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Most people are familiar with dentistry and what dentists do. But, they are often not familiar with the other types of health care professions who work with the dentist to provide dental care to patients. This section has information about dentistry and about other dental related careers.


Dentists treat disorders and diseases of the head and neck, particularly focusing on problems related to the teeth. Dentists are usually graduates of colleges or universities with bachelor’s degrees. They study an additional three to four years in dental school, earning either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree upon graduation. Dentists become licensed to practice dentistry in a particular state following a demonstration of their competency through an examination. Dentists are the directors of the dental health care team and determine treatment plans and methods.

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists work under the direction of the dentist to provide oral hygiene instruction, dental cleanings and related treatments. Dental hygienists are licensed by individual states to treat patients. Most dental hygienists are trained at community colleges and earn associate’s degrees, although there are some bachelor-level dental hygiene programs in the United States. The UF College of Dentistry is affiliated with Santa Fe College, which is also located in Gainesville and has a dental hygiene degree program.

Dental Assistants

Dental assistants work chairside with the dentist to support patient dental care. Dental assistants mix materials, disinfect and sterilize dental instruments, and actively assist the dentist in the treatment of dental patients. Many dental assistants attend one-year certificate programs at the community college level, though some dental assistants are directly trained by dentists. Dental assistants can become Certified Dental Assistants through a national certification process. Santa Fe College offers a dental assisting certificate program.

Dental Laboratory Technicians

Dental laboratory technicians work in laboratories to support dental patient care. Technicians make crowns, bridges, implants, dentures and removable prostheses and appliances as directed by dentists. Dental laboratory technicians can receive training through two-year certificate programs at the community college level or be trained on the job.