and occupational skills required to make high-quality dental appliances.

Manufacturers of dental appliances are the primary employers of dental laboratory technicians, but you can also find employment in dental clinics, offices of optometrists, and health and personal care stores.

The average annual salary for dental lab technicians is $43,180.

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienist, also known as oral hygienists, work to help patients achieve good oral health. They conduct professional teeth cleanings, examine patients for various oral conditions, and advise them on how to practice good oral hygiene.

This career might appear similar to that of a dental assistant in terms of job duties, but it’s quite different. A dental hygienist’s role is more patient-facing.

Think you have what it takes to become a dental hygienist? You must pursue at least an associate degree in dental hygiene and obtain a license to practice in your state. Job seekers with a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene are more attractive during a dental recruitment or employers.

Potential employers include private dental practices, physician’s offices, and hospitals with dental departments.

After getting hired, expect to earn about $75,500 a year.


Most people aspiring to work in the dental field want to be dentists, and it’s easy to see why. With an annual average salary of $175,840, it’s one of the highest paying jobs in the United States.

However, that lucrative salary doesn’t come easy. To become a dentist, one must complete a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a field such as biology or chemistry, then proceed to dental school and earn a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. They must also obtain a dental license from their state’s board of dentistry.

So, what does a dentist do? Duties include:

  • Examining patients and diagnosing their dental conditions
  • Performing a wide range of dental procedures, including tooth extraction and dental fillings
  • Referring patients to dental specialists, such as orthodontists
  • Performing X-rays of teeth and other parts of the mouth
  • Recommending dental appliances to patients
  • Advising patients on a range of dental issues, including dental products and oral care.

As a qualified dentist, you can choose to find employment in an established dental office or health facility that offers dental services. You can also venture into self-employment and start your own dental practice.

If you’re taking the self-employment path, keep in mind that besides performing your dentist duties, you’ll also have the responsibility of running your practice. You must know how to hire staff, market your services, and manage the finances.

Dentist Specialists

Dentists can choose to specialize in certain fields of dentistry. In this case, they cease to be general dentists.

Here’s a lowdown of the top dental specialties.


Periodontists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases that affect teeth. These include periodontal disease, gum disease, gingivitis, and oral inflammation.

Depending on the disease a patient is suffering, a periodontist will perform the appropriate procedure.

To become a periodontist, you must go through the process of becoming a general dentist, after which you must complete a periodontics residency program.


Orthodontists specialize in treating maligned teeth and jaws. These are the professionals to see when you need braces.

Orthodontists also attend to people who have dental injuries. As such, you can find them in the emergency departments of general hospitals.

Like periodontists, aspiring orthodontists must complete dental school, as well as a residency program in orthodontics.

Dental specialists earn a mean annual wage of $ 199,980.

Have Your Pick from These Dental Careers

When you want to pursue a dental profession, you have several options to choose from. This article has fleshed out the various dental careers, so you now have the information you need to make an informed pick.

All the best and keep tabs on our sites for more tips and insights.

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