Dentistry is what I love. Before I explain why I chose this as my career path, here is a little explanation of what it takes to become a dentist:
-4 years of Undergraduate Education.
-4 years of Dental School. After these four years, depending on your school, you will receive your DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry) or DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery). The degrees are the exact same; some institutions have decided to grant DMD degrees. “The question then is this: If they’re essentially the same thing, why the different titles? At first, there was only one dental degree—DDS. When Harvard Dental School came along in the late 1800s, however, things changed a little. Harvard degrees are traditionally printed in Latin. So, the DDS degree was translated to CDD (Chirurgae Dentium Doctoris). Harvard knew this to be a bit of a mouthful, so the academic powers that be decided to change it to Dentariae Medicinae Doctor, or DMD. And the rest, as they say, is history. More universities followed Harvard’s approach, while others continued awarding the DDS degree.”
-Then you can choose if you want to specialize or not. Those who would like to become General Dentists can look for jobs and immediately join private practice right after dental school. Some do a residency year in General Practice to gain more clinical experience and training.
Some, however, go on to specialize and do a residency if they feel a certain area is their passion and calling. The specializations include:
- Oral and maxillofacial pathology
- Oral and maxillofacial radiology
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
- Pediatric dentistry
-Depending on the specialization, residency can be another 1-4 years of further training. -If you choose to do a fellowship afterwards (sub-specialty), that may be another 1-2 years.
As a freshman, I applied to many research positions at my undergrad institution, the University of Pittsburgh. Many labs didn’t respond to my emails, and many labs said their positions were full. I had almost given up until one lab emailed me back saying they had an opening available. It was at Pitt’s Dental School clinic. We collected DNA samples from patients that came in, in order to build a genetic databank to use as data for statistical research projects in oral health. I had never thought of dentistry as a career path up until this point, but it was the only medical research opportunity I had received so I took it. I always say that this was fate. On one of my first few days in the lab, I was sitting with a patient and dental student who had made the middle aged woman a new set of dentures. As soon as she put them and held up the mirror, the woman started to cry! And then the dental student started to cry! She said she had never felt so beautiful in her entire life when she smiled just then. It was absolutely adorable.
Since then something really just clicked, and I realized that dentistry was what I truly wanted to do. This was also without knowing anything about it besides my own experiences to the dentist/orthodontist. I had no ideas or opinions in oral healthcare, didn’t know what kinds of dental specialties there were, and had no idea what it took to get into dental school and how the process of dental school itself even worked. But I had this weird, undeniably strong, intuitive feeling that this is what I was meant to do… I had never felt anything like it and all I felt was that I had to follow it.
After a lot of research into the process I decided to wholeheartedly follow my gut, make a plan, and set out to achieve it. To learn more about oral health, I’ve done expansive scientific research on topics ranging from aggressive periodontitis, craniofacial regeneration, dental caries, genetic and statistical research on TMJ, and bone grafting – each topic in its own way fascinating. Research has not only exposed me to a lot of interesting areas of oral health, but it truly taught me to think and analyze problems like a scientist. On the other hand, every specialty I’ve shadowed, volunteered with, and work for, I love. They’re all so different and and even though I have a few ideas, I can’t wait to find where i’ll fit in and thrive.
So, that was how I got introduced, and integrated myself into the field of dentistry. But why do I want to dedicate my life to this field? Where does that drive and dedication come from? Why do I love teeth?!
I truly feel that the smile is the most gorgeous part of the human body. It’s magical, it’s powerful, it’s courageous. It’s the physical expression of love, gratitude, kindness, happiness, excitement, content, understanding and pleasure. A smile is a universal language. Its what we can’t stop doing when our insides are all tangled up with joy, and what we fake sometimes because it helps us get through the tougher days. A smile is contagious, and we may even feel the desire to see it on the ones we love more than ourselves. Its the anatomical art-form of the light we all have inside. Smiling, and seeing others smile, makes me feel free.
Imagine if you felt you couldn’t smile, laugh, comfortably eat or drink, or express your joy. Whether you were embarrassed to, if you had a condition that caused you pain, if you were born with a deformity that others ridiculed, or looked in the mirror and felt yours wasn’t beautiful. This to me is agony. This, and the beautiful balance of medicine, art (dexterity), and my compassion and empathy for people is why i’m pursuing dentistry.