Wednesday, September 07, 2005

How do you become a Pediatric Dentist or Orthodontist?

What does it take to become a Pediatric Dentist or Orthodontist?

In addition to being the right kind of person, patient, smart, kind, good manual dexterity, and good people skills, it requires, well, lots of schooling. I often run into people who assume dental school is sort of a trade school you do after high school for a couple of years. In fact most dentists must complete a 4-year university degree before even entering dental school. Dental school is at least 4 years. At that point you may want to put out your shingle and start practice. You receive either a DDS, doctor of dental surgery, or a DMD, doctor of dental medicine. I am not going to go into it here, but suffice it to say there is no substantive difference between these two degrees, especially as far as the patient is concerned.

Most dentists go on for further schooling! Many do a general practice residency in a hospital setting to refine their skills. Some go on to obtain a PhD for a career as an educator or in research. Some obtain an MD degree in addition to their DMD or DDS. Many do, as I did, and specialize in one of the recognized dental specialties: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, Endodontics, Periodontics, Prosthodontics, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, or Public Health. Most of these require at least two additional years of intense study. I’ll have more on these specialties later.

Let’s see, that’s at least ten years after high school to become a Pediatric Dentist or Orthodontist! Not exactly the local trade school.

*February 10, 2006 Update: check out this new post on this topic The Dental Specialties

If you want more, go back to the home page or click here:Pediatric Dentistry


Anonymous said...

Dr. Dean Brandon, your infomation on how to become a dentist was very inightful for me.However I am currently a college student, and recently completed 2 years of school with an undecieded major. I now have a passion to become a dentist. But I only have just some of the prerequisites needed to attend dental school or to take the DAT. Do you think that it is too late in my college career to go after a pre-dental degree. Thank you for you time. Contact:

Dr. Dean Brandon said...


It is never too late! One of my partners was an accountant before entering dental school.

You don't necessarily have to complete a "pre-dental" degree to get into dental school. I would concentrate on finding a major you enjoy and/or are quite adept at. Some majors require you to get some of the prerequisites for a medical or dental program just as part of the curriculum. So, if you major in History (and I had a guy in my class who did), make sure you get the Chemistry and Biology classes you need , say as part of your minor, double major or the like.

There are no set rules on this other than the basic science requirements which vary a little from dental school to dental school. They want someone who has good grades and has the interest, skills and drive to succeed. Those academic skills can be demonstrated by good grades in whatever path you take.

If you get good grades, you have the flexibility to not only apply to dental school, but medical school or engineering, or anything else. You may find as you go along that your interests lie elsewhere. If you do, you will be prepared either way. Good Luck! Let me know how things go!

jessica said...

Dr. Dean Brandon,
i am currently a high school senior and i am interested in becoming a dentist. i will be attending uc berkeley and i will like to know more about the dental school you went to and which ones would you recommend. ten years may seem a lot, but i will take the challenge. i am currently doing a research report on the field of dentistry so all the information you can provide me w/ is really helpful.

thank you.

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

I went to the University of Alabama School of Dentistry. Based on National Board Scores, my biased self would say one of the best.

There are many good ones out there. Which one is best for you depends on you. Other schools with which I am familiar and know are well respected are: Univ. of North Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, Washington, and UCLA (nearer to you). I have a fellow resident that teaches at Loma Linda. UC San Francisco would be a good bet too.

Here is a complete list:
US Dental Schools

Also, check out This Link to all my posts on dental school.

Emily said...

Dear Dr. Dean,

I am a 15 year old 9th grader, and ever since i went to the dentist, i always wanted to be the one doing the work, not the one laying down. my parents and teachers are really stressing me over which classes to take in high school, and i am so frazzeled!!! i don't know what to do! i don't want to waste 4 years of my high school career learning things that are useless to me. i want to be a......i guess a, " surgical....pediatric....Orthodontist.?"
i'm not shure thats what you call it....i just put words together!
But, no one takes me seriously, and i really hope you can help me.


Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Most dentists and physicians knew what they wanted to be as early as high school. Having said that you would not be wasting anything by taking any particular courses. Don't stress out. What do you "want" to take, if there is a choice? Whatever you study do it well and ot the best of your ability. You may want to read my comments to others who have asked similar questions. You may change your mind once you are in college, who knows. If you do, good grades will help no matter what. No knowledge is useless.

