Dentistry, a long hard road but rewarding

I’ve been a dentist now for over 2 decades. It all started as a child. I loved science (had very high grades and scored 12th grade level on science on an achievement test in 5th grade), was coordinated with my hands and enjoyed making thing and building models. Whenever we went to the doctors office, it was filled with miserable looking sick people sitting around for hours. The doctor mostly just looked at you and prescribed medicines. I also knew that some of his patients may die because of their terrible illnesses and that I was too sensitive to deal with people dying on a regular basis. I decided against being a physician. When I went to the dentist’s office with my mom, there weren’t many others sitting around and very little waiting. He had lots of neat looking tools and got to work with his hands. And, charged my mom lots of money for what he did that didn’t seem to require great physical effort just concentration and precision. I thought to myself,” I can do this.” This was when I was 12. When I reached 28 I started working as a dentist. The road in between was filled with going to school, studying to make good grades, going to college (chemistry major with lots of extra biology), studying hard to make good grades, an unnecessary( for dentistry) stint at graduate school in chemistry, then, finally, four more years at dental school with long 8-5 days in school, doing lab work in the evening, and studying to make good grades until early in the morning 12- 2 am. Academically, I found chemistry and the 25 credits of calculus I took to be more conceptually challenging than the dental curriculum. But, there is a huge volume of information to be memorized in any medical field. To make it through the schooling required, you need excellent memory skills and concentration. You also need to be very disciplined and willing to work hard undergo great self sacrifice. Sacrifices like not having much sleep or fun for many years. Summer vacations do help to rejuvenate you for the next onslaught though. You really miss those vacations when you finally go to work for a living.
I didn’t want to immeadiately talk about the job of dentistry without some appreciation for how one ends up there doing it. The schooling is only part of it . I left out lots of stuff, like all the money borrowed for tuition, books, thousands of dollars of dental instruments and supplies, working menial labor summer jobs, living in cheap apartments in bad neighborhoods. buying used cars, furniture, washers refigs., fixing everything yourself due to lack of money. Damage to your relationship with your spouse, if you are married, due to stress, focus on your goals and lack of time and energy to give them needed attention. Also, the setting up the practice is stressful, costly procedure. You have to imagine some of these things in your head.
To be highly successful requires you to be really good in three main areas. The first is to be excellent at dealing with people of all kinds and temperments so you can establish good repoire, trust and convince them to get what they need, but usually don’t want, done for them, secondly, you need to be excellent at correctly diagnosing problems and deciding the best treatment for that person to solve their problems, and third, you need to be really excellent at delivering the treatment. At none of these areas are any dentist 100% successful all the time. Your whole career is spent learning more in all of these areas,to become better and better, so hopefully, by the time you retire you will be a really great dentist.
The nice thing about having your own office is you great to create what you want. You hire the people you want to work with and fire those you don’t, listen to the music you want to hear, decorate the way you like. Dentistry is alway technically dificult and is becoming more so with modern esthetic materials. Some patients are much harder to treat than others either because of physical or psychological reason. After a while, after doing the same procedures over and over thousand of times you get to be really good at them if that is important to you and you are willing to learn from your mistakes. If you are smart to design your systems well and learn to be good at dealing with people you have much less confrontation with your patients than others do with their customers in other fields. I know because of the many jobs I had before dentistry. There will always be the problems that any small business owner has. Like taking a vacation for one. It is very hard to take time off unless you are in group practice which has its advantages and disadvantages. The average income for dentists is now slighty higher than the average physician. Specialists can earn 200-300k or more. After you are established you can work a decent amount of hours and still have time for your family and hobbies. You also can make many friends in the community as a result of people seeing you as a patient. I enjoy my career immensly and know a lot of people work a whole lot harder for a whole lot less money, respect, fullfillment,etc. Also, you can’t beat working in a clean ACed environment surrounded by smart, sweet, pretty young ladies. And, most of your patients actually get better as a result of your treatment and many patients actually appreciate your efforts and are very thankful. These are some of the rewards for being studious, self sacrificing and willing to take on many large responsibilities and want to continue to learn and grow. I’ll gladly answer any questions about dentistry as a career. Direct any questions to Dr. Parks at vertex2100@yahoo.com

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