There are many routes into dentistry and it is not just a case of going to college, gaining a degree and then starting work. Some choose the degree option whilst others go for a more vocational path. In the USA there are two degrees which most trainee dentists take and which are fully recognized by the Industry. The DMD degree or Doctor of Dental Medicine, and the DDS, Doctor of Dental Surgery.
In the USA, pre-dental school pre-requisites take two to three years to complete. DMD or DDS degrees to become a Dentist or a Dental Surgeon take four to five years to complete, followed by the licensure exams, both formal and practical ones before you can become a dentist. To be a dental hygienist most states require the standard four year Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree before you can sit for licensure exams.
In the UK it takes about five years to train and qualify to become a dentist, and to become a dental hygienist it takes two years, both full time. The process is similar to the USA and all dentists in the UK initially follow the same education and training as each other in order to qualify to work as a dentist. A candidate initially needs to obtain a bachelors degree (either a BDS or BChD, a Baccalaureus Chirurgiae Dental) from one of the 13 dental schools around the country. This is then followed by further training related to the specialty area chosen in the dental industry.