By the way high school is not a career as much as a way to explore academic disciplines and develop social and academic skills. Good grief, Have fun too!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Dean Brandon,
I am a 9th grader and I am doing a career project on an Orthodontist. I was wondering if you could go more detailed on how you can become an orthodontist, like more information on the schools and tests/exams you would go to and take. Thank you.

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Can't get too much detail now. Basically, once you are in about the third year of Dental School, you apply for a residency or postgraduate advanced education program in Orthodontics. No special test, just as applying for any specialty residency, a good academic record in Dental School. Most specialties take two additional years of school. Check out my other post on the Dental Specialties.

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Hey all, I found a good site for those wondering about the intricacies of the dental school experience:

DMD Student-a Dental School Student Blog

Anonymous said...

Dr. Dean Brandon,
I have a quick question:
So basically, the amount of schooling would generally be to complete 4 years at any college, then apply for 3 years of dental school, and in the third year, apply for the education program in orthodontics, am I right? So this would add up to approximately 9 years to become an orthodontist?

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Not quite correct.

Dental School is 4 years. Yes, in the third year of dental school you would apply, but you still have to finish the fourth year to get your Doctoral degree then start your two year residency in ortho. So, 10 years after high school.

AhmedShehata said...

hey Dr. iam very happy to go on your site and thanks about your informations , i am currently acollege student .
my name is Ahmed Shehata
Faculty of Dentistry
SINAI University

Anonymous said...

Dr. Dean Brandon,

I am in my very early 20s, and I have taken some Technical Colleges Courses (actually I am about 4 courses from having my AAS degree)

I have always had a passion for education, but never knew what I really wanted to do in life, so I never hassled my parents with wasting money for me to attend a 4yr universtiy. But I am at a stage in which I really want to not only make a huge difference in my life but also others.

In addition to my love for education (Especially: English & Science) comes my extreme talent and passion of art. But I really consider that more of a hobby. So with that in mind (among other reasons) Denistry is a career that I seriously intend to pursue.

I really had great grades in high school, and even at my technical college, but I guess my question is, my aspiration to become a dentist, female, and even a minority, is this goal truly achieveable, at my age? With my current educational background? I am very fortunate in that I have UNC in a fairly decent proximaty, and I plan on applying as a transfer student.

I earnestly have the will and the time, and the desire, and the discipline. I suppose I was really curious is that enough?

Thank you immensely,

...a future successor....

(Please Contact:

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

wow I like your note here. artistic tendencies/talent are of value in dentistry. Good luck!!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr Dean Brandon
I was just wondering, if you graduate as a normal dentist and work at a practice, do you have a "Dr" infront of your name? And by the end of the standard course - if you don't specialise - do you have a phd in dentistry?

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

After graduating from an accredited US dental school (which is 4 years long after college), you get either a DDS or DMD degree--then you can put Dr. before your name whether you practice or not--(or specialize or not).

zeinab said...

Dear doc,
am student in dentistry in my final year(5th year) in jordan,(jordan university of science and technology,and would love to be pediatric or orthodontist,,wht shall i do??,,shall i have 2years experience be4??i wana make MJDF??please help me am really confused
looking forward ur reply

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

I know of several foreign (well foreign to the USA) students in specialty residency programs here. If you are thinking of applying to a specialty program in the USA, you may be able to do so. Research the schools you might wish to attend and request application materials. I think some of them now use a "matching " system. These programs are very competitive, so any added experience or academic achievements are usually needed. Still, you may call them and ask their advice. Good luck and God Bless.

Try this link:

ADA Link to specialty programs

chalaayad said...

Hello Dr.Dean
Im currently a student at Bloomfield college. This upcoming fall I will be a sophmore. I am 18 years old and my first year of college I went in undecided. I than declared a major in sociology and than i changed it to accounting. This summer I have really been doing research and I find myself getting really intersted in Pediatric Dentistry. I love kids and I feel Dentistry is something that can make my life more fulfilling. Im not sure what it is I should major in to become a dentist and exactly how many years it will take being that Im just startng my science courses this upcoming fall.

