Working inside the mouths of strangers every day might not sound like the best job -- but if you can handle that aspect of the work, a career in dentistry provides a number of benefits. From the salary and job opportunities to the work environment and opportunity for specialization, being a dentist makes good sense in a lot of ways.
One of the best reasons to become a dentist is the pay you can expect. As of 2010, the median annual wage for dentists was $146,920 -- significantly more than the median wage of $33,840 earned by all workers. Wages vary by specialty, with prosthodontists earning a median salary of $118,400, general dentists earning $141,040, orthodontists and maxillofacial surgeons earning more than $166,400, and all other dental specialists making $161,020.
While all U.S. occupations are expected to see an average 14 percent growth between 2010 and 2020, dentists can expect even greater growth at 21 percent. Demand for dentists is expected to grow with the aging population who will need complicated dental work in their older years. Cosmetic dental procedures such as teeth-whitening are also expected to increase in popularity, providing more opportunities for dentists.
As a dentist, you have the opportunity to work for yourself or in a partnership with other dentists. This gives you the freedom to own and manage your own business, making you your own boss. If you prefer, however, there are still opportunities to work for clinics or established dentists. Most dentists work full-time but you have the option of working part-time if you want -- something that many dentists choose to do when they reach retirement age.
You can become a general dentist, but dentistry also offers several specializations that may interest you. For instance, orthodontists straighten teeth with braces and other devices, while periodontists treat the gums and bone-supporting teeth. Endodontists perform root canals, and oral pathologists diagnose oral diseases, including cancer. If you want to make a difference in the community, you can work as a dental public health specialist, promoting dental health and care.
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