California Employment Development Department   >>   Labor Market Information   >>   More Occupational Guides

Employment Development Department

Labor Market Information

* * * This is NOT a job offer * * *
The purpose of this occupational guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions.
If you are searching for a job, please go to

CalJobs (for jobs in California)     OR      JOBcentral (for jobs nationwide)

More Occupational Guides


California Occupational Guide Number 377
Interest Area 13

DENTISTS diagnose, help prevent and treat various disorders of the teeth 
and gums.  They employ various treatments to preserve and restore the 
natural teeth, remove decayed teeth when necessary and provide artificial 
replacements.  Most Dentists also provide oral prosthetics utilizing 
implants.  Most Dentists are general practitioners who emphasize 
preventative dentistry with their patients.  They examine teeth and other 
tissues of the mouth to evaluate dental health utilizing X-rays, diagnostic 
procedures and instruments.  Dentists perform routine periodic checkups, 
prepare and fill cavities, fit bridges and take impressions for crowns and 
dentures.  They use air turbine and hand instruments, dental appliances and 
surgical implements.  Dentists also administer anesthetics when appropriate.

Many Dentists also run a business and direct a staff of auxiliaries, using 
business management skills.  Most practitioners employ and supervise dental 
assistants dental hygienists and receptionists.

Most dentists open their own practice, but an increasing number have formed 
partnerships or groups.  Many are salaried and work for hospitals, dental 
clinics, prisons or in one of the military services.  Others work as 
full-time or part-time teachers, administrators or Researchers in dental 
schools or Research laboratories.

Eight specialties areas recognized by the American Dental Association.  The 
largest group of specialists are orthodontists with the next largest group, 
oral surgeons.  The remainder specialize in pedodontics (dentistry for 
children); periodontics (treating the gums); prosthodontics (making teeth or 
dentures); endodontics (root canal therapy); public health dentistry; and 
oral pathology (diseases of the mouth).


Dental offices have two or more fully equipped treatment rooms.  Although 
Dentists are seated while working, they still may develop lower back 
problems.  Job stress is common as evidenced by the increasing number who 
stop practicing due to "burn-out" and incidence of poor general health.  
Other hazards such as exposure to infectious diseases are greatly reduced by 
the use of safety equipment and practices.

Dentists generally maintain memberships in the American Dental Association, 
the California Dental Association and local dental societies.


The California Board of Dental Examiners reports 26,000 licensed Dentists in 
the State.  Between 750 and 1,000 pass the licensing exam each year.  Newly 
licensed Dentists must notify the Board when they go to work.  While 
employment figures are not available, the Board estimates that almost l00% 
enter employment, open a practice, or go on to specialty training within a 
few months after passing the exam.  Some go to work in other states.
The following information is from the California Projections of Employment 
published by the Labor Market Information Division.

Estimated number of workers in 1990            12,940
Estimated number of workers in 2005            18,160
Total estimated new jobs 1990 -2005             5,220
Projected Growth Percentage 1990-2005             40%
Estimated openings due to separations by 2005   5,580

(These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.)

The above figures reflect only those Dentists who work for a salary.  More 
than half are self employed and are not counted in employment projections.

Population growth, increased patient awareness and current dental insurance 
programs with coverage for more people will account for most of the growth.

Dental insurance plans may soon switch to "Managed Care Programs" instead of 
the current fee system that bills the carrier a percentage per treatment or 
service for each patient.  Patterned after the Health Maintenance 
Organizations (HMO), Managed Care Programs provide a set amount of money for 
dental care for all members.  The insurance carrier is not billed for each 
treatment or service.  The affect of Managed Care Programs on the employment 
outlook for Dentists is unknown at this time.


A Survey of Dental Practice by the American Dental Association shows that 
the national average annual income for dentists with established private 
practices was $107,220 for general practitioners and more for specialists in 
1992.  Dentists in private practice in California earn somewhat more than 
the national average.  Survey results for l993 will be available soon.

