The dentist job description is much more demanding than most people realize.  All my friends say, "You have it easy, all you do is pop in for a few minutes, say everything looks great, and move on.  My dentist doesn't do anything!"  What they don't realize, is that in the room/operatory next door, you are taking out impacted wisdom teeth, and you just broke off a root tip and the patient is sitting there bleeding while you left to go do the hygiene exam.


Necessary skills include,

  • Excellent time management
  • Efficient
  • Good at multitasking
  • Calm under pressure
  • Always able to put on a smile
  • Good at managing staff
  • Keep healthy

Dentist Job Description:

All dentists need to be able to perform all areas of dentistry, such as fillings, fixed and removable prosthetics, extractions, and root canals.  Depending on your office, you may need to have other skills like placing implants, advanced reconstruction, orthodontics, or complicated esthetic cases.

After you graduate from dental school, your learning is not over.  It has only just begun.  Continuing education classes being only part of a lifetime journey to learn.

Time Mangement:

Most dental schedules have blocks of time every 10 minutes.  All procedures have a certain amount of time allotted, and it's very important to stay on schedule, keep your hygienist on schedule, and allow enough time to clean/set up rooms, set up in the morning, close down in the evening, give your staff breaks, and keep all of your patients happy.

If one procedure runs longer than expected, your schedule can snowball and make for a very stressful day.


Not all offices are run the same, but because dental offices are businesses, while it may not specifically say in a dentist job description, as a dentist your aim is to become as efficient as possible.  When you are in dental school you are often able to schedule 3 hours to do a single filling.  In the real world, you may do 3-4 fillings in an hour. 

Some dentists have niche practices, and focus on certain areas like full mouth reconstruction, or big esthetic cases, in which case they may not see too many patients in a given day.  But they still need to be efficient.  For example, if you are doing say 14 crowns on someone, you can't keep the patient in the chair for 8 hours.  Aside from the fact that you would need to reanesthetize or numb the patient over and over again, the patient can't sit there for 8 hours with his mouth open.  

About 2-3 hours is about the maximum appointment time that is reasonable, unless the patient is aware that s/he will be there longer for an involved procedure.


As described in the previous example, most offices will have a hygienist in one room cleaning and the dentist in one or more other rooms doing procedures.  The dentist will often need to leave the procedure room to go do an exam on the patient getting a cleaning.  Or if emergencies come in, or quick procedures such as delivering crowns, they are often double booked with the main procedure.

For example, you may have 1 hour to do 3 fillings on a patient, but also have to get up to do an exam on the hygiene patient, and deliver a crown on a different patient.  As noted before, all offices are run differently, but this would be a very reasonable way to schedule patients.

Calm Under Pressure:

This is very essential.  Dentists often are very busy, doing multiple things at once, and things don't always go as planned.  You might think the extraction is going to take 5 minutes, but when a root tip breaks off and you need to go find it and get it out, your schedule can get behind very quickly.  Compound it with the hygiene exams, and your staff telling you other patients are waiting, and you need to know how to keep your composure.  Which leads to the next trait.

Keep Your Smile On:

When you do that hygiene exam, this patient doesn't know that you're 20 min behind, have 2 patients waiting outside, and still haven't gotten that root tip out next door; nor does this patient care.  S/he wants to know that your attention is 100% focused on the exam, and you need to appear calm, relaxed, and still be able to joke around and treat this patient as if s/he is the only one in the office.  They can sense when you are rushing or not focused, and you risk losing patients if you are unable to put a smile on your face.

Managing Staff:

This should be written in a dentist job description.  Whether you own the office or not, you need to be able to manage your staff.  Are they answering the phone properly?  Scheduling patients how you want? What do they do when you are running behind?  What do they tell the patients?  Are they able to make good temporary crowns, diagnostic radiographs/xrays?  Are your treatment planners presenting treatment properly, charging proper amounts, collecting the right amounts?

Many dentists and dental schools focus almost exclusively on the needed motor skills to become a competent dentist, but if you don't have good staff in place and have them trained properly, they can make your day exponentially harder than it needs to be.


The last item is in a dentist job description is to pay attention to your own health.  Dentists are notorious for having neck, back, and shoulder problems.  People think we have it easy because we are "sitting down" all day.  Which is true, but we are usually working upside down and backwards on a tooth, looking into a tiny mirror, on a patients who "can't go back all the way", or who can barely open their mouths.

You should try to stay in shape, eat right, get enough sleep.  It sounds intuitive, but if your neck starts to hurt, and you compensate and sit differently, before you know it your back hurts, and then you are unable to work for a month.  Or you're going to the massage therapist, chiropractor, or physical therapist all in the hopes that you can keep working.  Develop good posture and stay in shape early in you career, and it will pay off in the long run.

When you apply to a job, there will be some items written in a dentist job description, but regardless of what is written, there is much more to being a dentist than meets the eye.

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Read about average dental school debt.

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