Why Dentistry?

The first time the thought of becoming a dentist crossed my mind was when I was 8 or 9 years old. For a few years before that time, I had frequently visited a pediatric dentist (a dentist specializing in child patients) due to tooth decay in my milk teeth. My first dental visits were extremely nerve-wracking due to 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 drilling machine. Years of acclimatizing myself with dental settings have 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 had a calming influence on me 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 drilling 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. As a teenager, I also had to make rather frequent visits to the dental clinic. This time, it was to see an orthodontist (a dentist specializing in treating misaligned teeth and jaw, among other things), as I got braces to fix my slight overbite. By that time, I lost my interest in the “arts” and replaced it with studying, as well as extracurricular activities in science, writing, and language. This is something I have regrets over, but I am currently trying to revive my interest in arts.

I can´t remember why I worked so hard academically in that period of my life. It was probably because I often revisited my childhood interest in dentistry and in becoming a dentist. At one point, I started to seriously consider that profession as a definite anser to the question: “What do you want to do when you grow up?” It seems like even the 14-year-old me had an inkling that the path to dentistry was going to require hard work. That´s why 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. For a long time, I used to try to wrap my answer in one or two sentences for the sake of simplicity. After crossing the halfway mark in my studies, I have managed to gather more insights into the world of dentistry and found more reasons why I like it.

So, in this post I would like to share a list of 8 reasons why I love dentistryand why being a dentist might be a fitting career choice for some of you:

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

The dental clinic setting, in which a dental professional treats one patient at a time, allows me direct my attention fully to the person in front of me. I have found that this suits my preferences. Also, helping other people directly on an individual level by treating their dental problems and preventing future oral health complications by providing them with information about oral hygiene and health, is appealing to me. 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 the pros and cons of different treatment options, deciding a treatment plan that is best suited for the patient, performing it according to plan. Dentists deal with a string of processes leading to a results that can, in turn, be evaluated. 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 who is bothered by dental problems. By doing so, there is a high possibility that you increse sometime´s quality of life. But you also have to be ready for the bad and the unexpected, and, be ready to learn from them.

3. A relatively small working unit

A dentist leads a team of dental professionals, which often consists of dental hygienists and dental nurses (and sometimes 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 in 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 on a treatment plan. As a new dentist, however, it is always suggested to discuss hard and 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 their function is optimal for the patients, while at the same time making them look natural. The art part of dentistry is where manual dexterity comes into play. 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 theprocess 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 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 lifelong 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 similar oral diseases everywhere, regardless of the country. Furthermore, treatments for the same oral diseases are, to a certain extent, 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 aka 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, attention to detail, ability to profile different symptoms for various oral diseases, and problem-solving.

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 wanted to make my list as concise as possible. Any other dentists or aspiring dentists out there? What draws you to the dental profession?

Lulu Riyanti

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