A dentist is an accredited medical professional who specializes in the care of teeth
, and mouth
s. As with most medical profession
s, 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.
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.
Over 87 percent of the US population develops Gum disease. Cavities are a common ailment. Despite how the economy or job market is, Dentists will probably always be in demand. Dentists are the preventative doctors par excellence, ever alert for early signs of swollen or bleeding gums, tooth decay, etc., but often they simply step in and correct the results of their patients’ less-than-stellar personal hygiene. Most dentists work seven to ten-hour days, except when emergencies arise, which can occasionally lengthen the workday. The life of a dentist is very similar to that of any other doctor, except that most don't work at hospitals.
The Princeton review had this to say about the profession:
Many of the dentists we surveyed responded that although the hours are long, one is able to lead a fairly predictable life, take standard vacations around major holidays, and enjoy weekends with family. Reasonable hours were cited on over 90 percent of our surveys as one of the most important features that led people to dentistry as opposed to any other medical specialty. Dentists pay enormous premiums for liability insurance, large sums for fixed costs such as rent and equipment, and significant overhead for qualified personnel and quality products. Since each patient treated corresponds to additional revenue received, dentists often try to see as many patients as they can on a given day. A dentist usually spends one afternoon a week managing paperwork and insurance claims. The amount of time required to process this paperwork is likely to increase as changes in health care management force doctors to spend more time filing and defending claims of even routine prevention for their insured patients.
Including retirement, health problems, death, migration to other fields, and return to school for further education, only 9 percent leave the industry each year. A few decide to specialize in reconstruction, orthodontics, periodontics, oral surgery, or a related medical field. Few leave the medical field altogether.
So You Want to be a Dentist...
It's like applying to Medical School. You must have completed four years of College. You can major in anything, even music
, and still apply to Dental school, provided your grades are high. As long as you take the minimum number of science classes on the undergraduate level such as anatomy, chemistry, physics and biology. Depending on the school you're applying to, you may need to take more or less classes. All prospective dentists must complete four years of an American Dental Association accredited school and pass the individual exams administered by each state. If you pass the National Dental Board Exam (administered twice a year), however, you can be exempted from the written portion of the state exams. If you wish to teach, do dental research, or engage in a dental specialty, an additional two to five years of study is required.
There are two kinds of dental degrees, a Doctor of Medical Dentistry (D.M.D.) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.). The DDS is more common, but both mean the same thing, the only difference is on the diploma.
After passing the exams and receiving either degree, a new dentist may choose to “apprentice” under an established practitioner for several years. After that, he or she can become a partner or leave to start their own practice. Nearly a quarter of all graduates buy into or purchase outright an existing practice after graduation. Financing is rarely a problem, as most dental practices are considered good investments by banks.
Dentists have a relatively high suicide rate, up there with psychiatrists. The reason is that their patients are...well...afraid of having their teeth drilled, miss appointments, and don't like the dentist as a result of their own suffering from the caveties. They're not really sadistic.
If you want to see a good example of the stereotype, you can check out Dentist! a song from the musical Little Shop of Horrors.