Dental Education and Careers


Dentist and dental specialties

The American Dental Association defines dentistry as, “the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment (nonsurgical, surgical or related procedures) of diseases, disorders and/or conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and/or the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body; provided by a dentist, within the scope of his/her education, training and experience, in accordance with the ethics of the profession and applicable law.” (As adopted by the 1997 ADA House of Delegates)

Overview of responsibilities

Dentists have earned, at minimum, a doctorate degree in dental surgery (DDS) or dental medicine (DMD) and receive extensive training and education on the diagnosis and treatment of dental disease. Dental school education and training qualifies them to perform a variety of surgical procedures on the teeth, gums, lips and jaws. It helps them detect diseases such as oral cancer and educate patients about good dental health.

To maintain the highest quality of oral health care, the dentist must be the primary oral health care provider. All patients in Wisconsin should receive the same standard of care, beginning with a qualified diagnosis by a licensed dentist.

The goal of dentistry is to prevent and control dental diseases, the vast majority of which are infectious, irreversible and destructive. These diseases can only be diagnosed and successfully treated with the intervention of a licensed dentist and a qualified dental team.

Dental specialties

Approximately 80 percent of practicing dentists are general practitioners. The remaining 20 percent go for further schooling beyond their four-year doctoral degree in dentistry to become a specialist.

The ADA recognizes nine specialties in dentistry:

  • Dental public health – Preventing dental disease through organized community efforts. Specialty training beyond a four-year dental degree: 1 year, 3 months
  • Endodontics – Health of dental pulp, the soft core of teeth, specializes in performing root canals. Specialty training beyond a four-year dental degree: 2 years, 2 months
  • Oral and maxillofacial pathology – Diseases of the mouth, teeth and surrounding regions. Specialty training beyond a four-year dental degree: 3 years, 1 month
  • Oral and maxillofacial radiology – X-rays and other forms of imaging used for diagnosis and management of oral diseases and disorders. Specialty training beyond a four-year dental degree: 2 years, 6 months
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery – Surgical treatment of disease and injuries of the mouth. Specialty training beyond a four-year dental degree: 4 years, 6 months to 6 years (note many oral and maxillofacial surgeons obtain medical degrees in conjunction with their programs)
  • Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics – Correcting dental and facial irregularities. Specialty training beyond a four-year dental degree: 2 years, 6 months
  • Pediatric dentistry – Oral health care needs of infants and children through adolescence. Specialty training beyond a four-year dental degree: 2 years, 1 month
  • Periodontics – Treats diseases of the gum tissue and bone supporting the teeth. Specialty training beyond a four-year dental degree: 2 years, 11 months
  • Prosthodontics – Restoring natural teeth or replacing missing teeth or oral structures with artificial devices, such as dentures. Specialty training beyond a four-year dental degree: 2 years, 8 months

Education and licensure

To become a dentist and practice in Wisconsin, you need to:

  • Successfully complete prerequisite, pre-dental courses in chemistry, biology and physics; an undergraduate degree might not be required, but is recommended when applying to dental school
  • Take and earn a good score on the Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
  • Complete four years of dental school (plus additional schooling if you choose to specialize)
  • Take and pass national board exams

Dental schools grant doctoral degrees in dentistry. Dental programs in the U.S. must earn accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation every seven years.

Dentists who pass a clinical competence examination on or after Jan. 1, 2009 in any region of the country are eligible for a license to practice dentistry in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Dentistry Examining Board recognizes clinical competence examination scores from the Central Regional Dental Testing Service (CRDTS), the North East Regional Board (NERB), the American Board of Dental Examiners (ADEX), the Southern Regional Testing Agency, Inc. (SRTA), the Western Region (WREB) and the Council on Interstate Testing Agencies (CITA).

Foreign-trained dentists looking to obtain a Wisconsin license are asked to please contact the WDA as different requirements may apply.

Wage data

Source: Wisconsin’s WORKnet, 2005
*Reflective of income for general dentists

Wage Level Statewide Hourly Statewide Annual
Entry $45 $84,476
Average $70 $145,997
Experienced $83 $171,758

Dental schools in Wisconsin

Marquette University School of Dentistry
1801 W. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53233
800-445-5385
www.dental.mu.edu

More information

The American Student Dental Association publishes a predental handbook called “Getting Into Dental School” that includes dental school profiles. The ASDA also offers predental membership for interested undergraduates. For further details, write to or contact:

American Student Dental Association
211 E. Chicago Ave., Suite 700
Chicago, IL 60611-2687
312-440-2795 (direct)
800-621-8099, ext. 2795 (toll-free)
FAX: 312-440-2820
www.asdanet.org

More information on a career in dentistry can also be found online at ADA.org. Be sure to ask your dentist about a career in dentistry.

