View Full Version : why dentistry?
09-25-2003, 07:29 PM
Hi dent students and future students,
I am looking at some options and dentistry is one of them. I was curious to know why you guys chose dentistry over other health-related careers? Is the dental program interesting? Is a dentist's job satisfying? (I know some might argue what dentists do all day is looking in peoples' filthy mouth). What about starting salary? Is Canada over saturated with dentists that it's competitive to open up your own practice? I am concerned because the tuition at some school is so high that you better make a lot of money once graduated to pay off student loans and have a comfortable living for all the efforts.
I'm trying to get more insight into dentistry to see if it's right for me. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
09-25-2003, 11:52 PM
you get to play with drills
what's not to like?
salary will depend heavily on location. in metropolitan areas there's more problems with saturation. starting salary for associate anywhere from 50-70k. in rural areas, you have the potential to make more than 100k after graduation. if you work for a HMO in the states, starting salary is 80-100k USD.
If you join the military program starting salary is 70k. you won't live like a king...but what profession pays 6 figure salary right after graduation?? None, unless you're an ivy league Law or MBA graduate.
If you work for yourself by owning a practice, the sky's the limit.
here's an article on dentist supply:
here's an article on MD salary for comparison:
one thing i like about dentistry is that you know what you're getting into right from the beginning. in medicine, you may not get matched to the residency you want at the location you want, so you may end up solving bladder problems in winnipeg (no offense) rather than doing plastics in metro Toronto. I also do not want to do another 6-8 years to specialize after med school.
as for staring at mouths all day, that's what happens after you become specialized, and dentists specialize in oral health. Medical specialists will only stare at the part of the body they specialize in as well- be it the eyes, the heart, the kidney, etc. Pharmacists stare at little pills all day. you get the idea.
i suggest you shadow a dentist for a few hours to see if it's the right thing for you. yes dental schools are very expensive nowadays, so make your investment decision a wise one.
Not all dentists look at filthy mouths every day. Once you graduate from a dental school, you can spend 3 to 4 years to become a dental specialist. Take orthodontists for example. They spend time adjusting the wire here and there. They don't do extraction, drilling, filling, scraping...etc, so no bloody procedures. They simply refer the patient to other dentists for those kinds of things. Most of the time they just chat with the patient. Chat, chat, chat...and still chat, chat, chat. :) As for oral pathologists, they probably spend lots of time in the lab, looking under the microscope, doing histological exams....etc. In fact, they are considered as dentists' dentist, giving advice to other dentists so that those dentists can formulate proper treatments or referrals for the patient based on oral pathologists' diagnosis.
09-27-2003, 06:53 PM
is oral pathology a popular field? do most oral pathologists work in academia, or are there many who work in the private sector?
i have never heard of any dentist sending oral samples of patients to oral pathologists...so i have a feeling that their job is more academic/research related. pls correct me if i'm wrong!!
09-27-2003, 06:57 PM
"looking at filthy mouths" can also be quite satisfying. No more or less disgusting than looking at genital warts, rectal polyps, and all the other inflamed, damaged or infected orifices that docs get to look at. For me, the idea of looking into filthy mouths sounds great - the filthier the better! It's fascinating and amazing. If anyone finds pathologies completely intolerable, they probably should not enter medicine OR dentistry unless they're planning to go into research or admin.
Echoing what someone else here has said, go shadow a GOOD dentist. If dentistry is for you, it will all become clear.
Other reasons for me include:
the money...it's great
NOT working in a hospital (I hate 'em)
The hours (generally normal: 8 hours, no shift work)
shorter program (don't have to do residencies)
working with my hands
working in the private sector (more autonomy, less beaurocracy)
etc. etc. etc
09-27-2003, 07:10 PM
Well, i could tell you a whole bunch of bull, but i wont.
i'm in it for the lifestyle and interest. I always wanted to be somewhere in the medical field, and after seeing some of my family members slaving hours at the hospital i knew i couldnt handle being a doctor, so i looked at my alternatives and found dentistry. I also think its really cool what dentists are capable of doing with people's teeth.
Obviously you cant go wrong with the lifestlye, regular 9-5 (or less) job with high respect and not too (and i emphasize too) much stress. Especially since nobody's life is at your hands.
09-27-2003, 07:50 PM
i was hesitant at first when i got to orientation a few weeks ago about my future as a dentist. those feelings quickly faded and i am now VERY pumped to spend my life doing dentist related stuff. whether it's general, specialized it's a great lifestyle. our profs tell us that it's a lot of work especially since it's your own biz. whatever you put in, that's what you will get out of it.
by the way, ortho is really hard to get into. a lot of people apply to the states so it's not an impossibility. you do need to get good-near the top of the class grades.
also, no mouth is the same and no teeth are the same. therefore, youre not just looking at the same teeth. every patient requires different skills for different procedures.
that's all. good luck to you all.
