For as long as people have had teeth, they have also experienced tooth-related problems. While early methods to manage dental problems were limited and often quite painful, the evolution of dentistry has been exponential. Advances made in the understanding of teeth and medicine, combined with the discovery of anesthetics and sedatives, have transformed our cultural outlook on this important area of health care. Today’s dentists enjoy gratifying and lengthy careers within their communities. If you are contemplating a career in dentistry, these factors may provide food for thought.
The landscape of dentistry is constantly evolving as we see changes and advances in the way that people care for themselves and their teeth. While there may previously have been increased focus on extractions and dentures, the use of fluoride, combined with longer life expectancy, means that dentists will increasingly spend more time restoring natural teeth than they do removing and replacing them. More elderly patients will retain their natural teeth throughout their lives than ever before, thanks to ever-evolving technological and scientific advances in the dental field.
Areas of Practice
A day in the life of a dentist may look different than you’d expect. In terms of areas of practice, there are many specialities from which a dentist can choose. Regardless of the speciality, however, dentists all have a hand in providing some degree of:
- Patient education and support – educating patients and their families about the condition of their oral health and the best ways to support it is an integral component of each dentist’s work. Helping patients understand the role of proper nutrition, as well as offering guidance and support where concerns exist, is part of a dentist’s daily practice.
- Oral disease detection and prevention – dentists are often the first line of detection against systemic infections or diseases of the teeth and mouth tissue. Dentists are trained to identify, and address concerns related to various forms of oral cancers, and to understand the mouth-body connection. This is another area of dentistry that is ever-evolving.
- Emergency dental care – offered to patients who have suffered an injury to the tissues of the mouth or teeth. This includes replacement of teeth, and minor surgery.
- Restorative work – includes restoring tooth and gum tissue when it has been negatively impacted by the effects of gum disease or decay. Restorations vary in process and complexity.
- Corrective dentistry – involves work to correct malocclusion (poor bite) and maintain appropriate spacing for teeth with the assistance of oral appliances and/or extractions.
- Cosmetic improvements – improving the appearance of a patient’s smile is one way that dentists work to improve confidence and social comfort in their patients.
Things You May Enjoy About a Career in Dentistry
If you are considering a career in dentistry, it may surprise you to learn that the practice of dentistry requires a creative thought process and artistry. Every mouth is different, and the needs of each patient differ. Dentists commonly rely on their ability to think creatively about a problem and how best to approach it. Artistry combined with sound knowledge of industry-wide best practices and standards means that your dentist is almost always customizing their approach to best suit their patients’ unique needs.
If you enjoy interacting with people from all walks of life, dentistry may be for you! Daily interaction with a variety of patients with unique circumstances mean there is never a boring day in dentistry. Whether you are showing a toddler around the office, reassuring a concerned client or bringing relief to a patient who is in distress due to infection, you will have the ability to have a real impact on the lives of your many patients.
Dentistry, like many professions in the health care field, is not in danger of becoming obsolete any time soon. In fact, as science learns more about how to support oral health, many dental patients are opting for elective procedures than ever before. Gone are the days of the local dentist drilling and pulling teeth all day long – many procedures such as smile reconstruction and tooth whitening have allowed the public to view dentistry in a new public light.
A career in dentistry not only provides opportunities to work in a variety of practical settings, it is also well suited to the dentist with an entrepreneurial spirit. Business-minded dentists may choose to be sole proprietors, or they may enter into partnership with other dentists. Whatever your preference, dentistry offers a variety of opportunities.
Dentistry offers a unique opportunity to be a part of their clients’ health care teams. Dentists are respected members of their communities and earn a salary that reflects their years of training and practice. If you think that a career in dentistry may be for you, contact your local school of dentistry to learn how you can take the first step toward actualizing your professional goals.