Should I go into dentistry/orthodontist?
February 12, 2017 11:28 PM   Subscribe

I recently graduated college with a degree humanities degree, but I am considering going into dentistry. I’ve read online people’s experience in dental school and as a dentist, but I would like to hear what dentist on this forum have to say about what the job entails and what the classes are like. Basically, I am relatively good at making things with my hands, such as building 3D puzzles (from kits), doing arts and crafts, assembling furniture, etc. In addition, I’m very detail-oriented and care about doing a good job, especially if it affects others. I enjoy listening to people to help solve their problems. I would greatly enjoy a job that involves working with my hands and helping others. However, I’m not so great at science and math classes, but I am willing to work hard in those classes if it means becoming a dentist. Also, I don’t have really have a passion in maintaining or fixing people’s teeth, but I know that being a dentist allows one to have a stable job and flexible work hours. These factors are very important to me. Should I even go into dentistry? How difficult are the classes? Is it worth it to go through those classes and exams in order to get a job that involves working with your hands and helping others?

Some of my family members who have tinnitus, back problems, and eye problems, so I’m worried about the occupational hazards.

I also heard that besides passing multiple exams, the courses in dental school are not curved. Once you pass the courses, and pass the exams, it is guaranteed that you can be a dentist.

I know that the actual job may be different from taking courses in school, so I am willing to put up with taking challenging courses, if the job is interesting to me.

So far, I have shadowed a general dentist, by only watching the dentist work on clients (I didn’t do any hands on work). The job requirements seem acceptable to me, but not particularly interesting. I’m not squeamish by blood or drilling teeth.

Since I didn't do well in my science and math classes, I would need to take 2-3 years to retake them before applying to dental school.
posted by jeenmal112 to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I know nothing about being a dentist so I can't directly answer that question but I know a related job that sounds right up your alley - a dental technician. They make dental prosthetics from moulds of your teeth and use a lot of the skills you talk about having. I knew someone who went into the field and they apparently make a very good living. Back then, anyway, I don't recall it took years of science training, it was more like an apprenticeship/trade. I'm sure someone here knows much more about it if you were interested.
posted by Jubey at 12:56 AM on February 13, 2017

Apologies if this is a derail, since I don't know anything about being a dentist either, but I would urge anyone considering a career as a dental technician to seek further advice before doing so - in Australia at least, many of those jobs are being outsourced to countries who can do it cheaper e.g. China, and I'd be surprised if the same wasn't true in the USA.
posted by Cheese Monster at 1:16 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it's all the same to you, I would go into another, less competitive allied health field, or at least tailor my pre-reqs to have a back-up. Dental school admissions are (somewhat artificially) competitive because the ADA limits the number of dental schools they will accredit in order to keep supply low and demand high. It's entirely possible you will go through the rigmarole and not get in or not get in until your third or fourth application cycle. OT might be up your alley.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:23 AM on February 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Dentistry is highly intimate, are you OK with this? You will deal with heightened emotions on a daily basis, you will be directly and personally challenged in ways you never expected. In short, you will be dealing with folks in distress on a regular basis.

I noticed you left this consideration out. All of the better dentists I know have the ability to absorb and transmute these high emotions while remaining open and professional. Sometimes the work is bloody and gross and smelly, too. It's a lot more than a stable income, I think the billing side is why so many dentists have such shit reputations. Like any medical field, dentists are sorta forced to "upsell" if they want a thriving practice. On top of everything else, there's a bit a salesmanship involved.
posted by jbenben at 3:45 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you considered dental hygienist?
posted by Ftsqg at 5:45 AM on February 13, 2017

As read you question the first thing that came to mind was prosthetics technician.
posted by tman99 at 7:03 AM on February 13, 2017

I just stopped by to say that I've known many student dentists over the years (there are two excellent dental schools here) and I never met a nicer bunch of young men and women anywhere. I don't know what it is about student dentists, but they're great!
posted by james33 at 7:24 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dentistry is really the wrong field for someone who's not a science/maths person. It's a long, tough training period, even without the extra classes you'd have to take, and very competitive - it's a branch of medicine and not dissimilar to being a doctor in that regard. The hours may not be so long, but it's increasingly necessary for dentists to offer appointments outside normal office hours and sometimes to work weekends. It's a bad backup career/plan B because you'll be competing for limited spaces with some very driven, high-achieving people for whom it's a plan A. I strongly, strongly recommend you look into other fields such as physiotherapy or occupational therapy - I see that some people have mentioned prosthetics technician work and that sounds like a better fit too. But you know what else would be good? Being a nurse. The work hours aren't flexible in most settings, but it's a solid career, you'd do a lot of good, and it would be very hands-on. 'Listening to people to help solve their problems' is really central to nursing, far more than dentistry where you'd be mostly telling people what problems they have and how you're going to solve them - the subtle difference is rather important. I think you'd have a far better chance of incorporating what you've learned from your humanities background to become a well-rounded, empathetic but practical nurse.
posted by Acheman at 8:01 AM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

You have to have pretty much the same drive to be a dentist as you would to be a medical doctor. Major school, 4 years? Lots of anatomy and physiology. Then all the drugs, anesthesiology, blood borne pathogen stuff, etc. In the same area though there are all kinds of technician jobs, for example folks that make orthodontic appliances, dentures, veneers, implants, etc. If you don't mind working with people then theres dental hygienist, dental assistant, and orthodontic assistant.
posted by PJMoore at 12:24 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

One thing to consider is that dental school is VERY expensive. Keep in mind also that orthodontics is a very desirable specialty, so getting into a residency program is quite difficult and you will be competing against a lot of "gunners" to make the grades.
posted by karbonokapi at 2:11 PM on February 13, 2017

Thank you all for your answers! I appreciate those of you who gave other job suggestions to me! Many of you mentioned that becoming a dentist is difficult without the background skills in math and science and without the passion, since it is so competitive. I will take your advice into consideration.
posted by jeenmal112 at 11:12 PM on March 24, 2017

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