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

You can read all the comments here and in the other posts on dental school. (link on the main page on the right side for all the posts). It is a long road. For now, I would suggest taking biology, chemistry and see what you think. Most people change their majors, however, I did not. I was focused on dental school from the beginning --I loved Biology. Read all the posts and especially the comments. You will find out more than I can ever say here. Good Luck!!!

toystealer4lyfe said...

Dear Dr. Dean Brandon, i am a sophomore in highschool, i am longing to be a pediatric dentist, i've wanted to be one since about a year ago, i recently got my braces off and i am just in love with my teeth, i've pulled all my baby teeth on my own, and i don't even know, teeth fascinate me ALOT hahaha (:
but i do not have the best grades in school, right now i'm an ABC student, and where i live it's a hard grading scale not the usual 10 point, ours is a 6 point, but anywho ! hahaha i want to go to school to be a pediatric dentist, if i improve my grades ALOT do i still have hope ? i am constantly worrying about my future, and i'm afraid i'm not smart enough, is there still time for improvement ? or should i look into something else :(

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

If you are motivated, you will find the way. Good grades are important, but you have time to improve. I don't know any dental school that looks at high school grades. College is where it matters. Dental school is hard to get into, but most specialty program candidates are in the the top 20% of their dental school class--but, that is far in the future. Motivation is more than half the battle. Good luck!!!

Kennetra said...

Dear Dr. Dean Brandon
My name is Cherie R. and I am interested in becoming a dentist. Im really worried about whether or not im to old to start my degree. I didnt finish high school but i got my GED. This is my first semester at a community college. I dont know what classes Im supposed to be taking or how long it will take me to get into dental school. please help

Dr. Dean Brandon said...


Go to (or call) the admissions office of your nearest instate dental school. Ask for their catalog or list of admission requirements. This often consists of college level basic sciences, math, etc. You could complete most requirements in three years of college and some students do enter into dental school after 3 years of college. I still recommend a 4 year degree. That way you will know the basic courses needed to even apply. Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Dean Brandon, i am curretly a senior and i am very intrested on becoming a pedodontist i am going to attend to a community college to do my basics then transfer, i was wondering what couses do i have to take in college in order for them to transfer to the university i want to attend? And also what clases do i take when i start to attend a university?

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Good question. Most dental schools have a list of courses required for admission, sort of minimum requirements. Ask your state dental school for a catalogue or research the prerequisites for admission.

Mostly, they require a set of basic sciences, some math, etc. They want to know you are ready for the heavy course load you will get in dental school and can communicate properly. A community college is not a bad way to begin. They will look at your grades and your performance at the school you transfer to. My main advice I give is to get your degree no matter what your major or where you get it.

Anonymous said...

Dr. D. Brandon,

I came across your blog. I must say I am really impressed with the information you presented. I am currently debating about going to dental school at the University of Pittsburgh. I will be graduating with my Bachelor's in Health Policy Administration and Dental Hygiene in the Spring of 2012. I was wondering what courses I would be looking at to continue my education at a dental school.

Thank you for your time. You can contact me via email at

-Shannon :)

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Sorry, I've been away from the computer this weekend. There is a lot if info here on the blog. Take a look around. There are basic requirements for each dental school, but usually they include a good bit of chemistry and biology courses. Some math. physics and the humanities as well. It does not matter what your major is, so long as you have, and do well in the required courses. Go to the school's website under admissions, or call them. They can give you a rundown on the courses. You may have had many of them already. These days, most entering dental school students have at least a bachelors degree. You also need to take the DAT. (Dental admission test.)

Sandra said...

Dr. Dean I'm a freshman in Early College so, I will graduate in for years with an Assosiates degree. Should I go for an AA or AS and I really have no idea what to do after that, PLEASE HELP



Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Sandra, The main thing is to excel at the courses you do take. Make sure you get the required courses necessary for entrance to the dental school you are applying for no matter your degree. It does not matter what degree or major you select. Grades do matter, however. Still, finish your degree first.

By the way, in a month or two I will have a book out on dental school that will address these questions in more detail.

klara said...

Hi I am a 35 year old and I have done masters in English lit and B. Ed. Now I wish to become a dentist. Do you think it is too late to go back to school and improve my science grades and try to be a dentist. I am very serious about it.

