Dental School It takes at least 3 – 4 years of undergraduate studies, as well as 4 years of dental school to become a dentist in Canada. You will need to complete the prerequisite courses in your undergrad program, usually a mix of biology and chemistry classes. This gives prospective dental students a solid foundation upon which they can build while pursuing their dental degree. I completed my undergrad program at UBC, with a degree in Microbiology and Immunology, before moving on to complete my dental degree at Boston University.
ExperienceMost all dental programs focus heavily on classroom lectures for the first two years, with “simulation” dentistry completed on mannequins (AKA dummies with teeth) during that time. During the last two years, less time is spent in the classroom, as students progress into the clinic setting, where they learn and hone their skills on actual patients. At BU, it was during this time that we also completed our rotations in various specialties (like oral surgery and pediatric dentistry) to further increase our exposure to the many disciplines within dentistry. I remember vividly when we learned one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of dentistry at the time – numbing the teeth! We learned on our fellow classmates, and everyone scrambled to partner up with someone they thought had stable hands that wouldn’t hurt them… much. It was aptly called “friendship day” at BU.
SpecialtiesA general dentist is able to provide treatment in all disciplines within dentistry, including endodontics, periodontics, and oral surgery, just to name a few. Depending on the complexity of your dental needs, a general dentist can be a “one-stop shop” for many patients. Of course, specialists exist for a reason, and they are well trained to handle particularly complicated cases. A general dentist will have the patient’s best interest in mind, and will refer when necessary. Most offices have a strong referral network at their disposal, and ours is no different.
PersonalityThe personality traits that are important for dentists can be debated until we’re blue in the face. Some patients want their appointments as short as possible, so efficiency is most important. Others may not be as concerned with appointment length, but prefer high quality work with an exceptional level of detail. In my mind, the following three traits are basic for all dentists:
- Patient: Dentists understand that for some people, there are a million places they’d rather be than in a dental chair. Many people have dental anxiety or dental phobias. It’s important to treat these patients respectfully, understand their individual situations, and devise a plan on how to best proceed with treatment.
- Meticulous: Dentists should be very detail-oriented. Many procedures they perform are very technique-sensitive, and deviation from proper technique can result in decreased levels of success. Dentists also work on a very small scale, with the majority of our work measured in millimetres. If something is off by even 1 mm, it can have negative ramifications for the patient.
- Good communication skills: It’s important for patients to understand the treatments proposed to them. Everyone knows what a filling is, but in more complex cases where multiple teeth are involved, or if several stages of treatment are required, patients should know what’s being done to their mouths. Good communication between dentist and patient will minimize confusion, and keep everyone happy.