Salaries for dentists employed by the California Department of Corrections 
start at a monthly range $5,622 - $6,189 and move through range levels, 
topping at $7,886 monthly.  Dentists employed by the federal agencies start 
at $37,087 per year, and with experience advance through pay levels to 
$52,587 and up.  The top level is $73,471 annually.  Dental officers in the 
military earn regular pay for their rank plus monthly incentive pay.

Work hours vary widely.  Established dentists mostly work less than a 
40-hour week.  Dentists employed by hospitals and clinics may be on call.  
Government agencies usually have regular weekday, daytime hours.


Dentists practicing in California must be licensed by the State Board of 
Dental Examiners.  The American Dental Association National Board exam is 
required for graduation from an accredited dental school.  It is given in 
two parts and is usually taken in the sophomore and senior years of dental 
school.  Graduates are eligible to take the State licensing exam. 

The three-day State examination also measures practical abilities.  
Candidates perform specified clinical procedures on patients, make 
diagnoses and develop treatment plans as well as perform specified 
laboratory procedures.  Licenses are renewed every two years, and requires 
fifty hours of continuing education. 

Five universities in California have schools of dentistry offering the basic 
Doctor of Dental Surgery degree: the University of California, 
San Francisco; the University of the Pacific, San Francisco; the University 
of California, Los Angeles; the University of Southern California, 
Los Angeles; and the Loma Linda University near San Bernardino.  These 
dentistry programs take either three or four years to complete.  The minimum 
qualification for admission is two or three years of college, but most 
successful applicants have a Bachelor's degree.

Prerequisite courses vary with each college, but may include biology, 
organic and inorganic chemistry, physics, psychology and embryology. 
Applicants must take the American Dental Association Admission Test.

Dental education is expensive; expenditures for equipment, supplies, books 
and tuition can total up to $80,000 or more for four years.  Scholarships, 
loans and loan repayment plans are available, including some federal 
programs requiring several years of service in an officially designated 
"dental shortage area."  Contact dental school financial aid offices or the 
California Student Aid Commission at (916) 445-0880 for details.

There is a growing trend for recent graduates to enter residency programs, 
although they are not required at this time.  Residency programs are offered 
at various universities and hospitals throughout the country.  A limited 
number of residences are available within the military.

Success requires a great deal more than clinical proficiency.  Dentists must 
be good with people, have effective communication skills and inspire 
confidence.  Private practitioners need business management skills. 

The latest Research shows that the special skills that Dentists have with 
their hands are entirely a result of training they receive in dental school, 
exploding the common myth that a high degree of manual aptitude is needed 
for a successful career in dentistry.


Advancement for most dentists takes the form of building a thriving practice 
and gaining community and professional recognition.  Some Dentists take 
advanced training in specialties such as orthodontia.  Dentist who work for 
others may become a partner.  Those employed by government agencies advance 
to higher levels of responsibility and pay.


Job seekers should apply directly to dental clinics, hospitals with dental 
services and to public agencies such as the California Department of 
Corrections or the federal Veteran's Administration.  Professional journals 
and networking with members of dental associations frequently lead to jobs.  
Additionally, the military provides a good opportunity to travel and 
practice dentistry.

Before deciding on a location for a practice, Dentists should evaluate the 
potential of the community to support a practice.  Checking with dental 
societies, dental supply houses, professional practice brokers, planning 
departments and other local organizations can help identify the right 


Contact dental schools in California, review trade magazines about dental 
economics and contact the:

California Department of Consumer Affairs
Board of Dental Examiners
1432 Howe Avenue, Suite 85B
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 263-2300

California Dental Association
1201 K Street Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 443-0505

Dental Hygienist                No. 155
Dental Laboratory Technician    No. 243
Podiatrist                      No. 298
Doctor of Medicine              No. 319
Optometrist                     No. 467


DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev  1)
  Dentist           072.101-010
  Oral Surgeon      072.101-018
  Orthodontist      072.101-022

OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System
  Dentists               321050

Source:  State of California, Employment Development Department,
         Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, 
         (916) 262-2162.
Note:  This is NOT a job opening.  The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions.   If you are searching for a job, go to:

California Occupational Guides

California Employment Development Department   >>   Labor Market Information   >>   More Occupational Guides