There are 61 colleges of dentistry in the United States and a total of 186,084 practicing dentists. There are currently 2.4 applicants for each of the 4,947 places in dental school first year classes. The number of dental graduates is less than the number needed to replace those dentists who are leaving the field due to death, disability or retirement. A substantial shortage of dentists is expected, possibly as early as 2020. The American Association of Dental Schools estimates that by the year 2025, there will be 54 dentists for every 100,000 people, the lowest ratio since World War I. Two important aspects of the shortage are the general improvement in dental hygiene and the aging of the American population - more people are keeping more of their natural teeth longer. In the 1940’s, a third of the U.S. population wore dentures. Today, that figure is less than 10 percent, and continues to decline because of the efforts in preventative dentistry. Approximately 55% of all youngsters between the ages of 5 and 17 are cavity free; yet dental caries is the single most common chronic childhood disease, 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever. 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related illness. Restorative dentistry is becoming increasingly important and is being targeted for individuals well beyond their teenage years, the traditional time when such work is done. The role of dentistry in primary health care is significant. Oral diseases and disorders affect health and well-being throughout life. Oral and pharyngeal cancer is more common than leukemia, melanoma of the skin, and Hodgkin's disease, and it kills more people every year than cervical cancer. If detected early, oral cancer is over 90% curable, but because many people do not get routine oral examinations, most oral cancer is in an advanced stage when it is diagnosed. About 80% of all dentists practice general dentistry; the remainder practice a dental specialty -- about half of these are orthodontists or oral and maxillofacial surgeons. In 2009, the average net primary private practice income for a new independent dentist who graduated from dental school in the past ten years was $ 186,140; the overall average income of dentists in private practice (including part-time) in 2010 was $ 153,000 for generalists and $ 315,000 for specialists. Income levels of dentists are projected to increase over the next 15 years and are more secure than in the past. One of the major factors in this regard is the increase in dental insurance; approximately 58% of Americans now have dental insurance. Dentists are among the top five percent of wage earners in the United States; the net hourly income of dentists now exceeds that of many physicians.
The American Dental Education Association and the American Dental Association provide information about careers in dentistry. The ADEA can be contacted on the web at http://www.adea.org. The ADA can be contacted at http://www.ada.org. The American Student Dental Association offers predental membership to all students who are interested in dentistry and who are not yet in dental school; phone 312-440-2795 or on the web at http://www.asdanet.org. The National Dental Association (202-588-1697 or http://www.ndaonline.org) sponsors minority student scholarships and other events and activities.
A typical dental school curriculum is a four year course leading to a D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree. Specialization requires an additional two or more years of training. Admission to dental school characteristically requires completion of an undergraduate predental program as offered at Oglethorpe University; contact Dr. Dan Schadler (email@example.com) for further information..
Forty-five percent of applicants to dental schools and of enrollees are women; more than 32,000 women are active practitioners. In 2010, 36% of dental school graduates were members of minority groups. In the dental graduating class of 2010, 89% of students reported having student loan debt; average indebtedness was $ 197,366. One of the dental schools with the lowest number of applicants--and, consequently, the best chances for admission--is at the Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta (http://www.georgiahealth.edu/sod).