It’s important for anyone to find the right career path. This usually means finding a job that offers excellent salary potential, good job growth, personal and professional rewards, and that makes you happy. The field of public health offers all of those things, and in specific one of the best career paths is that of a public health dentist.
A public health dentist can help a huge number of people and earn excellent wages in the process, but it’s not a job for everyone. The education requirements and personal challenges that it holds can mean that it’s not right for some. If you think that becoming a public health dentist is right for you, keep reading to learn more about this great job opportunity.
What Is a Public Health Dentist?
A public health dentist is a dental professional who works in the public sector, usually focusing their skills and expertise on population based dentistry instead of on treating an individual patient one at a time. The ultimate focus of a public health dentist is on improving the oral health of a group of people, usually within a community or state. By increasing the overall dental health levels in the population, a public health dentist can reduce the number of untreated tooth issues through a combination of treatment, education, and policy changes.
A public health dentist will handle a variety of tasks, and rarely treat patients on a one on one basis. Instead, they handle tasks like the following.
- Examine current oral health trends and needs within a community to determine what areas need improvement.
- Develop new oral health policies that can improve dental health
- Implement those policies and monitor them to ensure they have the right results
- Develop and provide programs and services that improve oral health issues. This could be free or reduced cost dental clinics, educational programs, or any number of other things.
As would be expected, it’s important for one to have a specific skill set and unique characteristics that can help improve their abilities to perform the job. A good education and proper training will be instrumental, and professional experience will help as well, but the following traits can have a big impact on success as a public health dentist as well.
- Good Analytical Skills – A key part of the job is gathering data and performing studies in order to determine which aspects of public dental health are in need of improvement, and how to improve them. As such, strong analytical skills are a must.
- Excellent Communication – Discussing policies with lawmakers or others in the public health field is one major part of the job, as is explaining dental health initiatives to the public. Written and spoken communication skills are a must for the public health dentist.
- Attention to Detail – Small things can have a big impact on the overall dental health of the public, and as such it’s important that a public health dentist has good attention to detail.
Nature of the Work
The job of a public health dentist focuses more on office work than it does on treatment or work in a dental clinic. The majority of the job will involve gathering data and information and using it to spot trends or problem areas in the field of public health. The next step will be developing programs and policy ideas that can be used to improve the public health. In short, it’s a job that involves a good bit of clerical office work.
Public health dentists usually find employment in the government sector, working for government funding health clinics or for specific branches of the government.
Education and Training
Becoming a public health dentist requires completion of a master’s or doctorate degree program in dental public health. In order to enroll in these programs, students must hold a degree and licensure in dentistry. In some instances, programs may require a few years of experience as a dentist prior to enrollment. The training focuses on program planning, administration, statistics, oral epidemiology, and more.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dentist are among the highest paid professionals in the country earning about $149,310 per year. This is related to dental practitioners, however, and the BLS has no data on public health dentists specifically, and the pay will vary depending on a number of factors.