How to Become a General Dentist

Five Boggle letter cubes spell STUDY on a wooden table against a background of two stacks of books

Have you ever considered a career in dentistry? Or maybe you have just been wondering about the education process for dental professionals. Here’s a look at the educational journey of a general dentist.

Applying to Dental School

  1. Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
  2. Before Dr. Henson attended dental school, she first received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Florida State University. Although the requirements for admission to dental school vary, a bachelor’s degree is a standard across the board.

  3. Complete the Prerequisite Courses
  4. Dental schools also require that applicants have completed additional education courses that are sometimes termed ‘pre-med.’ For example, Dr. Henson’s alma mater, Meharry Medical College, requires the following additional courses:

    • General biology or zoology with lab
    • Inorganic chemistry with lab
    • Organic chemistry with lab
    • General physics with lab
    • English composition
    • Biochemistry
    • Calculus or statistics

  5. Take the DAT
  6. Prior to acceptance into dental school, applicants must have taken the Dental Admission Test (DAT). This test measures the general academic ability of the applicant, with four sections focusing on the natural sciences, perceptual ability, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning.

Attending Dental School

Generally speaking, dental school takes four years to complete. In some cases, students who take a combined bachelor’s and doctoral degree program may take less time to finish school. It’s usually two years of lectures, with lab work increasing in the second year. The final two years of dental school also includes some classroom lectures, but a large portion of time is spent completing clinical work in a dental office, under the supervision of your professors.

In order to become a general dentist, you must complete a graduate degree as a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD).

Passing the Licensure Exams

After completing dental school, graduates must pass a rigorous national exam as well as a state-licensing exam in order to practice as a general dentist.

Questions? We Have Answers!

Reach out or connect via social media to our team at Henson Family Dental! We’re happy to discuss careers in dentistry with you. If you’re overdue for your next dental appointment, contact our office and schedule an appointment today.


A History of Dental Science

Dentist sits with patient while he discusses her oral X-ray results

We’ve come along way from where dentistry began. To learn about the history of dental science and how modern dentistry came to be, we need to go back in time…

Ancient Times

Back in 5000 BC, a Sumerian text described “tooth worms” as the cause of dental decay. This is the earliest known record of dental science. About 2,500 years later, an Egyptian scribe who was known as the first dentist, passed away. The inscription on his tomb read “the greatest of those who deal with teeth, and of physicians.” Much later, around 500-300 BC, Aristotle and Hippocrates wrote about treating gum disease and tooth decay, using wires to stabilize loose teeth and fractured jaws, as well as removing teeth using forceps.

Middle Ages

Two important dental works were published in the Middle Ages. Artzney Buchlein’s Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth, the first book devoted to dentistry which covered topics like placing fillings and oral hygiene, was published in 1530 in Germany. Ambrose Pare, known as the Father of Surgery, published Complete Works forty-five years later in France, detailing treatment for jaw fractures and tooth decay, as well as tooth extractions.

18th Century

Yet another revolutionary text was published in 1723 by Pierre Fauchard, a surgeon from France known as the Father of Modern Dentistry. The Surgeon Dentist, A Treatise on Teeth described dental science practices like basic oral function and anatomy, operating techniques, and dental construction. During the 18th Century, some of the first American dentists started practicing dentistry, the first dental chair was invented, and the first patent for porcelain teeth was created.

19th Century

The 19th Century saw many advances in education and science. An investment in dental science as a career lead to the opening of the first dental school and the creation of the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. Further establishing dentistry as an important medical discipline, the American Dental Association and the American Society of Dental Surgeons were created. Scientific achievements made in the 1800s include the commercial manufacture of porcelain teeth, tubed toothpaste, the reclining dental chair, use of anesthesia in oral surgery, using gold fillings for cavities, and more.

20th Century

The 1900s were a century filled with the creation of many organizations and practices including water fluoridation, the first dental hygienist program, the U.S. Army Dental Corps, and the American Board of Orthodontics. Other advancements in dental science include the electric toothbrush, Novocain, nylon toothbrushes, tooth-colored restorative materials for cosmetic dental work, the porcelain crown, and many more.

Next time you sit down in the dentist’s chair, think about the history of dental science and the ways in which its shaped our culture and our medical practices today. Contact us to schedule your next checkup and cleaning!


New Year’s Resolutions for a Healthy Smile

Blonde woman in black dress standing in the snow in front of a black background holding a lit sparkler.

If you’re anything like our team, your New Year’s resolutions involve making positive changes in your life in some area. Whether its a healthier diet, an exercise regimen, or meditation, the new year is a great time to create a positive habit. At Henson Family Dental, we are encouraging our patients to come up with a New Year’s resolution for a healthy smile. If you’re stumped, we have a few ideas!

1. Make Flossing a Priority

A good preventive care regimen means brushing twice daily and flossing once each day. If you skip flossing, you aren’t cleaning about 40% of the surface of your tooth, creating a breeding ground for bacteria that produce acid and result in cavities. There are a variety of flossing tools on the market, from WaterPik® water flossers to floss extenders, that can make flossing easier and more convenient.

2. Limit Cavity-Causing Foods

Foods high in sugar and starch give the harmful bacteria in your mouth fuel to turn into acid that can cause tooth decay. Instead of reaching for a soda or candy, consider substituting for water or some fruit. You’ll be doing your teeth a favor!

3. Get the Smile You’ve Always Wanted

Many of our patients mention that they are embarrassed to smile in photographs because their teeth are stained or chipped. This year, make your smile a priority and consider some of our cosmetic dentistry services. We offer professional teeth whitening services, both at home and in the office, that can give you that bright, white smile you’ve always wanted. Dr. Henson can also place porcelain veneers that help to fix dental issues like chipped teeth or discoloration. Don’t waste any more time hiding your smile in the new year!

To ask our friendly team any questions or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Henson, contact our office today!


How Can Healthy Food Protect Your Teeth

healthy fruits and vegetables no chalkboard background

When you think about caring for your teeth, you probably think about brushing, flossing, and visiting Dr. Henson regularly for cleanings and exams. While we certainly encourage all of that, there’s another, simple way to care for your teeth – the food you eat! We all know that sugary foods can contribute to tooth decay, but there are also foods that keep your teeth strong and healthy.


Who doesn’t love cheese? With all of its dental health benefits, there’s even more reason to love this delicious food. Cheese can raise the pH level in your mouth and lower the risk of decay. Chewing cheese increases the saliva in your mouth, while the calcium and protein in cheese strengthen your tooth enamel.


Yogurt is chock full of healthy probiotic bacteria that can fight back against harmful, disease-causing bacteria. Yogurt, like cheese, is also high in tooth-strengthening calcium and protein.


We all know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but it also keeps your dentist happy! Apples increase saliva production, which fights back against and washes away harmful bacteria and germs. The texture of the fruit also scrubs your teeth and stimulates your gums, although it’s no substitute for brushing!


Celery is another vegetable that can be considered nature’s toothbrush. Much like apples, its texture helps scrape away food and bacteria from your teeth. It’s also a good source of vitamins A and C, which are good for your gums.


Almonds are a great, healthy snack that is low in sugar. The calcium and protein in almonds helps protect your teeth while giving you something deliciously crunchy to snack on.

Which tooth-friendly food is your favorite? We encourage you to try these healthy snacks – your teeth will thank you for these tasty treats! To ask Dr. Henson what other steps she recommends to care for your teeth, or to schedule your next appointment, give our team a call.