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How to Become a Dentist in Missouri

Careers for licensed dentists are growing nationwide. Growth is particularly strong in Missouri and nearby states. If you have an interest in healthcare, but don’t want to go to medical school, consider a dental degree. It takes four years to complete and leads to a rewarding, lucrative career. You’ll need to take prerequisite courses, gain admission to a dental school and get licensed through the Missouri Dental Board.

Missouri Requirements for Dentists

The Missouri Division of Professional Licensing and Dental Board licenses professional dentists in the state. To become a licensed dentist, you must graduate from high school, take prerequisite college courses, and be admitted to and complete an accredited Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree.

In addition to a degree, you must also have passing scores on the required dental board exams, including a clinical portion. You must submit an application to the Dental Board with a $150 fee, transcripts, exam scores, a jurisprudence exam score and certification in basic life support.

Board Exams

An important part of getting licensed as a dentist in Missouri and other states is the completion of board exams. The state dental board accepts passing scores on exams from any of the following organizations:

  • Central Regional Dental Testing Service
  • Commission on Dental Competency Assessments
  • Western Regional Examining Board
  • Southern Regional Testing Agency
  • Council of Interstate Testing Agencies

Missouri Dental Programs

Missouri has a few schools with accredited programs that train dentists by conferring either a D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree. Other schools offer pre-dental programming or advanced degrees to help dentists specialize in certain areas of care.

University of Missouri, Kansas City

UMKC’s School of Dentistry has a few degree options, including the professional D.D.S. degree. Students in the program take courses for a conceptual foundation in dentistry and oral health. They also work in a team-based clinic setting to treat patients and gain practical experience.

To apply to the D.D.S program, you must have completed 90 credits of college coursework in several prerequisite areas. A bachelor’s degree is not required to apply, but you must have 120 credits before enrolling in the program. Missouri residents get priority, but the school also has agreements with residents of Kansas, Arkansas, New Mexico and Hawaii for preferential admission.

UMKC also offers a Certificate in Advanced Education in General Dentistry program. This is a 12-month residency to refine skills and competencies and improve clinical practice. It is considered a bridge that prepares graduates to go from dental school to working as a dentist. Only four people are accepted each year.

Kansas City University, Joplin

KCU’s College of Dental Medicine is located at the university’s Joplin campus. This is a brand new dental college set to open in 2023. KCU decided to open a dental college to meet the growing demand for qualified dentists in Missouri and throughout the region. The new program will include coursework, clinical experiences, and the chance to earn a master’s degree on a dual degree track.

The College of Dental Medicine is accepting applications for its inaugural class. Requirements include 90 credit hours of prerequisite courses with grades of C or higher, proof of volunteer work or employment in a service-related industry, clinical shadowing experience and a DAT score.

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences, Kirksville

ATSU has a long history and is the foundational institution for osteopathic healthcare. Established in 1892, the university has prepared healthcare professionals for over 100 years. ATSU’s Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health has been training professional dentists since 2013.

Following the osteopathic philosophy, the program emphasizes a holistic, whole-person approach to patient care. Students learn critical inquiry, participate in research and evidence-based practice, and learn in a multidisciplinary healthcare setting.

In addition to a D.M.D. degree, students can earn a public health certificate in their second year of study. The certificate curriculum is online and includes ten courses. To earn a dual degree master’s credential, students take 15 additional courses.

Saint Louis University, St. Louis

Saint Louis University’s Center for Advanced Dental Education (CADE) offers advanced training for dentists. Dentists can choose an area of specialty and earn both a master’s degree and a certificate of proficiency in the subject. The program focuses on patient care multidisciplinary study and practice. The specialties available include:

  • Endodontics. The endodontics program takes 24 months to complete and is concerned with the study of the dental pulp and root, including performing root canals.
  • Orthodontics. Orthodontists prevent, diagnose, and treat misalignment in the jaw and teeth. The program at Saint Louis takes 20 months to complete.
  • Pediatric Dentistry. The 24-month pediatric program prepares dentists to work with children and is affiliated with a local children’s hospital.
  • Periodontics. Periodontics is a 36-month program focusing on the prevention and treatment of gum diseases and inflammatory conditions affecting the gums and other tissues around the teeth.

All of the CADE programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Dental Career Opportunities in Missouri

Most states have a demand for licensed dentists, which means there are plenty of opportunities for those who qualify. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), across the country, the number of general dentistry jobs is growing by 8%, and the median salaries are $163,220.

In Missouri, according to Projections Central, growth is even better. From 2020 to 2030, growing in dentistry professions is expected to be nearly 13%. This represents 90 new openings every year for ten years.

Salaries are also competitive in Missouri. The median annual income for dentists is $162,650, and the top 10% of earners in the industry make more than $208,000 per year.

Look for the most job opportunities in the state’s major cities and metropolitan areas: Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield and Columbia. Most dentists work in dental offices and private practices. Many work for other dentists and offices, while some open their own offices and are both dentists and small business owners. You can also find positions at universities, government agencies, hospitals and community clinics.

If you are prepared to do the work to get admitted and to study for four years, a career in dentistry is possible. Dentists get to help people improve their lives daily, and opportunities in Missouri are continuing to grow.

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