Dr. Dean Brandon said...


No, it is never too late. There are several "older" students in every class. Yes, most are recent college graduates, but some have advanced degrees or real world experience prior to entering dental school. The only drawback is the length of your probably career. In other words, the school will be more likely to invest in a younger student who will serve the public for a longer period of time. Still, I think there is an advantage to an articulate business savvy student. You may be just a few courses away from the requirements. Make sure your grades are as good as possible. Good luck.

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Oh, there are PhD programs available at many dental schools which would be ideal if you were interested in a teaching career. There is a real demand for dental school faculty whether they have a PhD or not.

Roxanna said...

How much years in school, total? From college to actually finishing. Is it less than a pediatrician?

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Four years of college, four years of dental school, at least two years of specialty residency. So, 10 years after high school. Six years after college.

Roxanna said...

Is it the same for a Pediatric Dentist?

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Pediatric residencies are usually the two years but sometimes three. Orthodontics is two. Oral surgery is usually 5 years after dental school.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Dean Brandon,
I am currently a junior in high school. I didn't want to be in the medical field but I decided to become a pediatric dentistry, because why not? I am currently not maintaining a 3.0 GPA. I actually have some D's in my transcript. That's why my counselor said I have to go to a community college. I am also thinking about joining the U.S. Air Force, so I can get help with my tuition. I was looking at UN Chapel Hill because they are on the Yellow Ribbon List. I would like some info on how I could start my path for this career. Thank you!

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

I am impressed with your resolve. It is critical to make good grades. Now as you can read here and elsewhere, just because grades are not top notch now, you can show improving grades and that can make a difference. Dental school is very competitive these days. You can go to Jr. College, to establish good grades and learning skills, then get all your requirements later on. The military is good to help organize yourself and promote self discipline. Most dental schools would look on a military background favorably--so long as you have the grades and requirements to be accepted.

You can get my book on dental school which shows how to prepare and will likely answer many or your questions. Hardback and on kindle:

"Dental School: Preparation, Survival and Success" by Dr. Dean Brandon

Chandler.Walpole said...

Dr. Dean Brandon,

My husband is 23 and is going to be graduating in December with his bachelors in Marketing and lately he's been talking about possibly looking into being an orthodontist. Does this set him way back in applying for Dental school? He has awesome grades and has had a full ride scholarship since high school. How hard would it be for him to get in to Dental school so he can be an orthodonist? Should he change his major?

I would love to hear your advice!

Sarah and Chandler:)

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

If you mean a major in marketing at age 23, well, that's not a problem so long as you get the required science courses (that is the required courses set by the school you are applying for). The major does not matter. Grades and getting the required courses does. Also you need to take the DAT (Dental Admissions Test). Remember, to be an orthodontist, it's 4 years of dental school followed by about 2 or 3 years of Orthodontic residency. Read more in my book about dental school.

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Oh, here is the book link:

Dental School, Preparation, Survival and Success by Dr. Dean Brandon

Anonymous said...

Dr. Dean Brandon,
I am currently a freshman at UC Riverside as a Biology major, but I'm not quite sure I want to stick with it. I want to know what other kind of majors I can take as prerequisites to Dental school. What did you major in?

Thank you for your time!

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

ANY major is really ok. The main thing is to find out what the dental school wants as far as basic requirements. Biology and chemistry courses are some basic ones you will need. Otherwise, no problem. Much of this is covered in my book too.

Anonymous said...

Dr Brandon, I have actually been a patient of yours for the last 18 years. I am currently a working dental assistant and am as well wanting to go on to become a dentist. I was curious if currently working and taking my basics slowly online, will benefit me or bring me down in the long run? Thanks so much, Tabitha.

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Hey Tabitha, thank you for reading the blog... Any experience that is practical in nature will help you in a dental career. I suggest you pick up a copy of my book in this regard--or come by and I would be happy to answer questions. Dental School Book

Anonymous said...

