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The Untold Secrets to Dentistry Revealed, Med Times Copyright, All Rights Reserved, 2004-2005

By Ji Young Kim (ji_the_dentist@hotmail.com)

Come on, chickens. Admit it. We all fear dentists. It is as if we are ordained by God to fear them. We have all been dragged, entirely against our free will, to the slaughter house, called a dental clinic, and dreaded that butcher, called a dentist, who would somehow put an end to our existence right there and then. The lustrous gadgets that remind one of a hardware store, the noise similar to that of scratching a chalk board, and the abhorrent medication that causes one to gag… As a result of these superficial aspects of dentistry, this profession seems to go unnoticed among many Anteaters. However, many people make the conscious decision to become dentists. Why?

Dr. Timothy Foley, who practices comprehensive dentistry for the developmentally disabled at the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, loves the "art of dentistry." Many dentists, including Dr. Foley, consider their profession a form of art because it requires tremendous dexterity. Another appealing aspect of dentistry, according to Dr. Foley, is that a dentist is able to "resolve problems better" than a physician or other health professionals. Indeed, being able to provide patients with the proper diagnosis and treatment is a very rewarding experience.

Many people tend to believe that dentistry is a monotonous profession because the dentist performs routine procedures. However, Dr. Di Robles, a USC Dental School graduate and the mother of one-year-old Mario, Jr., firmly disagrees. She states that time to time she encounters very challenging cases that force her to think critically, especially when it comes to saving a tooth as opposed to extracting it. Flexibility is another aspect of dentistry that she underscores. Since her son was born, she has been working only two days a week. She works at her friend’s clinic as well for developmentally and/or physically disabled people, who became her patients mostly through word of mouth and referrals. She loves the fact that she is able to have her own career without sacrificing time to spend with her son.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, practicing dentistry may prove to be stressful. First of all, dentists are always exposed to HIV, Hepatitis B, and other dangerous viruses that are transmitted through blood. However, with proper care, they are able to reduce the risk significantly. Also, having a private practice is just like owning a business, and this may be intimidating to some people. Dr. Foley sold his private practice to work for the Fairview Developmental Center because he disliked the administration and office management aspects of it. However, one must remember that owning a private practice is not a qualification of a good dentist. Rather than owning a solo practice, she can work for an established practice owner, a hospital, a public health center, a dentistry consultation company, an academic institution, etc.

Dr. Glen Shimizu, another dentist working at the Fairview Developmental Center, knew that he wanted to become a dentist even before he entered college. As a junior in high school, he was involved in a program called Career Development, which was sponsored by Home Savings and Loan. In this program he examined his interests and explored careers that fit his personal qualities. Dr. Shimizu encourages pre-dental students to get as much exposure to dentistry as possible to find out if it is a suitable career for them.

Dr. Shimizu, who graduated from USC Dental School, says that the Dental Admission Test (DAT) was not terribly difficult but recommends taking the preparatory courses. He admits that the workload at dental school is incredible and social lives suffer a great deal. Going through four years of dental school is a "logistical nightmare," as he puts it. So he urges students not to go into dentistry for someone else’s happiness, but for their own happiness. One of the worst things students can do is to go to dental school as a second choice. Remember that dental schools do not want medical school rejects. Dentists already detest having a reputation as medical school rejects.

Obviously, dentistry is much more than what we think it is. If you are vaguely interested in a health profession, you should seriously consider dentistry as an option. But know what you are getting into before you decide to apply to dental school—talk to dental students, visit dental schools, volunteer at dental clinics and talk to local dentists. Maybe you can join Med Times and write an article or two about dentistry. I am the only writer taking the pre-dental route and want some people with whom I can share my passion. You are always welcome to e-mail me at ji_the_dentist@hotmail.com.


 

 

Dr. Foley at the Fairview Developmental Center is looking for some volunteers. If you are interested, please call him at (714) 957-5265 during business hours.

Some informative websites:

http://www.nyu.edu/Dental/ed.html

 

This site has links to the websites of U.S. and international dental schools as well as sites that contain useful information regarding the application process.

http://www.asdanet.org/

 

This is the home page of American Student Dental Association. If you join, you will receive an ASDA handbook that contains very useful information on U.S. dental schools and application process. There are other benefits as well.