Not everybody is born with the million dollar smile. In fact, it's estimated by the American Association of Endodontics that over 15-million people in the United States have a dental root canal procedure performed annually. Whether this is to repair damage to the pulp of the teeth, or to pave the way for orthodontic treatments to enhance smiles, planning a visit to a dental specialist is becoming more common these days. And the specialists, who focus on the surrounding tissues and interior make-up of our teeth, are known as Endodontists.
What is an Endodontist?
An endodontist is a dental specialist whose job it is to examine, diagnose and provide dental treatment to medical conditions that impact the interior and surrounding areas of teeth in the human body. These highly trained dental experts focus on the monitoring and preventing of dental diseases that impact the nerves, roots, pulp, blood vessels and other interior parts of the tooth. However, they also examine gums and all other related tissues that impact the overall performance of the teeth.
Some of the treatments they provide include:
Endodontists are also quickly playing a major part in the overall treatment of chronic medical diseases such as Diabetes. According to Dr. Catrise Austin, DDS, the author of Winning the Fight Against Diabetes: The Secrets to Living Longer and Healthier With A Smile, a major breakthrough in the overall treatment of Type II Diabetes is having endodontists examine gums in diabetic patients — as there have been several recent links between oral health and the treatment of diabetes.
In order to become an endodontist, a qualified candidate must first complete a bachelor's degree, followed by finishing dental school, and finally completing endodontic specialty training through residency, before sitting before the Board of the American Association of Endodontists to become board certified. Once they have become board certified Endodontists’, there are several career path options to explore. Some of these include working at a private dental practice, as a member of a group dental practice, working at dental hospitals and clinics, or in academia as instructors.
Understanding the Educational Path to Becoming an Endodontist
In order to become a licensed endodontist, a candidate must pass board certification. This path begins by receiving a bachelor's degree, then progresses to dental school and becoming a licensed Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). After receiving this degree designation, the future endodontist will spend two years in residency training, learning how to specialize in endodontic procedures.
The Educational Steps for Becoming an Endodontist
First - Receive a Bachelor Degree
The first step in the educational track is to earn a bachelor degree from an accredited college or university. During this time, a candidate will focus on general studies, such as biological sciences, including biology, physiology, chemistry, physics and human anatomy. Since most dentists work directly with patients, or eventually open their own private practices, it's suggested by many experts to also focus on business education, communications and general finance.
The bachelor degree is also the time where the candidate should focus their efforts on building a resume that will help them gain entrance to dental college. Some of the ways to accomplish this includes, volunteering at local dental offices or clinics, in university dental research projects or other dental related opportunities. It's also a good idea for the candidate to explore additional educational opportunities that are related to the dental industry, such as learning more about heart disease and diabetes — which are quickly evolving into the practice of dentistry.
Second – Graduate from Dental School
Once a candidate has received their bachelor degree, the next step in the educational process is to become a DDS. This is completed at dental school. Typically, dental school programs begin with discovery of dental sciences and biomedical studies that cover a wide-range of topics, from cell development to overall human dental anatomy. First and second year dental students will focus on learning dental sciences and procedures in a laboratory setting. Some of the initial treatments they will learn in a laboratory setting include, basic teeth cleaning, imaging, and even some endodontic / orthodontic procedures.
Third and fourth year students then begin to explore clinical exercises in groups where they learn how to diagnose and treat patients under the direct supervision of licensed dentists. It's at this time, where the dental student will put into live practice what they learned during the first two years. After they have expertly completed the dental school examinations, they will become a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry).
Third – Become Licensed DDS / DMD
After receiving the DDS or DMD designation, the next step is to become licensed to practice dental medicine. This is completed by passing a written and clinical exam referred to as the National Board Dental Examinations, as administered through the American Dental Association. There are two parts to this exam:
Part 1 – The first part of the ADA's dental examination is a written examination that will test the future dentist general knowledge of oral health.
Part 2 – The second part of this exam is a clinical examination that can only be taken once the candidate has successfully passed part one.
After passing Parts 1 and 2, dentists will then need to become licensed and certified in the state or states they wish to practice. Each US State has individual requirements to become licensed and often requires dentists to continue their education in order to maintain their licensing through attending educational classes or seminars.
Fourth – Complete Endodontic Residency
The endodontic residency program is specifically designed to provide hands-on and clinical specialty training to future endodontists. It is overseen and administered by board certified endodontists who have met the eligibility requirements as set forth by the American Association of Endodontists. Students in the residency program are actively introduced to several facets of modern endodontic treatment, including:
The residency program is a two-year process that is completed after the resident has prepared an independent research project and presented it during the Annual Session of the American Association of Endodontists, and submitted it for publication in a medical journal. After the residency training, the candidate will sit and complete board certification. After passing this examination, the candidate is officially a board-certified endodontist.
Understanding the Career Path of an Endodontist
In order to examine the career path of becoming an endodontist, its first important to understand the role that they play in the overall dental health plan. Here are some facts about this profession as reported by the American Association of Endodontists:
These statistics indicate how well received endodontists are within the dental community. Like most medical professionals, the career path for becoming an endodontist is rather simple to follow. The most popular career option for an endodontist is to begin their career as a specialist within a complete dental practice. Eventually, after gathering experience in an office setting, an endodontist may choose to open his or her own specialty practice — offering endodontic treatments through referrals of a network of orthodontists and standard dentist partners.
Other career options include, becoming teachers at dental colleges or universities.
Critical Skills Needed
For people that have a genuine desire to help improve the oral health of patients, a career as an endodontist is a smart choice. There are a few important skills that any future endodontist should develop, including:
It's also good for endodontists to possess strong communication skills, as a major concern of patients is receiving advanced dental work. Besides the use of sedatives, the use of relaxing and reassuring tone in communication is a strong way to develop strong patient relationships.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the job prospects for endodontists should increase by a rate of fifteen-percent each year until 2018. The growing population and more insurance coverage that takes care of endodontic treatments are major factors for the growth rate. However, as discussed earlier — the expanding role of endodontists in the overall treatment of diabetes and heart disease is also cause for job growth.
Average Salary of an Endodontist
According to Payscale.com, the average salary for an experienced endodontist ranges between $98,000 to nearly $400,000 for those who own their practice. The median salary is estimated at $200,000 annually. There are several factors that impact salary, including:
Experience is primarily the largest single factor in determining salary. In the same Payscale.com report, it was shown that an endodontist with one to four years of experience can earn between $119,000 to $196,000 annually; whereas experienced endodontists with 5+ years can earn as much as $275,000.
The career and educational path to become an endodontist is one that requires time, patience, and a strong willingness to improve the overall oral health of patients. These dental specialists are rapidly becoming sought after in many communities.