Dr. Dean Brandon,
I am currently an 8th grader and my dream job is to be a pediatric dentist. No one really believes me, my mom says it's just a phase, but it's not! I am doing everything to prove to her its real but no one listens. I've been through so much with my teeth. I started going to the orthodontist at a very young age. When I was little I had 5 teeth pulled, bc there wasn't enough room in my mouth. I also had a TERRIBLE over bite. I went through 2 sets of braces, a total of about 4 1/2 years!! Then when I got my retainers, from the start, my bottom one never fit. Needles to say my teeth shifted bc I wouldn't wear it bc it hurt. My orthodontist made me then wear it during he day. Recently I got a permanent retainer but it's not really helping. My orthodontist told me to wear my old retainer 2 nights a week but it pushes my gums. It pushed them so much I can now see the roots of my 2 front bottom teeth. I was wondering what I could do about that, and you can see I've been through a lot of trouble with my teeth so I guess that's why I want to help kids take care of their teeth. I am a faithful flosser-I floss after every meal, snack, cookie- anything that goes in my mouth.
In my character and career class we took a survey to see what career field and my top was health and science so I was excited and now I'm doing a project on that. A really close friend of mine is a dentist and she is on the board of directors at Gardner Webb University , in Boiling Springs, N.C., where I want to attend. She said she would take me down next time she goes, so I am very excited about that but I'm wondering what classes I need for high school and college. And please explain to me in detail how much schooling and testing I would have to do to become a pediatric dentist.
Thank you

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Chelsea, good luck with your goal. I do not think 8th grade is too soon to know what you might want to do. Leave your options open. There is a lot of info here on the blog about dental school and what it takes. Also, you can get my book, which is especially designed to answer questions about dentistry as a career and dental school. Good luck!

Michayla Petel said...

Dr. Dean Brandon,
Thanks so much for all the information you have provided! I am currently a freshman at my local community college and plan to transfer this coming fall. I've always had really good grades and excelled in school. In high school I took many AP classes and mostly honors and would end up with straight A's majority of the time. I just finished my 1st semester with a 4.0 taking gen. Chem, gen. Bio, psychology and English and I just started with gen. Chem 2 gen. Bio 2 pre calculus and English 2 for the spring semester. With all that said, I am worried that I don't have much that makes me stick out as a student applying to dental school. Many people have told me I should switch my major from biology to something out of the ordinary to stand out. That really frustrates me though because biology is my passion but I would sacrifice it for a spot in dental school. So what do you think? Should I consider switching? Also my dream is to be like the orthodontist who put on my braces when I was younger. She really is my idol and someday I want to change someone's life like she did mine and become someone's idol as well! (Apologies if this is a stupid question) but I'm wondering if she was a pediatric orthodontist or just an orthodontist. I'm not even sure if there is such thing as a pediatric orthodontist lol. But if there is what would be the schooling on that? And lastly, I'm currently working as a pharmacy technician and am a little concerned that this may hurt my chances of getting in? Since it's not even close to the field I plan on working in I'm worried they might think I have wasted my time on something that wouldn't benefit me in dental school.
Thanks so much for your time!!

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Michala, Those are all great questions.I tend to get variations on them all the time. Firstly, your performance academically so far seems very good. As far as the major, well, I majored in Biology because I loved it. I'd stay wit what you enjoy especially if you excel in that field. Pediatric Dentists do braces, some more than others. Orthodontists only do braces. There are several people I know why have a double specialty, orthodontics and Pediatric dentistry. They get a dental degree (DDS or DMD) then go to, say pediatric residency for about two years and then go to orthodontic residency for another two years. Pharmacy is related to dentistry, so don't feel bad about a job you need and like. Yes, it's difficult to get into dental school, but not impossible. I always advise getting your degree. You should have a backup plan if you don't get in the first time. You can try again, but you also may find additional education or work is the next step. I would not change a major just to try and get into dental school. Stay with what you love. You could have other activities that could stand out, like art, history, music, service or charitable activities etc. Still, I'd do them because you like them. Find out more about dentistry too. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Brandon, I graduated from college 10 years ago, and have been contemplating a career change for the last few years into dentistry, specifically, pediatric dentistry. I do not have any of the pre-dental courses complete, so before applying to dental school I'd need to take approximately 2 years worth of science courses. With the glide year factored in, I won't start dental school until I am 37 and I'll finish my residency by age 43. Am I crazy? Oh, I also have a 1.5 year old son. Am I really crazy??!?