Reality Bites: 10 Things Only Dentists Can Truly Understand
March 6 is National Dentist’s Day, which gives us the perfect reason to recognize those professionals who spend their working lives creating beautiful smiles. Here’s a shout-out to our dentist members, with some thoughts on why dentistry is such a cool career.
1. Dentists are smart. Considering what it takes to get into dental school—undergraduate work in biology and organic chemistry, top-notch performance on the Dental Admissions Test, and meeting all of the requirements of the American Dental Education Association’s (ADEA) dreaded general application—brainpower is a must. The reason there are only 70 dentists for every 100,000 people in the United States might be due to the profession’s aging workforce, but more likely it’s because most people just don’t have the chops.
2. To earn your DDS (or DDM) you need more than good study habits. According to the ADEA, students must meet four key requirements to be successful in dental school: perseverance, humility, a sense of humor, and honesty. The ADEA doesn’t point out you need a tolerance for bad breath.
3. Dental school debt makes a root canal seem fun. A 2016 survey of dental school seniorsrevealed that their average educational debt topped $261,000—four times the average amount owed by dental school graduates in 1990. The good news is, dental school grads who know where to look can refinance their student loans and save thousands of dollars over the life of those loans. So yes, it’s expensive to earn a DDS—but there are ways to painlessly reduce the final bill.
4. Dentists can pay off student debt and start a practice at the same time. Private practice has its rewards. It’s probably no surprise that 80% of dentists are self-employed, and the average net income among general dentists in private practice is more than $183,000 per year. Dental specialists pull in nearly twice that amount. Still, success as a business owner requires careful financial planning, and that begins with paying down dental school debt. Dentists who’ve gone through the process suggest consolidating and refinancing any high-interest rate student loans, seeking the services of a really good accountant, and, of course, flossing every time you brush your teeth.
5. A dentist invented the electric chair. While this has nothing to do with practicing dentistry, it’s likely not hard to believe that a dentist invented the electric chair. Alfred P. Southwick, a dentist from Buffalo, got the idea after seeing a drunk accidentally kill himself by touching a generator.
6. Dentists get anxious just like everyone else. On top of their student loan debt, dentists have to stay on schedule and current with new procedures, spend most of their days in small spaces, and deal with frightened children who won’t open their mouths. The bottom line is, dentistry can be stressful, which explains why so many dentists practice yoga.
7. Dental tools are fun. From modular dental chairs with transthoracic instrument-delivery systems to 25kHz ultrasonic scalers, many of the “must-haves” of modern dentistry also serve to entertain those who use them.
8. Dentists give back. Filling cavities is just the tip of the iceberg. Many dentists volunteer around the world to meet the high global demand for their services. Among the places looking for dentist-volunteers: Guatemala, Honduras, Uganda, and Senegal.
9. Dentistry is the #1 career in the world. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked dentistry at the top of its “100 Best Jobs of 2017″ list, and not because dentists get to wear scrubs all day. The magazine’s rationale: The industry boasts great salaries, a low unemployment rate, and will offer 20,000 new job openings between now and 2024. Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of dentists will grow 18% between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the average 7% growth for all occupations.
10. It’s all about those toothy grins. Three dentists at a family practice in Massachusetts have made juggling a part of their pre-treatment routine. Others in the profession hand out bouncy balls as a way of saying thanks to their pediatric clients. The best dentists know how to put their patients at ease—and keep them coming back for good oral health.
There are a lot of perks to a career in dentistry, including self-employment, a great income, and the knowledge that your skills will always be in demand. But perhaps the best thing about being a dentist? The ability to provide real and often life-changing solutions to their patients.
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