How to Become a Dentist in Texas

Dentistry is a coveted career. Dental care is something that is needed throughout one’s life. A career in dentistry is secure and well-paying, and you get to help others improve their oral health and appearance.

If you think you might want to work as a dentist in Texas, learn what is required to begin this career. You’ll need an undergraduate and graduate degree. However, dental school is still less of a time commitment than medical school. Admissions to dental schools are very competitive.

Texas Requirements for Dentists

The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners licenses professional dentists. To apply for a license, you must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be a graduate and hold a D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited school
  • Take and pass the Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE)
  • Take and pass a State Board-approved regional clinical examination
  • Pass a fingerprint background check
  • Have current BLS CPR certification
  • Take a course in human trafficking prevention
  • Pay the $360 license by examination fee

An additional permit is required to administer anesthesia.

Board Exams

When applying for a dental license in any state, you must include passing scores on approved Board exams. This includes the INBDE and regional exams. The INBDE was formerly known as the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) and consisted of two parts: a written exam and a practical exam. The integrated exam combines both elements into one written exam. The exam’s focus is the same, but the questions are more problem-solving-related than recalling information.

The following Regional Board exams are accepted in Texas:

Central Regional Dental Testing Service

Commission on Dental Competency Assessments

Council of Interstate Testing Agencies

Southern Regional Dental Testing Agency

Western Regional Examining Board

Texas Dental Schools and Programs

Two schools in Texas offer Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) degrees and graduate certificates that can be added to the D.D.S. degree. These schools are Texas A & M University and the University of Texas (UT) Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Texas A & M University

The D.D.S. degree program at Texas A & M University is a four-year program. Interested applicants must take the Dental Admissions Test (D.A.T.), complete at least 90 semester hours, and preferably hold a Bachelor’s degree. The 90 credit hours should include 6 English hours, 3 Math hours, 8 General Chemistry hours, 8 Organic Chemistry hours, 8 Physics hours, 3 Biochemistry hours and a minimum of 18 Biology hours, including laboratory hours. Additional recommended courses include Cellular Biology, Histology, Immunology and Neuroscience. Students must maintain a “C” or higher grade average in each required class.

The Admissions Committee will interview applicants. Students with the highest G.P.A.s and Texas residents are given preference.

In addition to the D.D.S. degree, Texas A & M offers the following specialization certificates:

Dental Public Health

Dental Public Health teaches students how to promote dental health in their community and prevent and control dental disease. This is a 12-month certificate program that is taken on campus. Clinical assignments are done off campus at nearby dental clinics and hospitals. Three spots are available for this program each year. Upon completion, graduates will receive a Certificate in Dental Public Health.


Endodontics is the study of dental pulp and tissue and diagnosing and preventing dental pulp and tissue diseases. This 27-month program is taught at the school of dentistry with clinical assignments at local clinics and hospitals.

Pediatric Dentistry

Pediatric Dentistry focuses on the oral care and disease prevention of infants, children, and those with special needs. In-person classes are taught at the school of dentistry, with clinical rotations done in dental clinics and local hospitals. The Pediatric Dentistry program lasts two years and requires teaching responsibilities and a research project. Eleven students are accepted into the program annually. Graduates receive a Certificate in Pediatric Dentistry.

UT Health San Antonio

The D.D.S. degree at U.T. Health San Antonio is a four-year program that combines classroom instruction with clinical practice and is required for the practice of general dentistry. Prerequisites for this program include taking the D.A.T. and maintaining a “C” or better average in at least 90 credit hours from an accredited college. Admission is competitive, with only 100 students admitted per class.

Additionally, UT Health San Antonio offers the following options for dental students.

Dual Degree Program: D.D.S. and Ph.D.

U.T. Health San Antonio is one of 17 universities in the country that offers this program. Students must first be accepted into the D.D.S. program. The focus of this program is research in craniofacial and dental areas. The combined program last seven years with the first three years focusing on the Ph.D. program, research and dissertation, and the remaining time spent in dental training.

International Dentist Education Program (IDEP)

The IDEP gives students who have earned a dental degree at a foreign school the opportunity to earn a D.D.S. and practice dentistry in the U.S.

This hybrid program combines online instruction with hands-on learning. The program takes approximately two years to complete.

Advanced Education in General Dentistry

This one-year program gives students a broader experience of clinical practice in dentistry and general residency. Seven students are accepted annually into the program. Of the seven, one student is admitted to complete a second-year residency and will receive a certificate in general dentistry.

Job Opportunities for Dentists in Texas

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (B.L.S.) reports that job openings for dentists are increasing at an 8 % rate nationally. Also, according to the B.L.S., dentists across the U.S. earn an annual average of $163,220. Texas dentists make an average of $150,060 per year. This is slightly lower than the national average but still a decent wage.

However, the state of Texas ranks second for dentists’ employment. Furthermore, the expected growth rate for dentists in Texas is 26.4 % by 2030, with 570 job openings becoming available annually.

With the proper training and licensing, finding work as a dentist in Texas shouldn’t be a challenge. Dentists are needed throughout the state, but the most opportunities can be found in larger cities like Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Sugar Land and The Woodlands.

Most dentists work in dental or physician offices, private practices, clinics, and hospitals. Some may also find work at government agencies, public health clinics and universities. Other employment ideas for licensed dentists include education, research, and dental insurance.

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