A Day in the Life of a Dentist: What Exactly Does a Dentist Do?

There are currently over 955,496 dentists in the United States. Though the industry is still growing, not many people know what dentists do. A dentist’s role involves a lot more than teeth and gums.

What is a day in the life of a dentist like? Keep reading to find out.

In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know about a career in dentistry. Interested in becoming a dentist yourself? Want to overcome your dental anxiety?

With this guide, you’ll have the knowledge you need. Uncover the secrets of dentistry. Read on to discover what a day in the life of a general dentist is like today!

Education and Training

Before we walk through a day in the life of a dentist, it helps to understand their background.

Not many people realize that the education and training for a dental degree are similar to those for a medical degree. A dentist’s education ensures they can safely provide oral health care to their patients. Many dentists earn a Bachelor of Science Degree.

They’ll also need to pass intensive admissions examinations.

For the first two years of dental school, students need to complete courses in:

  • Pathology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Anatomy

Medical students are required to take these courses as well.

After their first two years of education, students will then focus on clinical training. They’ll learn how to diagnose and treat oral diseases to help their patients.

Students take about eight years to earn their undergraduate and dental degrees. Afterward, many dentists aim for certification in a dental specialty. Continuing their education also ensures they’re up-to-date with the latest techniques and technologies.

To complete their training, dentists need to pass a state clinical licensing exam and national written exam. If they can’t pass these exams, they won’t continue to practice. Students are also required to meet continuing education requirements throughout their careers.

Otherwise, they won’t maintain their licensure.

After their education and training, these professionals can experience their first day in the life of a dentist!


After earning a four-year dental degree, students can choose a specialty.

Pediatric dentistry involves the oral health care needs of infants and children. Education can last 25 months after dental school.

Periodontics, on the other hand, focuses on gum and bone health. Education lasts 35 months.

You might consider endodontics instead. This specialty requires 26 months of study. Endodontics involves the health of the dental pulp.

Endodontists often perform root canals and procedures that involve the inner tooth.

Orthodontics involves the alignment of the teeth and jaw. These dentists solve alignment issues by fitting patients with braces and treating disorders.

Some patients require surgical treatment if they’ve developed a disease or injury. Students can complete 54 to 72 months of education for oral and maxillofacial surgery.

Oral and maxillofacial pathology involves treating mouth and teeth diseases.

If a student chooses oral and maxillofacial radiology, they’ll use X-rays to diagnose oral diseases.

Some patients require artificial devices like veneers and dentures. These devices can restore their natural teeth. Students can specialize in prosthodontics to help these patients.

The average dentist in the US makes about $169,027. Their salary can depend on their education, specialty, certifications, and how long they’ve practiced.


On a daily basis, dentists will provide oral health services such as:

  • Diagnosing their patients’ oral health conditions
  • Developing customized treatment plans to help patients maintain their oral health
  • Interpreting X-rays and other diagnostic tests
  • Managing emergency situations like oral trauma
  • Performing surgical procedures on soft tissue, bone, and teeth of the oral cavity
  • Monitoring how their patients’ teeth grow and develop
  • Administering anesthetics safely

These responsibilities focus on the maintenance of oral health.

During an oral examination, a dentist will examine the patient’s mouth to look for any areas that need additional care. For example, they’ll start by looking for visible signs of tooth decay. Checking for tooth decay early can help prevent cavities.

They’ll check the patient’s gums as well. Gum loss and receding gums could indicate gum disease.

Dentists also evaluate the patient’s bite. Patients with alignment issues might require additional care.

In order to diagnose these issues, dentists can use dental X-rays to look for:

  • Cavities between the teeth
  • Information about the health and height of the teeth’s supporting tissue
  • How your teeth are developing

A day in the life of a dentist often includes checking in on patients and ensuring they’re on top of their oral care. They also complete procedures such as cleanings, polishing, and filling teeth. Their day might include a minor surgical procedure, such as a tooth extraction, too.

They might complete diagnostic tests for infectious diseases or screening tests for oral cancer.

Exams can help dentists spot warning signs in the mouth that might indicate disease elsewhere, too.

To help patients that have gum disease, dentists use scaling and polish to remove hardened plaque. Removing plaque before it hardens into tartar can keep gum tissue healthy. Then, they’ll polish your teeth to remove stains and keep your enamel clean.

Your dentist can also provide fluoride treatments. Fluoride is used to prevent decay and strengthen tooth enamel.

After a routine checkup, your dentist can provide additional home care instructions. Their instructions will ensure you maintain proper oral hygiene.

Their Team

Dentists don’t complete their daily responsibilities alone. Instead, they surround themselves with dental hygienists, lab technicians, and dental assistants. Their team will ensure every day runs smoothly.

The team approach in dentistry ensures patients experience a convenient, efficient experience. Otherwise, a dentist might feel stretched thin between patients.

The dentist will oversee their entire team to ensure everyone is providing effective oral care to their patients.

Looking for the best dentist in the area? You can view here for help.

An Exciting Career in Dentistry: A Day in the Life of a Dentist

To recap, what’s a day in the life of a dentist like? It’s full of teeth, gums, and happy patients! Dentists help us improve our oral health, giving everyone a reason to smile.

Don’t forget to check in with your dentist to ensure your teeth are healthy and disease-free!

Searching for more helpful tips and tricks? We have plenty!

Explore our latest guides today to get started.