Tips for Pursuing a Career in Dentistry

As a professional field, dentistry and its related occupations are of great benefit to society and are often financially rewarding. Dentists and dental hygienists can expect to make good salaries while helping people when they are most in need. Among professionals in the United States and other countries, such workers are often among the most respected within society.

Pursuing a career in dentistry or dental hygiene can start either early or later in life. Some people begin professional school at age 21, others decades later. What unites such people is their dedication to hard work and looking out for the best interests of patients. Even high school students can prepare for the field by starting studies in the hard sciences early on.

Most workers in the field will start at undergraduate or graduate level, however, where preparation for dental school or later dental hygienist school usually begins.(Conversely, dental hygienists may choose entry-level programs such as associates degrees when entering the field, as well as master's degrees or transitional programs if undertaken at later times in life or when different qualifications are needed.) Choosing the right courses with a counselor and looking at schools one hopes to apply to will significantly help in creating a career within the field. For dental school hopefuls, preparation for exams such as the DATs should occur within good time to retake the test if necessary and still have one's applications in order.

Dental and dental hygienist programs tend to take into account a dynamic range of qualities in their applicants when making a decision as to their suitability within their schools. Some good qualities for future professionals to have include honesty, strong work ethic, dependability, perseverance, and a commitment to serving surrounding communities in the area in which one lives and practices.

These qualities can be demonstrated in a variety of ways. Consistently good grades can show willingness to work hard; evidence of volunteering will show an interest in bettering the lives of others; good exam scores will show perseverance and rigorous thinking; and letters of reference from favorite professors can show the candidate to be dependable and of good nature.

If an applicant to a program feels their undergraduate performance is lacking, note that there are still ways to get a foothold in the profession. Many master's degree programs are available to boost GPAs and to help students show they can perform well in a professional school and setting. The opportunity and time to retake major exams or develop experience shadowing in a dental office (a key component in preparing for a career in the field) will also be a bonus of such programs.

Perhaps the one secret to entering the dental profession is that there are no secrets or shortcuts. Remember to work hard! Nothing beats a regimen of hard work for tackling the many challenges of entrance into the dental field. The good news is, professions such as dentistry or dental hygiene are often true meritocracies in which you will be judged solely on your abilities. As with running a marathon, the key to success is consistency as well as preparation. Just as you wouldn't sprint the first mile of a marathon and walk the rest, remember to pace yourself. This is a years-long process for anyone, and finding your pace is important to long-term success.

At the end of the day, a key to pursuing a career in the field of dentistry is to be optimistic and committed to the idea. Remember to not give up and to admit where your efforts aren't working, and working your way into the career of your choice should not be impossible. If you’re dedicated, becoming a dentist or dental hygienist can be a reality!
About the Author: Cammie Channing is a dental hygienist working with John Carson, DDS, a dentist in Tucson, Arizona.

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