09-27-2003, 07:55 PM
where are you attending school? i'm interested to know if your profs have talked to you about what dentistry is like in the real world, stuff like that cuz my program is med/dent so i hvnt heard much about dentistry yet :(
Hey, LestatZinnie, do you spend your first two years with med? I thought only UBC and UofA do that. In UofA, we have only two dental courses during the fall-winter session. The rest is with med. In the summer, we still have to go to school (I know that sucks!) and we take pre-clinical dental courses until mid-July.
09-27-2003, 10:15 PM
Just curious if any of you guys knew you wanted to be a dentist ever since you were little or did you applied to a few programs also like meds and gotten into dents? Was dents always your first choice?
09-27-2003, 11:17 PM
at mcgill we have the first 18 months with meds. we dont have extra dent courses in the summer ^_^ the preclinical starts the second semester of second year. (do you have 2 years with med students?)
for me i was not sure whether to choose dentistry or medicine when i first went to university. i've thought about med, but never seriously considered it because somehow it just doesn't appeal to me. then i met an older student who was doing dentistry and i suddenly realized that's what i want!! i shadowed a couple dentists and that confirmed my desire. most people i've met are pre-dent only. of course there are those people who just want to get into any professional program they can, but that's just lame imo. those are the people that end up bitter about their career choice.
09-27-2003, 11:47 PM
I totally agree with you. I think all of us who want to get into dentistry or already in dentistry should have reasons other than the money and the title. When I first got into university, I wanted to become a doctor (yes, I was one of those too), but then I met and make good friend with a person from my class who's pre-dent. He made me realize that dentistry is really what I like. I then had very nice experience in working in dental clinic, so I choose dentistry. I wouldn't hate those people who apply to both (I know someone is applying to law school at the same time), but I just think that without knowing what really suits you, you will end up working a job just for the sake of paying bills and mortgage, and never put any passion into your job. I am glad that I made my choice already :)
09-28-2003, 12:20 PM
is the best school to go to for dentistry. not sure about western but u of t we get to assist already in the clinics. in addition, u of t just got brand new, expensive dental chairs ($15M) and so we as first years are the first year to get all 4 years with them. the profs are good (not all of them) and it's not like u of t undergrad at all. not to mention, were in toronto.
But do you have to share the chairs with other students?
I guess it would be great to use new chairs. In UofA, most of the facility is old. The latest equipment we have is cad-cam; we undergrad probably won't have any chance to use it anyway--start everything from the basic. If we really want to see how technology changes dental practice, we can join the exchange program with an affiliated dental school in Germany. But that means extra time and $$$. Our program is already quite long, from Sept to mid-July for the first three years. So, that translates to 3 dental years + 2 med years in terms of "normal" 8-month school year.
09-28-2003, 04:12 PM
I have heard that the UofT clinic is set up as "discipline-centred" which means students are more or less given procedures to do, as opposed to the "patient-centred" scheme which gives students a patient base and told to provide comprehensive care for all of the patient's needs.
Is that true? I would think that means less training in treatment planning and patient management...
09-29-2003, 05:17 AM
Can anyone tell me which Canadian dental schools have clinic set up as "displine-centred" other than UofT (if it is), and which ones as "patienti-centred centred"? Are there more alternative setups?
09-29-2003, 06:49 PM
I'm not sure what discipline-ctrd is all about, I haven't heard about it here at all. From what I've seen, we have 3 clinics (not sure if that includes the emergency clinic), and in all of them patient's are treated for whatever problem they have.
As far as first year assisting goes, so far its just been observational but the idea is to get exposed to patients early and also start assisting upper years. I think the assisting part is not half as educational as what you learn from interacting with patients and how they respond etc..
09-29-2003, 07:23 PM
Which school are you in, jiggaburn?
09-29-2003, 09:25 PM
of course in emerg we deal with the patient's chief complaint... but with patient-centred care at my school, we will get patients who perhaps haven't seen the dentist in a while, and we draft an elaborate long-term treatment plan involving multiple disciplines, and we follow our patient in each and every one of the steps (i.e. does not get assigned to someone else) until either the patient is all done or the student graduates... as far as I have heard the U of T style is a bit less like "real world" dentistry.
09-30-2003, 12:56 AM
What do you guys think of Western Ontario? I heard they have the most clinical work for students, and I heard the dent students get to do hands-on work starting from 1st year rather than spend 2 years with med students. Can anyone verify this for me and add their opinion on Western? thx!!
