Why Dentistry?

The first time the thought of becoming a dentist crossed into my mind was when I was around 8 or 9 years old. Since a couple of years prior, I had frequently visited a pediatric dentist (a dentist specializing in child patients) due to problems with tooth decay in my milk teeth. My first dental visits were extremely nerve-wracking because of a combination of many factors, such as not knowing what to expect, the nervous energy in the waiting room, the weird smell of the dental clinic, and the eerie sound of the drill machine. Years of acclimatizing myself with the dental settings had helped me to subdue my nervousness. Believe it or not, I grew to like going to the dentist.

My interest in Dentistry was further piqued by having a dentist who was calming and was always ready to answer my random questions. One day, I remember how those sharp dental instruments which I previously thought were dreadful, including the drill machine, began to intrigue me. All the dental posters I saw in my dentist’s office, too, suddenly became very colorful and inviting. As long as I could remember, these changes probably happened at the same time as I grew an interest in drawing, sketching, and handcrafts.

Many years went by, and I became a teenager. As a teenager, I also had to make rather frequent visits to the dentist. This time to an orthodontist (a dentist specializing in treating misaligned teeth and jaw, among other things), as I got braces to fix my slight overbite. By the time I had left my interest in the “arts” and replaced it with studying, extracurricular activities in science, writing, and language. Something I have regrets over, but I am currently trying to revive that particular interest.

At the time, I did not remember why I worked so hard academically. Probably because I often revisited my childhood interest in Dentistry and in being a dentist, and then started to seriously consider it as a definite answer to the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. It seems like even a 14-year-old me had an inkling that the path to Dentistry was going to require hard works. So, academic achievement had always been my priority. Long story short, I got into the Dentistry school of my choice by the time I was 23.

“Why dentistry then?” people often ask me. When it comes down to it, I used to try to wrap my answer in one or two sentences for the sake of simplicity. More than halfway in as a dental student, I have managed to gather more insights into the world of Dentistry and found more reasons to why I like it.

So, in this post I´d like to share a list of 8 reasons to why I love Dentistry and why being a Dentist might be a fitting career choice for some of you:

1. Working with and helping people in a one-on-one setting

As a self-proclaimed introvert, I prefer to interact with and direct my attention to one person at a time. The dental clinic setting, in which a dental professional treats one patient at a time, is closest to ideal for me. There is also an aspect of helping other people directly on an individual level with treating their dental problems and prevent oral health complications in the future by providing them with information about oral hygiene and health, which is appealing. Any other people-loving introverts out there? What do you think?

2. Both process- and result-oriented

A dentist´s job in a nutshell: identifying an oral disease or a lack thereof on a patient, analyzing and considering pros and cons with different options of treatments, deciding a treatment plan that is best suited for the patient, performing it according to plan. Dentists deal with a string of processes that leads to a result that can, in turn, put to evaluation. The intended result is always an improvement for the patient compared to before treatment. Think about how rewarding it is to be able to help someone with their bothering dental problems! By doing so, there is a high possibility that you contribute to facilitating the increase in someone´s quality of life. But be also ready for the bad, the unexpected, and, better yet, learn from them.

3. A relatively small working team unit

A dentist leads a team of dental professionals, which often consists of dental hygienists and dental nurses (sometimes even other dentists). Together they cooperate to reach the best outcomes expected from the treatment plan (see 2). In treating patients, a dentist works closely with a dental nurse, who assists with each patient´s visit.

4. Independence

While it is true that dentists work in a team of other dental health professionals, on a day-to-day basis, they work somewhat independently, especially in diagnosing oral diseases and deciding a treatment plan. As a new dentist, however, it is always suggested to discuss hard/complicated cases with more experienced colleagues.

5. Art meets science

I define the ”art” part as having to work with your hands and most of the time trying to recreate or improve components of the body (namely teeth) so that they serve an optimal function for the patients, while at the same time making them look natural. The art part of dentistry is where manual dexterity comes in handy. The science part is, well, all the learning of how the human body works. The way I see it (now at least), dentistry allows one to exert a degree of creativity, but within scientifically backed-up guidelines.

6. The ability to specialize within the field

Dentistry has many different specialties in which one can choose to train and practice. Becoming a specialist often leads to career growth, which might positively impact personal and financial growth. Achieving new in-depth expertise in a specific area within dentistry surely requires a significant investment in effort, time, and money. One could guess that the process of attaining a specialty itself allows one to hone other skills at the same time and grow as a person as a result (while also having fun since one does something that is of personal interest). Some examples of such skills that I can think of are the ability to tackle challenges using a different point of view and better stress and time management. As for financial growth, new expertise might, in most cases, come with higher financial rewards. But without specializing, there is plenty of room for growth, too, as a general dental practitioner. Dentistry is a profession that requires life-long learning, and I believe that knowledge goes hand-in-hand with growth.

7. A universal profession

A dentist is one of those classic professions. Everywhere you go in the world people need dentists. And teeth are teeth; they are exposed to the same oral diseases everywhere regardless of place. Furthermore, treatments for the same oral diseases are pretty standardized. So, technically we can work and gain knowledge of dentistry in all corners of the Earth. Although in practice, this might mean having to obtain a new license to practice if we want to work in countries that do not recognize our license. 

8. A more realistic career choice than becoming the next Sherlock Holmes

Being a detective is cool, but I figured being a tooth detective a.k.a dentist is cooler. I have realized that being a dentist requires some skills like those possessed by a detective. To name a few, analytical skills, having attention to detail, the ability to profile (different symptoms for various oral diseases), and problem-solving skills.

I´m sure that there are more exciting things about Dentistry that I could write about, and the list would go on and on. But I told myself to make a list that is as concise as possible. Any other dentists or inspiring dentists out there? What makes you drawn to the dental profession?

Lulu Riyanti

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