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12 May, 2024

What to Know Before Becoming a Dentist

Becoming a dentist in Canada can be a long road but often very rewarding. In this article, we will review what to know before becoming a dentist.
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You might be interested in dentistry and were wondering if this is the right career for you. Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we will discuss the lifestyle of a dentist, positive/negative aspects of the job, finding balance, and tuition debt. 

General Overview of The Career Path

A dentist who has completed their education in Canada would have completed the DAT (Dental Admission Test), graduated from both a bachelor’s degree and dental school, and is licensed to practice dentistry. Please note that the required years of bachelor’s degree varies for some dental school, therefore, make sure to check your ideal university’s website.

Upon getting licensed for practice, some decide to begin their general dentistry practice, while others may decide to specialize in a specific area by completing additional schooling or an additional 1-2 years in residency practicing general dentistry (AEGD/GPR programs). Please note that not all dental schools offer the same specialty programs.

Some areas of specializations include:

  • Prosthodontics
  • Endodontics
  • Orthodontics
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Oral Pathology
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics

⏰ Lifestyle

A typical day in a life of a dentist consists of routine patient examinations, in addition to performing restorative dentistry such as crowns, bridges, implants, fillings, etc. While, clinic hours vary from one another, dentist’s work hours often range anywhere from 5-8 hours a day. After each appointment, the dentist spends a few minutes to document the patient’s visit before moving on to the next patient.

Furthermore, the transition from dental school to working full-time can be challenging, as the duration of procedures are expected to be shortened in a work-setting. That being said, most dentists prefer to perform procedures that they’re comfortable with, and refer patients to specialists when they see fit.

Positive & Negative Aspects of Dentistry

Positives

1. Flexibility

Dentists tend to have a lot of flexibility in their career, which allows room for growth. For instance, if a dentist decides to stick to general dentistry, they can further their knowledge in their field by taking specific continuing education courses (example about implants) and dedicate their time to that area in their private practice.

2. Working With Your Hands

Dentists get a chance to create a tangible item that they have made with their hands. For those who like working with their hands, and enjoy tedious work, this can be a very fulfilling career. For example, if a patient comes in with a broken tooth, a dentist has the ability to restore that tooth and relief any symptoms.

3. Balanced Lifestyle

Dentists are known to have excellent work-life balance. We will cover this topic more in depth in this article under “Finding Balance”.

Negatives

1. Physically Demanding

The main negative aspect of dentistry is the fact that it is physically demanding. As hours can be spent sitting down, it can be tough on your back, hands, shoulders, and neck. Therefore, regular exercising sessions and yoga stretches are recommended to improve posture. The lack of self-care implementations could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic back pain, and hypertension for some dentists.

2. Perfectionist Personality

Since dentists work with tedious and precise tools on a daily, some become perfectionists. While, striving for perfect care is an ideal goal to have as a healthcare provider, it can also be mentally draining, as at times, there is only so much one can do.

Additionally, patients at clinics often feel anxious and unhappy about potential dental treatments. Therefore, as a dentist, you must learn how to make patient’s feel comfortable. One popular way to do this is asking about the patient’s past dental experiences to understand how they can make their visits more comfortable.

Lastly, most patients make treatment decisions based on their financials. Therefore, even though the dentists may be able to provide a better treatment option, sometimes it is not within the patient’s budget. Regardless, it is important for the dentist to present all treatment options to the patients in order to allow the patient to make an informed-decision.

⚖️ Finding Balance

Student-Life Balance

Many dentists claim that dental school brought on some of the greatest challenges yet fulfilling experiences. That being said, to overcome this stressful period, many try to ground themselves by different outlets. Whether that is to make time for people in their life, or to explore different hobbies, such as exercising.

Work-Life Balance

Due to set clinical hours, findings a work-life balance is far more easily gained than school-life balance. As clinic hours often range anywhere from 5-8 hours a day.

Paying Off Tuition Debt

Dental students often apply for government-based loans (ex. OSAP for Ontario) alongside a line of credit to pay for their dental school. Knowing that you must pay this tuition debt eventually, it is recommended to consider tuition fees of schools before accepting an admission offer. You can see a list of dental school costs in our article on dental school costs in Canada.

Lastly, the ability to pay off your dental school debt will depend on your associate position and the procedures you are comfortable with. For example, some associates near popular cities like Toronto or Vancouver may make $150k-200k, whereas others living in rural areas can make $300k+. As practice owners, you can potentially make more depending on how successful your practice is. Furthermore, dentists who can place implants or perform root canals on molar teeth are typically well-sought after. Therefore, paying off your dental school debt is usually something that can be done fairly quick depending what you decide to do after graduation and how comfortable you are with procedures.

Conclusion

While, the journey may take some time, dentistry can be an extremely rewarding and fulfilling career, as you will be able to see the impact of your work in patients’ lives. However, before committing to the career path, it is important to understand distinct aspects of the job. If dentistry is a career that interest you, it is recommended to shadow various dentists to get a better understanding of this profession.