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How to Become a Dentist in Michigan

A career as a dentist can be rewarding and lucrative. Working with patients daily, dentists make a big impact on the health and wellness of all people.

Dental schools in Michigan are limited, as in the rest of the country. Admissions are selective and competitive. If you’re interested in a career as a dentist in the state, you must understand all the requirements and prerequisites. You should aim to meet and exceed these standards to gain admission.

State Requirements for Dentistry

To work as a dentist in Michigan, you must be licensed through the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). To earn a license, you must graduate from dental school and submit the application with the following:

  • Complete school transcripts
  • A clear criminal background check
  • Answers to good moral character questions
  • Completed training in identifying human trafficking victims
  • Application for a controlled substance license
  • Proof of English language proficiency if the dental program was not conducted in English
  • Implicit bias training verification

Board Exams

In addition to the above requirements, license applicants must arrange for National Board and other required exam scores to be sent directly to LARA from the examination organizations. Applicants in Michigan must complete and pass the American Board of Dental Examiners written and clinical exam offered by one of the following:

  • Commission on Dental Competency Assessments
  • Council of Interstate Testing Agencies
  • Western Regional Examining Board

A qualifying exam must include a computer-based section on diagnostic skills, an endodontic portion, a fixed prosthodontic portion, and clinical portions on live patients or manikins of periodontics, scaling and restorative care.

Michigan Dental Programs

Michigan schools offer plenty of opportunities for pre-dental studies, but there are just two approved dental schools with Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) programs.

Alpena Community College, Alpena

ACC’s pre-dental program confers an Associate in Science Degree on graduates. It is designed for students who want to transfer to a four-year institution to complete a pre-dental degree before applying to dental school. Students can save tuition costs by completing their first two years of courses at a community college like ACC.

The school allows for some alterations to the course of study to meet the needs and goals of each student. Generally, the program includes English, math, social science and humanities general education courses. These are followed by botany, general chemistry, zoology, organic and inorganic chemistry, statistics and physics.

Madonna University, Livonia

Madonna in Livonia also offers a two-year pre-dental program. It is possible to be admitted to a D.D.S. program with only two years of appropriate courses, and those earned from a university are more likely to be accepted by a dental school.

Students can use this program to go straight to a dental school or to transfer to a four-year program to earn a bachelor’s degree. Madonna offers small class sizes, one-on-one contact with instructors, networking opportunities and modern science labs.

University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit

UDM has one of just two D.D.S. programs in Michigan. It is a four-year program that begins each year at the end of August and finishes in late July. The program has a specific sequence of courses students must complete in that time and culminate in clinical experience.

To be admitted to the program, applicants must complete prerequisite courses with a C grade or higher. The school recommends that applicants have grades of B or higher due to competitive admissions. Prerequisites include chemistry, biology, physics, English, biochemistry, and microbiology. Additional admissions requirements include a passing score on the Dental Admission Test (DAT) and 60 hours of job shadowing with a licensed dentist.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

The second dental school in the state is the University of Michigan. The D.D.S. program is a full-time, four-year course of study. Prerequisite courses include biochemistry, microbiology, psychology, sociology, English, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics.

Applicants must have at least 90 semester hours of college coursework, but the school strongly recommends having a four-year degree before applying. Applicants must also submit letters of recommendation, DAT scores, and verification of at least 100 hours of dental shadowing.

U of M also offers two additional graduate programs:

  • The Pediatric Dentistry Graduate Program is a master’s degree designed for licensed dentists who want to specialize in pediatric care.
  • The Graduate Restorative Dentistry Program is also a master’s degree. It prepares dentists to provide aesthetic dental restorations and rehabilitate implants, crowns and bridges.

Opportunities for Dentists in Michigan

Dentistry is a growing career, as are all areas of healthcare. With an aging population and greater interest in health and wellness, the demand for skilled and qualified healthcare professionals is great. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that dentistry careers are growing by 8% and that dentists in the U.S. earn a median annual salary of $163,220 per year.

Dentists can find work nearly anywhere, from rural areas to big cities. Wherever people live, dental care is needed. Most dentists work in dental offices, but some are self-employed or work for government agencies. There are more than 120,000 general dentists working in the U.S. and thousands of specialists.

To find work as a dentist in Michigan should not be difficult. The larger population centers of Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Ann Arbor have the most opportunities.

In addition to traditional positions in dental offices and medical centers, licensed dentists can find work at Universities. Dental schools hire dentists to work as instructors and supervise clinical work with students. Another interesting career opportunity is in research. Dentists are needed to work in various clinical research settings, both in private industry and government agencies.

If you live in Michigan and dream of being a dentist, the path involves several years of school followed by exams and licensing. It might seem daunting, but if you take the process one step at a time, becoming a dentist in Michigan is a realistic goal. Know the requirements and make sure you can fulfill them before getting started.

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