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How Long Does It Take To Become a Dentist?

So you’re thinking of becoming a dentist and want to know how long it takes to become one. Whether you’re a high school student thinking about your future college plans or considering a career change, it’s important to know the answer to “how long does it take to become a dentist.”

We answer that very question below. Keep reading to learn more.

How Many Years Does It Take To Become a Dentist?

The short answer to how many years to become a dentist is 8 years. This is not including your dental residency.

You’ll need to complete a 4 year bachelor’s degree and then go to dental school for another 4 years. Some dental schools award a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree, while others award a Doctor of Dental Medicine. Each degree typically takes four years to finish.

However, the time it takes you to complete an undergraduate and dental school degree will depend on your outside commitments and schedule. People that work full-time while going to school may need to complete their degrees at a slower pace. You might also want to take a break in between degrees or have to take a leave of absence from school.

Some educational institutions offer accelerated or combined degrees. These programs allow you to complete your bachelor’s and dental degree simultaneously on a six-year timeline. As you can see, the question of how long to become a dentist has some room for different answers.

Other Considerations: Residencies

If you want to specialize in certain areas of dentistry, such as oral medicine or orthodontics, you usually need up to three more years of school. You may need additional certification exams, depending on your state’s licensing requirements.

Once you graduate from dental school, you technically have a degree categorizing you as a dentist, but to obtain specialization and/or pass your board certification, you will need to also complete a residency. Dental residencies can be 1-3 years.

To practice general dentistry, you’ll need to complete and pass a national board examination and a clinical examination. Many dental schools include this in the four years it takes to complete your DDS or DMD. But if you need to study for retakes or build in extra time for taking these examinations, you’ll need to factor it in.

Becoming a dentist takes time and commitment, but many find it to be a rewarding career.


The total time it takes to, on average, complete an undergraduate degree, complete graduate dental school, and complete a residency will be 9 – 11 years.