Beginning Your Career as a Dental Professional

The future looks bright for the profession of dentistry. New information about the relationship of oral health to overall health makes dentistry an important health profession for the future. And a substantial number of dentists are projected to retire in the next twenty years, and new dental professionals will be needed in private practice, as teachers and researchers, and in public health dentistry.


As a dentist, or one of the valued members of the dental team: dental hygienist, dental assistant or dental laboratory technician, dentistry can offer you a career with flexibility, good earning potential, and a chance to make a difference in people's lives. If you’re a student that wants to begin your dentistry career in Arizona, connect with us, the Arizona Dental Association, we’ll be happy to send you a career packet, jammed with helpful tips and advice from the American Dental Association (ADA).

The best way to learn more about a career in dentistry is to talk to your dentist. She or he should be able to answer most of your questions about the profession, education, and lifestyle. You may even ask if she or he will mind you observing or “shadowing” them when they aren’t quite as busy.

Dentist: Doctors of Oral Health

Dentists help people maintain and improve their oral health, quality of life and appearance. Dentists receive a great deal of personal satisfaction by providing an essential community health service, by educating future dentists and by doing valuable research. Dentists treat everyone—the healthy, the ill, the young, the elderly, the disadvantaged and those with special needs.

  • Balanced Lifestyle
  • Self-Employment
  • Earning Potential/Demand
  • Status and Prestige
  • Creativity
  • Variety

Arizona Dental Schools

Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, Mesa
(480) 219-6000
Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) and Certificate of Public Health

Midwestern University, Phoenix
(623) 572-3800
Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD)

Pre-Dental Programs:

Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe
(480) 965-9011

University of Arizona (U of A), Tucson

(520) 626-7241

Northern Arizona University (NAU), Flagstaff
Pre-Dental, Department of Biology and Chemistry
(928) 523-5122

Laboratory Technician

Since each dental patient's specific needs are different, the duties of a dental laboratory technician are comprehensive and varied. Although dental technicians seldom work directly with patients, except under the direction of a licensed dentist, they are valuable members of the dental care team. They work directly with dentists by following detailed written instructions and using impressions (molds) of the patient’s teeth or oral soft tissues to create:

  • Full dentures for patients who are missing all of their teeth;
  • Removable partial dentures or fixed bridges for patients who are missing only one or a few teeth;
  • Crowns, which are caps for teeth that are designed to restore their original size and shape;
  • Veneers, that enhance the esthetics and function of the patient; and
  • Orthodontic appliances and splints to help straighten and protect teeth.

Dental technicians work with a variety of materials in replacing damaged or missing tooth structure. These include waxes, plastics, precious and non-precious alloys, stainless steel, a variety of porcelains and composites or polymer glass combinations.

Pima Community College, Tucson

(520) 206-4500

Dental Hygienist

A career as a dental hygienist offers a wide range of challenges. In the dental office, the dentist and the dental hygienist work together to meet the oral health needs of patients. Since each state has its own specific regulations regarding their responsibilities, the range of services performed by hygienists varies from state to state. Some of the services provided by dental hygienists may include:

  • Patient screening procedures; such as assessment of oral health conditions review of the health history, oral cancer screening, head and neck inspection, dental charting and taking blood pressure and pulse;
  • Taking and developing dental radiographs (x-rays);
  • Removing calculus and plaque (hard and soft deposits) from all surfaces of the teeth;
  • Applying preventive materials to the teeth (e.g. sealants and fluorides);
  • Teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies to maintain oral health; (e.g., toothbrushing, flossing and nutritional counseling);
  • Counseling patients regarding good nutrition and its impact on oral health;
  • Making impressions of patients' teeth for study casts (models of teeth used by dentists to evaluate patient treatment needs); and
  • Performing documentation and office management activities.

Mesa Community College, Mesa
(480) 461-7000

Mohave County Community College, Bullhead City
(928) 757-4331

Northern Arizona University (NAU), Flagstaff
(928) 523-9011

Phoenix College Dental School, Phoenix
(602) 285-7500

Pima Community College, Tucson
(520) 206-4500

Rio Salado Community College, Phoenix
(480) 517-8000

Dental Assistant

The duties of a dental assistant are among the most comprehensive and varied in the dental office. The dental assistant performs many tasks requiring both interpersonal and technical skills. Although state regulations vary, some specific tasks dental assistants may perform include:

  • Assisting the dentist during a variety of treatment procedures;
  • Taking and developing dental radiographs (x-rays);
  • Asking about the patient’s medical history and taking blood pressure and pulse;
  • Serving as an infection control officer, developing infection control protocol and preparing and sterilizing instruments and equipment;
  • Helping patients feel comfortable before, during and after dental treatment;
  • Providing patients with instructions for oral care following surgery or other dental treatment procedures, such as the placement of a restoration (filling);
  • Teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies to maintain oral health; (e.g., toothbrushing, flossing and nutritional counseling);
  • Performing office management tasks that often require the use of a personal computer;
  • Communicating with patients and suppliers (e.g., scheduling appointments, answering the telephone, billing and ordering supplies); and
  • Assisting with and helping to provide direct patient care in all dental specialties, including orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and oral surgery.

Mesa Community College, Mesa
(480) 461-7000

Phoenix College Dental School, Phoenix
(602) 285-7500

Pima Community College, Tucson & Phoenix
(520) 206-4500

Rio Salado Community College, Phoenix
(480) 517-8000

Carrington College

X-Ray Certification
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