Before I studied dentistry, I didn’t really know what a dentist did. In fact, if you asked me then what the main function of a dentist was, I would have said it was to make sure that everyone has nice teeth. I also thought that all dentists had white coats and were old men with strange hand gestures.
But that was before I started working as a dental assistant in my fourth year of study. It was then that I learned about the realities of being a practising dentist.
Why you shouldn’t study dentistry: A typical day in the life of a dentist
I don’t know about you, but when I study for my courses, I like to know what it is that I am going to be doing on a daily basis. The course descriptions give you an idea of what to expect, but it’s different when you actually get into the profession.
Being a dentist is not as glamorous as I thought it would be. There are long hours and stressful situations. When you’re not doing any procedures, there is still a lot of paperwork to do and hygiene work to complete.
Here is a sample schedule of what my days are like:
8am – Patient consultation with new patient in clinic (typically last for 30 minutes)
9am – Cleaning in clinic (1 hour) (This involves polishing teeth, removing stains and giving patients advice on how to improve their oral health
10am – Meet with patients for ongoing treatment (30 minutes)
11am – Meeting with other dentists in clinic (1 hour)
12pm – Lunch break (1 hour)
1pm – Treatment plan meeting with other dentists in clinic (30 minutes)
2pm – Start prepping for afternoon procedures (1 hour)
3pm – Begin procedures (2 hours)
5pm – Treatments are completed (1 hour)
6pm – Leave clinic (1 hour)
7pm – Cleaning in surgery (1 hour)
8pm – Paperwork, hygiene work and other tasks that need to be completed before leaving for the day.
Why you shouldn’t study dentistry: The long hours
One of the most common questions I get asked is “How long do you work each day?” It is very hard to give a definite answer to this question because every day is different.
For example, if I have an appointment with a patient in the morning, I will spend 30 minutes with them and then get straight back to work. However, if I don’t have any appointments in the morning, I will clean teeth for 1 hour before starting my treatments.
It really depends on what has been booked in and how busy we are that day. The main thing to remember is that as a dentist, you will be working long hours every single day. In fact, the longest period of time that I have had off since I started working was one week during my first year of practice (I was on holiday).
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any holidays – there are plenty of them – but they aren’t as long as most people would like them to be. And then there are always procedures that need to be done during your holidays.
In conclusion, if you are considering studying dentistry, make sure that you have a very good reason for doing so. This is not to say that dentistry is a bad profession, but it does require a lot of work and effort.