How to Become an Endodontist

April 25, 2024


Reviewed by:

Luke Hartstein

Former Admissions Committee Member, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reviewed: 4/25/24

There are several specialties in the dentistry field. To learn more about an in-demand and evolving specialty, endodontics, read on!

If you know you’d like to pursue a career in dentistry but aren’t sure what to specialize in, you might want to consider a career as an endodontist. While this word sounds made up, endodontists are dentists that focus on helping people preserve their natural teeth to achieve perfect smiles!

This guide will explore what endodontists do, how to become an endodontist, the average endodontist salary, and more!

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Steps to Becoming an Endodontist

Some important information to know before you embark upon your journey to becoming an endodontist is that it’ll take you at least a decade to join this profession. Accordingly, you should be prepared to invest a lot of time and money into this career. 

The exact steps you’ll need to take to become an endodontist are as follows:

Step One: Research Dental Schools

The dental schools you apply to may have different admission requirements, including the prerequisites you must complete. Before you declare a major and choose your first-year courses, it’s important you know which prerequisites you’ll need to complete during your undergrad.

While you don’t have to definitively decide which dental schools you’d like to apply to at this point, you should have a general idea of the courses you’ll need in order to apply to your top picks.

Step Two: Complete an Undergraduate Degree

Becoming an endodontist will require you to complete a significant amount of education. The first degree you’ll have to obtain is an undergrad. You can have any undergraduate degree to apply to dental school, but you’ll have to complete certain science prerequisites to be eligible for admission.

As such, the majority of students pursue a science-related major.

Regardless of the major you choose, you must maintain a high GPA throughout your undergrad because this score will be weighed heavily in the admissions committee’s decisions. 

Ensure you also participate in extracurriculars and get hands-on professional and/or volunteer experiences working in a dental setting, ideally, or another form of healthcare setting. 

Step Three: Write the DAT

While you’re still completing your undergrad, you’ll have to write the DAT if you want to join dental school right after college. This test will assess your potential to succeed in dental school and the dental field in general. 

Since dental schools are highly competitive, you’ll need to score high on this exam. Give yourself ample time to prepare for and retake the test in case you aren’t able to reach your target score on your first try. 

Step Four: Go to Dental School

Once you accept an offer letter from a dental school, you’ll spend the next few years completing a DMD or DDS, depending on your program. Either degree will qualify you to practice general dentistry once you graduate.

This step of the process will take four extensive years to complete. Dental school is known to be challenging, so remain diligent and focused throughout the process! Your grades will matter, as they will help determine the endodontic residency you join. 

Step Five: Pass the INBDE

Prior to enrollment, many residency programs ask that you take and pass the INBDE, or at least be eligible to write the exam.

The INBDE is a two-day licensing assessment that certifies you to begin practicing as an independent dentist. By passing this exam, you assure you have the necessary knowledge and clinical skills to safely enter the dental field.

Step Six: Join an Endodontic Residency

After step five, you are licensed to practice general dentistry but cannot perform the complex procedures that endodontists do. These procedures require specialized training that you can only receive through an endodontic residency. It will take two years to obtain a clinical certificate in endodontic dental medicine.

For students interested in gaining more training in this specialty, you may also pursue a Doctor of Science in Dentistry (DScD) with your certificate, which typically takes five years to complete, or a Master of Science in Oral Biology (MSCB) with your certificate, which takes three years to complete. 

UPenn offers highly-regarded endodontic residencies that offer all three of these academic tracks. 

What Does an Endodontist Do?

Now that we’ve discussed how to become an endodontist and how long it’ll take, your next question will likely be, “what does an endodontist do?”

Endodontists perform a variety of procedures that involve the inside of the teeth, also known as the “tooth pulp.” While the most common procedure endodontists perform is root canals, they are also responsible for performing the following assessments and procedures:

  • Addressing and treating traumatic tooth injuries
  • Placing dental implants
  • Examining and diagnosing root or gum-related issues
  • Removing tooth pulp or tissues
  • Replacing an infected tooth or gum tissue
  • Probing gums to find and treat gum disease 
  • Restoring tooth color
  • Treating gum or tooth infections
  • Cosmetic dental procedures 

Endodontists typically see patients that have:

  • Tooth pain
  • Tooth injuries (dislodged or knocked out teeth)
  • Cracked or fractured teeth
  • Gum or tooth infections
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods or drinks
  • Swelling around the gums, teeth, or face

These professionals can work in dental clinics, cosmetic clinics, outpatient clinics, hospitals, private practices, or academic institutions as educators.

What Skills Do You Need to Be an Endodontist?

Endodontists deal with delicate tissues in and around the teeth. As such, they require precision and steady hands. Aside from these skills, they must also have:

  • Excellent hand-eye coordination: endodontists often perform procedures looking through operating microscopes
  • Great attention to detail: to identify symptoms and diagnose diseases correctly
  • Strong interpersonal skills: to explain complex procedures to concerned patients
  • Critical thinking skills: to analyze findings, make correct diagnoses, and create appropriate treatment plans
  • Self-motivation: to complete and excel in the 10 years of educational training required to join this profession

Of course, endodontists must also have a genuine interest in teeth and a willingness to keep learning! The field of dentistry is constantly evolving, and you’ll have to keep up with it to ensure your patients receive the best care.

Endodontist Salary and Career Outlook

On average, endodontists make around $200,000 a year. Depending on their location and the amount of experience they have, these professionals can make over $400,000! 

These specialists are currently in high demand as less than three percent of dentists are endodontists.

FAQs: Becoming an Endodontist

If you have any remaining questions about how to become an endodontist, read on to find your answers.

1. Is It Hard to Become an Endodontist?

Yes, becoming an endodontist requires patience, commitment, and hard work. You’ll face many challenges along the way, including landing a spot in a competitive dental program and gaining acceptance into an even more competitive endodontic residency.

Once you’ve completed all of your training, you’ll have to pass the INBDE exams, which span over two days and require substantial preparation. Your studying won’t end here, as you’ll be expected to continue learning about endodontics throughout your career!

2. How Much Do Endodontists Make?

On average, endodontists make $200,000 a year. However, this can double with experience and location.

3. How Many Years Is an Endodontic Residency?

An endodontic residency will take at least two years to complete if you only want to become clinically certified. If you want to gain an advanced degree, such as a master’s or doctorate degree along with your certification, it will take three to five years.

4. Do Endodontists Go to Medical School?

No, endodontists go to dental school. 

5. How Long Does It Take to Become an Endodontist?

It will take at least 10 years to become an endodontist: four to complete your undergraduate degree, four to complete your DDS or DMD degree, and two to complete your endodontic residency. 

6. What Is the Difference Between a Dentist and an Endodontist?

Endodontists are technically dentists, but they have specialized training.

While both of these professionals must go to dental school and pass the INBDE licensing exams, endodontists complete additional training through residency programs to be able to perform more intricate procedures.

Endodontists also focus mainly on preserving the health of the inside of their patients’ teeth, while dentists maintain their patients’ overall oral health.

Final Thoughts

Considering a smile is worth a thousand words, the professionals that ensure our teeth are healthy are essential parts of the dental field! If you’d like to pursue a career where you make a real impact on not only your patients’ oral health but also their confidence, endodontics might be the perfect path for you!

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