09-30-2003, 05:23 PM
I've been at UWO a little over a month right now and I'll let ya know my thoughts. From what I have been exposed to so far, I think its a fantastic school with a real desire for producing top quality dentists. For REAL clinical work with patients, first year is quite limiting; we are required to assist the upper-years with their patients for at least 18 hours or so. However, we have been working in our Simulation Clinic since week one. Its mostly learning psychomotor control by learning how to make various cavity preparations to specification, but its really fun (well, for most people I've talked with besides myself).
Hope that helped a bit,
09-30-2003, 06:58 PM
where are the 1st years assisting? I've been on the
clinic for a whole month now and haven't seen anybody.
It would be helpful if I got help putting on the rubber dam
There's essentially no patient interaction in first year;
in second year we get a patient (friend/relative) to come
in for oral diagnosis, and then for prophy/scaling. On
each other we take impressions, make nightguards, and
perform anesthetic injections.
09-30-2003, 07:04 PM
Some of you mentioned money as one plus of why dentistry (nothing to be ashame of). I've also read past sites where people think that they are so set once graduate, how true is this? Is'nt dentistry like a business? Once you graduate, I don't think you will get an influx of people into your clinic like a med walk-in clinic where people are lining up, regardless. Has dentistry over reached its saturation point? There are soooo many dentists in my area. What do you guys think?
another question for those currently in dents:
If dentistry was not your first choice, how do you feel about it now that you are in. Any lingering thoughts?
09-30-2003, 07:19 PM
Richie, yes dentistry is like a business. Most graduates will first work as an associate with an already established dentist and then either buy into the practice or start their own. True, starting from scratch can be quite difficult but worth it in the long run.
Now, its also true that some of the urban ctrs like Toronto, Vancouver etc are quite saturated, but I don't think that's true on a national level. So we have areas of saturation, but there's no way the profession is saturated because in the future a shortage of dentists is predicted. In fact, just go to google and search for 'dentists' in their NEWS search engine,and you'll read about the severe shortges in many American towns.
With dentistry you'll always have work, how much depends on where you work and how many other practioners you have in the area. With med clinics, sure you'll always have people lining up, but if there are enough of those in an area, the same thing can happen. In addition, a dentist can see far fewer patients than a GP physician, yet do just as well financially.
09-30-2003, 07:44 PM
sure...people line up at walk in clinics because it's free and so many go see the doc when they have a little cough. if it's fee for service like in dentistry then i doubt the turnout would be as great. in addition, despite people lining up family physicians are not making as much as you think...just check out the article i posted in another thread:
It's no exaggeration when one of our chem profs told us that the avg full professor makes more than the avg family doc (i think many ppl didnt believe him). As a dentist, unless you remain an associate for the rest of your life, you will make same and most likely more than family docs. (i'm comparing general dentistry with family medicine because med/dental specialty is another ball game)
saturation may indeed be problematic in metropolitan areas. however, the fact that none of ones i've seen have closed suggests to me that they're doing fine. They may not be million-dollar practices, but they ought to be making a decent living. There may be regional saturation in big cities, but on a national level there is still high demand. If you go rural or to US, even as an associate you can make 6 figure salary right after graduation. The problem is that most people don't want to go rural.
hope this kinda helps
09-30-2003, 08:30 PM
To my knowledge, no one in our class has started doing any of the required volunteer hours. Most of us are probably a little hesitant because we don't wanna go up there and look like fools when were asked for something and can't identify it :D
We do start learning to put on the rubber dams next thursday.. Should be fun.
As of now, I'm not sure of the exact policy for setting up the volunteer hours.. I think it may just be a matter of approaching random 3rd and 4th years and asking, but I'll have to look into that.
09-30-2003, 09:52 PM
I guess things move a bit slower in first year, I think the first time I went to assist was in the middle of October and I thought I was already really early. There is really no way anybody can learn enough about the clinic to be as useful as a real assistant, but it's still a good exercise in learning about how things are done at the school and an extra pair of hands is better than none! Putting a rubber dam on a live patient is in many ways very different from the mannikin! So instead of waxing teeth or visiting the anatomy lab come to the clinic and find an upper year! :)
As for the patient saturation problem: while very few new offices are springing up, there are dentists growing old who want to sell off or scale back their practice, so demand is not really at zero. Those with skills or connections will always find a place in the city, and I believe it's still feasible to find a relatively sparsely served area within an hour's drive from Toronto.
10-13-2003, 04:11 PM
Still confused about dentistry/medicine? Here's a little thread from another board which may give you some ideas about how current dentists think of their choice:
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