Dear Tooth Truth,
In just a couple of months, I graduate from high school. I’m nervous because I don’t’ know what to do with my life yet. I love SO many things, but I know I need to focus on a career path. My parents suggested I explore some different careers before I leave for college. How do you like dentistry? Is it gross working in people’s mouths all day? Do you get bored? How long did it take to get your degree? What is really like being a dentist?
Thanks for any help!
~ Leaving the Nest
Dear Leaving the Nest,
Congratulations on your upcoming graduation! This is certainly a big chapter of your life you are completing, and you are wise to think about what your future holds. My biggest word of encouragement would be to remind you that WHO YOU ARE is so much more than WHAT YOU DO! Who you are spills into every corner of your life and leaves plenty of space for exploring all the things you love. Even though you may choose a career path, don’t let that limit how you contribute who you were made to be. Hopefully that takes a little pressure off your decision.
Let’s talk dentistry to see if it sounds like a good fit!
Dentistry is often described as being a combination of Doctor, ENgineer, and ArTIST.
You need to embrace science because you will learn so much about the human body, disease processes, drugs and medications. It’s not always easy stuff to learn so you need to be prepared for hard work and dedication. Spoiler alert – you WILL be working in peoples’ mouths every day, so it’s worth some time observing in the field to see if that is something you can handle. Dentists typically complete an undergraduate 4-year degree before they apply for dental school, which is a 4-year program in most states. After dental school, you could decide to specialize even more. Specialty programs range from 2-6 years after dental school. Once you are in practice there are yearly continuing education requirements, so you stay up-to-date on the latest information. If you can’t tell, a love of learning is non-negotiable.
The engineer part comes into play, because technology and knowledge of different materials are woven into everything we do daily. From the filling and ceramic materials we use to build teeth back to healthy contours, to the myriad of materials we use behind the scenes; our understanding of bond strength, tensile and compressive strength, wear and longevity of materials all impact the quality of the care we provide. As dentistry becomes more and more digitally driven, you must be able to adapt and learn new processes.
The artistry of the dental field can be challenging and fun. There is the basic art of making your patient’s smile a beautiful and natural expression of who they are. An understanding of shades, coloration, contours, light reflection, and shaping all impact the beauty and longevity of the care you deliver. There is also the fine art of working with a lot of different people every day. This can be both the most challenging and the most rewarding part of being a dentist. Often you are helping patients who are nervous about their care. Sometimes they’ve heard a lot of different treatment options and they are not sure what to trust. The ability to connect and communicate helps you and your patients through what can be a stressful experience. Dentists are also uniquely positioned to see their patients every 6 months. The lifetime of relationships that you gain watching your patients through the years is irreplaceable.
Even though dentistry is a science-driven field, many dentists have an artistic streak. You will notice that many of them enjoy photography, painting, writing, and other artistic expressions. Even our Tooth Truthers enjoyed writing some fun Dental Haikus for National Haiku day this year ☺ Don’t be afraid to be all of who you are as you journey on.
Hope this helps you as you explore all that life holds for you!
~ Tooth Truth
Brushing teeth for bed
There is no way you’re finished
Let me smell your breath
I floss every day
Let me take a look and see
Okay, I don’t floss
Lighting up the room
Powered by your smile