Wisconsin Dentistry Examining Board

TOP


Dental hygienist

Overview of responsibilities

If you like helping people, enjoy working with your hands as well as your mind, and are interested in helping prevent disease while assisting patients to maintain their health, a career as a dental hygienist might be for you.

Dental hygienists are important members of the dental health care team. They work with dentists in the delivery of dental care to patients. Hygienists use their knowledge and clinical skills to provide dental hygiene care for patients. They use their interpersonal skills to motivate and instruct patients on methods to prevent oral disease and to maintain oral health.

Dental hygienists are a valuable asset in a dental practice. Besides performing technical duties, they play an important role in teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene techniques and counseling them regarding good nutrition and its impact on oral health.

Education and licensure

The majority of community college dental hygiene programs take at least two years to complete, with graduates receiving associate degrees. Receipt of this degree allows a hygienist to take licensure examinations (national and state or regional), become licensed and to work in a dental office. University-based dental hygiene programs may offer baccalaureate and master’s degrees, which generally require at least four years of schooling and might be required to embark on a career in teaching and/or research, as well as for clinical practice in school or public health programs.

Wage data

Source: Wisconsin’s WORKnet, 2005

Wage Level Statewide Hourly Statewide Annual
Entry $23 $47,862
Average $26 $54,203
Experienced $28 $57,374

Dental hygiene programs in Wisconsin

Chippewa Valley Technical College
Eau Claire
www.cvtc.edu

Fox Valley Technical College
Appleton
www.fvtc.edu

Madison Area Technical College
Madison
www.matcmadison.edu

Milwaukee Area Technical College
Milwaukee
www.matc.edu

Nicolet College
Rhinelander
www.nicoletcollege.edu

Northcentral Technical College
Wausau
www.ntc.edu

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Green Bay
www.nwtc.edu

Waukesha County Technical College
Pewaukee
www.wctc.edu

More information

Wisconsin Dentistry Examining Board
Department of Safety and Professional Services
P.O. Box 8935
Madison, WI  53708-8935
608-266-2112
www.drl.wi.gov

More information can also be found online at www.drl.wi.gov/dentalhygienist.

American Dental Hygienists’ Association
444 N. Michigan Ave.
Suite 3400
Chicago, IL 60611-3902
312-440-8900
FAX: 312-440-8929
www.adha.org

More information on a career in dental hygiene can also be found online at ADA.org. Be sure to ask your dental hygienist about a career in dental hygiene.

TOP


Dental assistant

Overview of responsibilities

Assistants greatly increase the efficiency of the dentist in the delivery of quality oral health care and are valuable members of the dental care team. If you have strong communication skills, enjoy working with your hands, as well as your mind, and want a career with responsibility, dental assisting is for you.

In addition to assisting the dentist during a variety of procedures, dental assistants have other specific tasks to perform including (but not limited to):

  • Taking and developing dental radiographs (X-rays)
  • Sterilizing instruments and equipment, coronal polishing
  • Taking impressions of patients’ teeth

Education

Although Wisconsin does not license or certify dental assistants, dentists are required to properly train and document the training for all procedures delegated to dental assistants.

Although not legally required, some dentists prefer to hire dental assistants who have received formal training at a technical college dental assisting training program. Most technical college dental assisting programs take nine to 11 months to complete. Check with the school of your choice to see if they offer accelerated training, part-time education programs or training via distance education. You also may wish to check with the dental practices in your area to see if they prefer to train people on-the-job or hire someone who has completed a specific program.

The Dental Assisting National Board offers an e-learning program called Radiation Health and Safety Review Course. It was developed for dental assistants with varying degrees of dental radiography knowledge. The review course covers both conventional and digital dental radiation health and safety, basic anatomical landmarks, radiation biology and safety issues, elements of radiographic exposure equipment, errors encountered during radiographic exposure, radiographic labeling, and infection control techniques.

DANB will launch a new certification program in 2014: Certified Entry Level Dental Assistant (CELDA). Providing credentialing services to the dental community is one way DANB fulfills its mission to promote public good.

