How to Become a Dentist in Virginia
Dentistry is a highly reputable profession in which many upstanding individuals support the public’s health through their efforts. Dentists get paid well for their actions, and rightfully so. Unlike ancient times, modern dentistry has many restrictions and requires rigorous education and due diligence.
The field is also quite diverse, providing the opportunity for many specializations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed dental workers made between $80,000 and $300,000 as of May 2021.
Despite the impressive breadth of incomes, many people choose not to become dentists because it is a demanding job that requires many resources and much time before beginning. All U.S. states have strict laws and regulations that make obtaining a dental license difficult.
Some of the stipulations include tests and formal education. On top of this, university dental program acceptance rates are roughly 50% nationwide. This rate stems from the heavy requirements schools place on incoming students, such as pre-course credits and GPA requirements.
Virginia Dentistry Requirements
Dentistry is state regulated rather than federally regulated. As such, each state has its own rules for licensure and legal practice. The Virginia Department of Health Professions Board of Dentistry (DHP) is the governing board for dentistry in Virginia and sets forth the laws.
The DHP requires dental practitioners to hold a current, valid license. One must also submit an application with all the complimentary documents and evidence to obtain a dental license. Some of the licensure requirements include but are not limited to:
- Proof of good moral character
- Graduation from an American Dental Association (ADA) accredited university or dental program
- Proof of passing the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations
- Passage of accepted clinical examinations
- Appropriate payment for the application fee
- Submission of a written application
Because the application must be handwritten, digital and online submissions are not accepted. All applications and subsequent documents must be mailed directly to the appropriate address. Contact the DHP or a local official for more information and a complete list of required documents and examinations.
Virginia State Board Examinations
Each state generally requires the completion of at least two examinations as part of their application process. One is the National Board Examination, a single unified examination necessary in all states. The other one is a clinical examination provided by a third-party organization.
These tests are not made equal, and each state chooses the ones to approve. As of 2022, Virginia accepts the following:
- The Commission on Dental Competency Assessments (CDCA)
- Council of Interstate Testing Agencies (CITA)
- Central Regional Dental Testing Service (CRDTS)
- Southern Regional Testing Agency (SRTA)
- Western Regional Examining Board (WREB)
Only one of these tests is required for the application. However, you must submit scores for all tests taken if you take more than one. The list of approved examinations may soon change as the rules are ever-changing. Check the DHP website regularly for updates.
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry
The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry (VCU) is the only dental school in the state. Additionally, it is one of the country’s top dental schools. Their dental programs have an acceptance rate of only 4.4%, quickly making them one of the most competitive dental programs in the country.
The health campus is located in historic Richmond and serves the general public to improve their oral health. The students here enjoy the benefits of advanced technology during their studies.
Virginia Commonwealth University Doctor of Dental Surgery
VCU offers students a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) for their general dentistry program. Their program is a four-year program that runs from July to June each year. It is rigorous and covers three major areas: biomedical, clinical and behavioral.
The biomedical element of the degree tends to be heavier in the first few years as part of classroom knowledge, with behavioral elements sprinkled throughout.
The second and third years of the degree begin leaning more into the clinical education side. The clinical practices are vital in giving students real experience in the field alongside classmates and dental professionals.
A good portion of the behavioral sciences is learned during the clinical trials as part of the environment and necessary procedures.
Advanced education programs
The advanced education programs at VCU are post-graduate residency programs that give students the equivalency of full-time status. The programs range from advanced general dentistry to periodontics. Depending on the program, they can vary from one year to another four years of school.
Students who complete any of the advanced education programs will receive a Master of Science in Dentistry. These programs are progressive, and recent graduates and long-time dental professionals can apply for the programs and specialize in specific fields. Before applying, they must already have a D.D.S., Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.), or equivalent experience and education.
Career Options Post-Graduation
After graduating from VCU, graduates will have all the tools necessary to obtain their dental license from the state. With their license, they can begin working in dental offices in Virginia.
Many students will settle for general dentistry as it pays an exceptional amount. According to the BLS, general dentists made an annual average of $162,000 as of May 2021. These are dentists working in public and private practices.
Of course, some students and professionals will choose to continue their education with advanced education programs. These programs significantly boost annual income up to an average of roughly $320,000.
These specialists are in higher demand than general dentists because they have access to both general dental care and their specialized fields as career options.
Long-time professionals and specialists also have a third career route in dentistry. A professorship is an excellent way to continue your dental practice and help the public while giving back to the dental community. You can train the future generations and communicate with peers with ease.
Education also allows those who love research to utilize a university’s vast wealth and network to pursue new technology and advanced dental practices. Dental professors may also receive grants and notable recognition for their achievements.
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