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How to Become a Dentist in Florida

As the American population ages, the public’s awareness of the importance of oral health care has risen dramatically, making the occupation a stable career choice. Dentists work with a team of hygienists and assistants to provide dental care to patients from all walks of life. A dentist must be detail-oriented, patient-centered passionate about continued learning.

It can take seven or eight years to complete your schooling and a significant financial commitment. Still,  dentistry provides a long, rewarding career for those who enjoy working closely with patients and caring for people. Dentists who desire to specialize in advanced topics including orthodontics, periodontics and aesthetic dentistry will need to complete an additional two to three years of graduate school.

Florida State Requirements

The road to becoming a dentist begins with a solid education. Students should complete their high school education focusing on the sciences, including chemistry and biology. Once they have completed high school they need to complete a three to four-year bachelor’s degree. A degree in the sciences is a prerequisite.

The next step is to complete four years at a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association on Dental Accreditation, which is the final step in formal education and should assist in preparation for completing the required examinations to become a licensed dentist.

In the state of Arizona, students must sit and pass the following examinations to practice legally,

  • Dental National Board Examination
  • Florida Laws and Rules Examination
  • ADEX National Board Examination

Florida does not permit licensure by credential or endorsement.

State Boards

Licenses must be renewed biennially by February 28 of each year. Renewal costs $305 plus $200 per each of the following, dispensing fee, general anesthesia fee, moderate sedation fee and pediatric sedation fee. The Florida Board of Dentistry provides a complete list of requirements.

Florida Dental Schools

Nova Southeastern University – College of Dental Medicine

The school is a private research university located in the city of Fort Lauderdale on Florida’s southeastern coast. Students may choose to study at either the Fort Lauderdale or Davie location.

The University offers students several options to pursue their degree, direct enrollment into the dental school, a joint pre-dental and dental doctoral program or a research and academia-focused Master of Science at the graduate level.

Doctor of Dental Medicine

NSU’s College of Dental Medicine offers students a curriculum concentrating on four main themes, Patient Care Foundations, Clinical Practice of Dentistry, Public Health and Primary Care, and Human Biology and Disease. The four-year program is made of two sections. The first two years focus on the fundamentals of dentistry, while the last two years see students participating in rotations and advanced study. High-tech simulators introduce students to practical work in a safe environment, while on and off-campus clinic work teaches students to care for underserved and venerable citizens. 

Doctor of Medical Dentistry – Dual Admission

NSU offers a one-stop program, a three plus four or four plus four-year program. This format allows students to complete their bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in one place. Dual admission guarantees the student’s place in the highly competitive College of Dental Medicine. The program includes clinical rotations, research and service learning in the school’s clinics and community outreach programs. Students in the program are still required to apply upon completing the bachelor’s portion of the program.

Master of Science

The Master’s program allows students to pursue a degree resulting in a research or academia-based career post-graduation. Students must be able to prove admittance to a post-doctoral program at the college when applying to the Master’s program. This path takes two to three years to complete. Students may also complete the Master of Science in conjunction with their Doctoral degree. All students must complete a core curriculum that contains elements of advanced biological science, material science and issues related to oral health and disease.

University of Florida

Located in the city of Gainesville, in the Northcentral part of the state, the school is a public land grant research University.

The University offers students who have already obtained their D.M.D or D.D.S degree the opportunity to pursue additional studies at the graduate level.

Master of Science

This program offers endodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, and operative and aesthetic dentistry concentrations. Each topic includes a minimum of 38 hours of relevant coursework and research. Successful completion depends on satisfactory completion of all coursework, meeting all requirements for clinical certification and completing a thesis or research-based project.

Candidates must have completed parts I and II of the American Dental Association’s National Board of Dental Examination. Each program takes roughly 36 months to complete and requirements vary based on the chosen pathway.

Opportunities for Dentists in Florida

Prospective students wanting to work in the state have plenty of opportunities to find work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Florida has the third highest rate of employed dentists. Patients need dentists in both rural and urban areas meaning students have the freedom to find employment in their preferred living environment. The metropolitan areas of Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island make the top ten for the highest concentration of jobs so it may be a good place for a new graduate to start.

The occupation is likely to grow by 13%,  faster than the national average. This jump in growth is not going to slow down anytime soon.

In terms of salary, dentists can expect to make an average of $131,850 per year or about $63.39 per hour. This rate is slightly lower than the national average. Students looking for a higher salary should look to the city of Gainesville, which reports an annual mean wage of $222,690 per year and about $107.06 per hour.

Many dentists choose to open a private practice or join an established office as an associate. Dentists often have the flexibility to dictate their days and hours of work at their own practice, but working under a seasoned dentist’s guidance may help to build a strong working foundation before setting out on their own.

Related Links

Dental assistant programs in Florida

How to become a dental hygienist in Florida