Improve quality of life by performing surgical procedures such as implants, tissue grafts and extractions
Educate patients on how to better care for their teeth and prevent oral disease
Act as first line detection for life-threatening diseases such as cancer
Teach future dentists and dental hygienists
Perform research directed to improving oral health and developing new treatment methods
What Career Options are Available in Dentistry?
Over 80% arc general practitioners while about 20% are dental specialists who limit their practices to one of the nine recognized dental specialty areas
Teaching, dental research and dental industry comprise additional rewarding career options for both general practitioners and dental specialists
General practice and specialties in endodontics, dental public health, oral and maxillofacial surgery, oral medicine and pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and prosthodontics
Work in hospital, clinics, public health agencies, universities, etc.
Preparatory classes in biology, algebra, physics, chemistry and social sciences (psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc.)
Get involved in community services (especially those to help underprivileged populations), develop a social program, etc.
PURSUING A CAREER IN DENTISTRY Dentistry is one of the most rewarding professions to pursue. Through education, diagnosis and treatment, dentists provide the public with an essential health service. Research is continuing to show that the link between oral health and general health is strong. Dental decay and gum disease may contribute to many serious conditions such as diabetes, respiratory diseases, heart disease and low-birth-weight babies; oral health is an integral part of general health.
Before applying to dental school, you must determine whether it is the right career choice for you, what the educational and training requirements are and what opportunities a dental degree can offer you beyond the scope of general practice.
Ask yourself these Questions:
Do you enjoy interacting with and helping people?
Do you want to make a difference in people’s lives and improve the human condition?
Do you have good social, communication and problem-solving skills?
Are interested in helping people maintain and improve their oral health?
Would you like a career that offers challenge and variety?
Would you enjoy being self-employed?
Do you enjoy interacting with different types of people including vulnerable populations (underprivileged people, elderly, children, First Nations, newcomers, people with physical and intellectual disabilities, etc.)?
Do you have keen memory and a strong interest and ability in science?
The scope of a dentist's work is much broader today than ever before. Dentists are oral health experts. They have the skills, training and expertise to know how the health of your teeth, gums and mouth relates to your general health.
Today's dentists do more than drill and fill patients' teeth; they perform a wide variety of procedures and functions. Though some dentists specialize or develop expertise in particular areas, the number and range of services that dentists provide has steadily grown.
Dentists treat and interact closely with people of all ages and personalities. Each patient has unique problems and concerns and the dentist develops and carries out unique treatment plans for each individual. As a result, the dentist's typical day is diverse and interesting.
Dentists provide many services, including:
Health Care: Dentists are an important part of the health care team, frequently making referrals to - and receiving referrals from physicians, psychologists and other health care professionals.
Education: Dentists teach patients and the general public about the Importance of regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene. They inform patients of potential threats to their oral health, such as the use of tobacco products, and advise them on how to improve their oral and overall health through good nutrition and stress management. Some dentists also educate the public through community speaking engagements, newspaper and magazines articles, or television and radio interviews.
Teaching and Research: Dentists may be full- or part-time faculty members at dental schools and act as mentors by contributing to the formation of the future generations of dentists. They also conduct oral health research in university and corporate settings. Research projects investigate everything from the development of new bone substitutes, to applications for time-release fluoride pellets, to new methods of alleviating patient fear about dental treatment.
Professional Development: With the increasing amount of information being generated by dental research, dentists must continually update their knowledge and skills. The profession offers many opportunities for ongoing learning and professional growth through continuing education courses and seminars.
Community Service: Dentists can occasionally use their knowledge to assist in criminal and legal investigations and may even provide evidence in court trials. Dentists working in the community can look after young children who need special help, as well as elderly and housebound people and people with severe physical disabilities or mental illness. They can work in a variety of locations - for example, a patient's own home, nursing homes and occasionally, in a mobile clinic. They work with a wider clinical team including other professionals complementary to dentistry and other health professionals such as nurses, social workers, etc.
Leadership: Dentists develop and exercise leadership and interpersonal skills. They supervise and manage the care provided by other dental team members, including dental hygienists, dental assistants, laboratory technicians and receptionists. In group practices, dentists work with and may employ and supervise other dentists.
Restoration: Dentists repair damage to the teeth, gum and oral tissues caused by accidents or diseases such as dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontitis (gum disease).
Correction: Dentists correct oral health problems caused by crooked, crowded or poorly spaced teeth or misaligned jaws with orthodontic appliances, mouth splints and other devices and treatments.
Reconstruction: Dentists fabricate substitutes for lost teeth and oral tissues, including fixed replacements and dentures.
Artistry: Dentists make creative decisions to produce beauty and order in the mouth. In so doing, they must select appropriate procedures and materials and have a fine eye for detail.
Executive Management: As solo practitioners or partners, dentists usually manage the business and financial aspects of their practices. They acquire and use practice management and investment skills, and develop marketing strategies in order to attract and keep patients. Dentists take advantage of modern computer technology to manage and streamline the business aspects of their practices.
The more you know about the practice of dentistry, the more certain you can be about your decision. If you would like to learn more about pursuing a career in dentistry, talk to dentists in your community and/or ask to visit a dental office. The dental society in your area, or a local dental school, may also be able to direct you to other sources of information.