Dentists are actually doctors who, after earning a bachelor's degree, face four years of dental school to earn either a doctor of dental medicine (D.M.D.) or a doctor of dental surgery (D.D.S.) degree. Those dentists who want to practice one of nine dental specialties must complete two to four extra years of training.
To be licensed, these professionals must pass national written tests and a state or regional clinical licensing exam. The American Dental Association (ADA) is a professional organization that sponsors and promotes continuing education and serves as an advocate for federal and state legislation.
Practitioners do a lot more than treat toothaches. They typically head a team comprised of dental assistants, hygienists, technicians and office staff. They stress preventive care for both children and adults. Many run a general dentistry practice that provides a variety of services for its patients.