How to Become a Dentist in Utah
Individuals looking to begin a career in dentistry have a few different career options in Utah. There are multiple dentistry programs at various colleges and universities for dental hygienists and dental assistants, with only one main program at a major university to become a dentist, or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS).
The University of Utah offers its School of Dentistry Student Handbook as a reference tool for prospective students. This guide contains information about their program and state regulations for becoming a dentist in Utah.
State Requirements For Dentistry Licensure In Utah
According to the American Dental Association, the initial requirements to become a licensed dentist include taking one of the following examinations:
- Western Regional Examining Board (WREB)
- The Commission on Dental Competency Assessments (CDCA)
- Southern Regional Testing Agency (SRTA)
- Central Regional Dental Testing Services (CRDTS)
- Council of Interstate Testing Agencies (CITA)
The Utah State Legislature also outlines the following general requirements for a dental license in the Utah Code:
- The person applying must submit a form and pay the fee for the application.
- They must then secure the proper documentation to show they completed an education program from a higher education school with accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association.
- Next, they have to pass the National Board of Dental Examinations, and this test has to be given by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations of the American Dental Association.
- Following passing the board, the individual must also pass other tests such as regional ones or those related to ethics.
- They need to have the ability to speak, read, understand, and write in English.
The next section of the Utah Code on getting a dental license outlines the exact requirements for the examinations that potential dentists have to pass. They require passing scores in either the WERB, CDCA, CRDTS or CITA. It’s important to note that the code still describes the NERB, also known as the CDCA. The names are interchangeable.
While some states allow “alternate pathways to licensure” when initially becoming a licensed dentist, Utah is not one of them. They only accept a “single encounter procedure-based patient examination.”
Due to changes resulting from COVID-19 restrictions, the Utah Department of Commerce: Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing allows examinations on specialized makinins instead of actual patients. However, they do prefer patient exams.
State Boards For Dentistry In Utah
Along with the initial requirements outlined in the Utah Code and given out by the Utah Department of Commerce, dentists and hygienists need to keep their licenses up to date and adhere to the continuing education laws for the state.
For continuing education units (CEUs), individuals must get 30 hours every two years, and these CEUs have to meet a few requirements:
- Have a relevant connection to the licensee’s dental practice and job
- Be given and taught by people who are qualified
- Attendance has to be verified
Continuing education credits do not count toward the required hours necessary to re-certify.
The Utah Dental Association notes multiple ways to get these credits, including formal classes, seminars, lectures, conferences or training sessions. These have to be done in sessions of at least 50 minutes and held by reputable sources such as “universities, colleges, organizations representing licensed professions, government agencies, peer study clubs, ADA, ADHA, or their subgroups.”
University of Utah’s School of Dentistry Program
The University of Utah, often known as The U, has a campus in Salt Lake City. Their School of Dentistry has a graduate option and an advanced residency program.
Its mission is to mix research and education in a classroom setting with hands-on clinical work with patients. Students accepted into this graduate program can use the many resources at the University of Utah Health system, an academic healthcare system with various hospitals and patient clinics.
Their graduate program is a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and is part of their U of U Health system. When considering candidates, they promise to look at a variety of factors, including:
- The applicant’s desire to adhere to the values of the school of dentistry which include “compassion, trustworthiness, excellence, innovation, and equality”
- The student’s focus on treating people and patients with equal care and inclusion
- The individual’s desire to make a difference in the world
- Their dedication to dentistry as a profession
Along with its DDS program, The University of Utah also offers a General Practice Residency(GPR). It is a one-year program that offers advanced education in general dentistry. Students who apply for and get accepted to this residency often serve in clinics throughout Utah and surrounding states.
Their program also focuses on helping patients across the state of Utah access dental care. They have a Mobile Dentistry Clinic that reaches many rural areas across Utah and provides education as well as patient care. Many students participate in this program.
Opportunities In Utah For Dentists
According to the Utah Medical Education Council, Utah has a ratio of 58.6 practicing dentists to every 100,000 residents. That is a somewhat high percentage of dentists given the population, but this fact is not a negative. Dentistry is a respected and in-demand profession, particularly after COVID-19 impacted many healthcare communities. There are also research and faculty career options with the University of Utah and beyond.
The U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the dentistry profession is growing at a rate of 8%, which is on track with the average job growth in the country. The average salary for a dentist is $163,220, with a rate of $78.47 per hour.
Dentists will always be needed in Utah, as people will always need dental work, so pursuing a dentistry degree is a wise career move. While it takes hard work and devotion, dentistry appears to be a worthwhile career choice.