We want to discuss the various professions in dentistry, areas of concern, the degree required, and naming some of the best institutes for pursuing the career.
According to the FDI World Dental Federation, oral diseases affect around 3.5 billion people globally. Untreated tooth decay in permanent teeth is the most common health condition worldwide, with around 2.3 people diagnosed with tooth decay. Oral health is indispensable to lead a comfortable life. Oral problems cause immense pain and lead to significant disturbances in everyday activities. Oral health involves the overall health of the mouth, including the face, mouth, and oral cavity. Oral diseases can have a detrimental impact on one’s social life, personal relationships, and self-confidence. It can also cause disruptions in sleep and eating patterns, and lead to anxiety, stress, and disfigurement.
However, most oral infections can be treated effectively in the early stages. Oral hygiene is also very easy to maintain if one follows the instructions of medical health professionals and builds cleaning habits. Dentists are medical health professionals who diagnose and treat oral diseases and infections. Their role involves a variety of activities including filling cavities, cleaning of decays, performing minor surgeries, and enhancing the appearance of the teeth for functional and cosmetic reasons.
People can visit a dentist for a number of reasons- bleeding after brushing or flossing, toothache, dry mouth, bumps and sores, receding gums, swelling and infection, and loose or shaking teeth. Most oral infections can be treated if diagnosed early, so it is very important to visit a dentist regularly. A dentist’s role is not just to treat the oral disease, but also to communicate suggestions to maintain oral hygiene.
Dentists specialize in oral health and their responsibilities are as follows:
Diagnosing oral diseases and infections
Interpretation of x-rays and other diagnostic tests
Administering anesthetics safely
Performing surgical procedures on teeth, bones, and tissues of the oral cavity
Performing routine procedures such as fillings, tooth extractions, root canal, etc.
Creating treatment plans for oral healthcare of the patients
Suggesting treatments such as braces or chipping for functional and cosmetic reasons
Monitoring the development of teeth and jaws in the oral cavity
Promoting oral health and disease prevention
Suggesting habits and techniques to patients to maintain oral hygiene
Apart from the technical skills required for dentistry, a dentist must also possess the following skills:
Observation Skills- Dentists must have a keen eye for detail so that they can diagnose the problem correctly.
Honed Eye-Hand Coordination Skills: Most of the treatments performed by dentists are very intricate and require perfect coordination between the eye and the hand
Compassion and Empathy: Dental pain is often unbearable, and a lot of people fear going to the dentist. Hence, a dentist must be warm and compassionate towards the patients.
Interpersonal and Communication Skills: Dentists need to explain the problem and treatment process clearly to the patient and answer all of their queries patiently.
Organization and time management skills: Many dental procedures require multiple settings. Therefore, dentists need to organize their time efficiently.
Leadership Skills: Dentists must possess an ability to work with and manage multi-skilled team
There are five steps involved in becoming a specialized dentist in the USA:
I. Getting an Undergraduate Degree
Dentistry programs usually have some pre-requisites in terms of the bachelor’s degree which help to get the best dentist jobs in Texas. Students are usually expected to complete at least eight hours of chemistry, biology, physical science, and English as a part of their undergraduate studies. A good GPA in college, experience shadowing, and strong letters of recommendation are required for admission to medical school.
II. Take the Dental Admissions Test
The Dental Admissions Test (DAT) is usually taken one year before applying to dental school, i.e. the junior year of college. Different dental schools have different requirements in terms of DAT scores. Research the school you want to apply to and prepare for your DAT accordingly.
III. Attending Dental School
Dental schools are typically for 4 years. Students are awarded a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD). Both these degrees have the same coursework and practicum. The first two years of dental school places a focus on lecture-based coursework. The final two years involve clinical training and internships.
IV. Passing Dental Licensure Exams
After completing four years of dental school, students need to pass a series of examinations. The American Dental Association (ADA) stipulates three criteria for licensure: an educational component, a written test, and a clinical examination. However, some states have some additional requirements.
V. Pursuing a Dental Specialty
Around 20% of dentists in the USA are specialists. Getting a specialization in dentistry allows for better knowledge and skill development, and consequently better pay. This will involve another training period, ranging from two to six years based on the specialization.
There are multiple paths within dentistry, that are recognized by the ADA :
Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
Dental Public Health
For most of the above specialties, dental students will be required to do a residency after dental school. The residences are typically for a period of two to three years while gaining a specialty in oral and maxillofacial surgery requires a residency of four to six years.
The national average annual wage of a dentist is $175,840, which is over three times the average annual salary for all occupations - $51,960.
Top companies to work with:
The following are the top psychiatric organizations and hospitals in the USA:
Mayo Clinic Dentistry
Newton Dental Group
Johns Hopkins Dentistry
Cleveland Clinic - Dentistry
UCSF Dental Centre
Other Employment Opportunities:
Apart from working with private hospitals, dentists can find employment in government hospitals, outpatient care centers, cosmetology clinics, or set up their practice.
Pro & Cons of the Profession:
There are various pros and cons to pursuing dentistry as a profession. The educational and training period to become a dentist is almost nine to ten years, which is furthered if you want to pursue a specialty. Dental school is also very expensive, and students often have to take large loans. The job is also stressful and physically demanding. Most dentists set up their clinics, which means there are additional costs involved to set up and maintain their dental practice. There is also a high competition for both entry into dental school, as well as setting up a practice. Hence, dentists have to study and research regularly to stay updated about new improvements in the domain. Due to the nature of work, dentists are also susceptible to contagious infections like colds and coughs.
However, dentistry is a highly respected position that provides you an opportunity to help people lead better lives. There is good job stability with an ascending pay scale that increases with experience. Dentistry also offers the freedom of setting up a private practice that allows for a balanced lifestyle along with the flexibility of time and payment.
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