A career in the oral health industry can be rewarding, challenging and exciting! The abundance of programs and lack of dentists, dental hygienist, dental assistants, and dental laboratory technicians make for a very stable career with an excellent outlook. This brochure is designed to educate students, teachers, counselors, and parents about the different oral health program options in the Midwest and western states. If you are interested in an oral health career, you should begin laying the proper groundwork at the high school level. Math and science courses are highly encouraged to get you on the right oral health care track. If you would like more information about your oral health options, check out these websites.

The WICHE & Minnesota Dental Programs

Although Montana may have a relatively limited selection of oral health programs available, Montana students' choices are far from limited! Through the WICHE (Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education) program, several out-of-state colleges offer in-state tuition for Montana residents that are interested in particular fields of study. These fields include dentistry, allopathic medicine, osteopathic medicine, veterinary medicine, optometry, occupa­ tional therapy, and podiatry. One student from the state of Montana is accepted into the dental portion of the WICHE program each year. The Minnesota Dental Program is another program that offers in-state tuition to Montana residents. This program accepts 2 pre-dental students a year. In order to qualify for these programs you must be a Montana resident and certified through the Montana University System by October 15th, the year before you will enroll in college.

More information about WICHE and the Minnesota Dental Program

Explore Oral Health Careers

A dentist is an accredited medical professional who specializes in the care of teeth, gums, and mouths. As with most medical professions, a keen eye for detail, comprehensive medical understanding, manual dexterity, and strong interpersonal skills are important. Dentists deal with procedures that involve actual manipulation of the teeth or gums. Dentists have also evolved to provide some cosmetic care. Problems dealing with the jaw or any invasive oral procedure are usually undertaken by an oral surgeon, and dental hygienists and dental assistants do much of the routine dental cleanings, maintenance, and X-rays. A significant part of a dentist's job involves educating patients about ways to preserve a healthy mouth, and the best dentists are skillful communicators.

Dental hygienists are licensed oral health professionals who focus on prevent­ ing and treating oral diseases-both to protect teeth and gums, and also to protect patients' total health. They are graduates of accredited dental hygiene education programs in colleges and universities, and must take a written national board examination and a clinical examination before they are licensed to practice. In addition to treating patients directly, dental hygienists may also work as educators, researchers, and administra­ tors.

A dental assistant is just as the name sounds. Their prime responsibility is to be of aid to the dentist, performing office and laboratory duties and assisting the dentist with patient care. Those looking to become a dental assistant should enjoy performing a wide variety tasks. Most Dental Assistants receive training from dental-assisting programs offered by community and junior colleges, trade schools, technical institutes, or the Armed Forces. After comple­ tion of a training program, students can pursue certifica­ tion, which includes a written exam.

Dental laboratory technicians make and repair orthodontic devices such as dentures, bridges, crowns, and braces. They use precision instruments and equipment such as small hand drills, in an effort to create practical and esthetically pleasing dental replacements. Using their artistic ability, dental laboratory technicians create these devices using materials such as gold, silver, porcelain, plastics, and stainless steel. They seldom interact with patients, but instead work closely with, and under the direction of, a licensed dentist. They must be able to follow detailed written instructions so that the final product will enable the patient to regain normal function.

Salary & Training
. Dentist  Dental Hygienist Dental Assistant Dental Laboratory
Salary Range $73,840- $187,200 $46,540 - $96,280 $23,550 - $47,580 $20,160 - $55,270
Hourly Range $35.50 - $90.00 $22.38 - $46.29 $11.32 - $22.88 $9.69 - $26.57
Required Training 6-8 years 2-4 years up to 1 year 2-4 years