CELDA certification gives entry-level dental assistants a jump start on the career ladder via several pathways:

  • Passing Radiation Health and Safety and Infection Control exams
  • Earning CELDA
  • Earning Certified Dental Assistant and/or Certified Orthodontic Assistant
  • Earning Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant and/or Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant

State’s define their own regulations and requirements for dental assistants. At this time, Wisconsin does not require dental assistants to be certified.

However, DANB believes a defined dental assisting career ladder can help states determine licensure, registration and/or certification requirements for dental assistants and improve access to oral health care.

Learn more in the “Exams and Certifications” section of http://www.danb.org/Become-Certified/Exams-and-Certifications.aspx

Wage data

Source: Wisconsin’s WORKnet, 2005

Wage Level Statewide Hourly Statewide Annual
Entry $11 $22,431
Average $14 $28,602
Experienced $15 $31,687

Dental assisting programs in Wisconsin

Blackhawk Technical College
Janesville
www.blackhawk.edu

Fox Valley Technical College
Appleton
www.fvtc.edu

Gateway Technical College
Kenosha
www.gtc.edu

Lakeshore Technical College
Cleveland
www.gotoltc.com

Madison Area Technical College
www.matcmadison.edu

Milwaukee Area Technical College
Milwaukee
www.matc.edu

Nicolet College
Rhinelander
www.nicoletcollege.edu

Northcentral Technical College
Wausau
www.ntc.edu

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Green Bay
www.nwtc.edu 

Waukesha County Technical College
Pewaukee
www.wctc.edu

Western Technical College
La Crosse
www.westerntc.edu

More information

For more information about dental assisting write to or call:

American Dental Assistants Association
203 North LaSalle Street
Suite 1320
Chicago, Illinois 60601-1225
312-541-1550
Fax: 312-541-1496
www.dentalassistant.org

More information on dental assisting careers also can be found online at ADA.org.

TOP


Dental laboratory technician

Overview of responsibilities

If you like doing precision work with your hands, enjoy working independently and are interested in health care, a career as a dental laboratory technician may be for you.

The dental laboratory technician takes on significant responsibility as a member of the dental health care team. Dental technicians make dental prostheses – replacements for natural teeth to help people who have lost some or all of their teeth to eat, chew, talk and smile in a manner that is similar to or better than the way they did before.

Since each dental patient’s specific needs are different, the duties of a dental laboratory technician are comprehensive and varied. Although dental technicians seldom work directly with patients, except under the direction of a licensed dentist, they are valuable members of the dental care team. They work directly with dentists by following detailed written instructions and using impressions (molds) of the patient’s teeth or oral soft tissues to create:

  • 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 in replacing damaged or missing tooth structure. These include waxes, plastics, precious and non-precious alloys, stainless steel, a variety of porcelains and composites or polymer glass combinations.

Additionally, 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 esthetic and functional in order to improve a patient’s appearance.

Education

While there is no certification or licensure requirements for dental laboratory technicians in Wisconsin, the technicians must work closely with dentists who contract with them for services. Technicians are not expected to work directly with patients. Some larger dental labs and dentists prefer hiring or working with dental laboratory technicians who have received their education and training through a two-year program at a community college, vocational school, technical college, university or dental school. Program graduates receive either an associate degree or certificate. There also are a few programs that offer a four-year baccalaureate program in dental technology. Many dental labs offer hands-on training similar to an apprenticeship.

In most cases, an interested individual needs a high school diploma or its equivalent to apply to an accredited dental laboratory technology program. Counselors, advisors and prospective students should contact the particular dental technology program of interest for specific requirements.

Wage data

Source: Wisconsin’s WORKnet, 2005

Wage Level Statewide Hourly Statewide Annual
Entry $11 $22,647
Average $16 $34,225
Experienced $19 $40,051

Schools with dental laboratory technician programs in Wisconsin

Milwaukee Area Technical College
Milwaukee
www.matc.edu

More information

Dental Assisting National Board
444 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 900
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Phone: 1-800-FOR-DANB
Fax: 312-642-8507
www.danb.org

National Association of Dental Laboratories
1530 Metropolitan Blvd
Tallahassee, FL 32308
Phone: 800- 950-1150
Fax: 850- 222-0053
www.nadl.org
Email: nadl@nadl.org

The NADL, the world’s largest organization representing dental laboratories, provides career information to interested individuals.

More information on a career in dental lab technology can also be found online at ADA.org.

TOP

WDA