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Home > Daily Dental Care > Your Dentist Visit > Dental Careers Guide for Teenagers
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Dental Careers: A Guide for Teenagers

 
There are several dental careers to consider.

Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. The factors influencing the choice of an occupation include your dreams, goals and personal preferences. Young people should seek out all the information and advice available. Share your thoughts and objectives with parents, educators, vocational experts and friends. Opportunities in American education offer occupational prospects to many more people than were ever accessible to previous generations. The boundaries are almost without limits.

Dentistry.com encourages young people to explore the many choices awaiting those who plan early and wisely in their career decisions. It's your future, your career and your choice. Let's focus on some of the exciting possibilities in the field of dentistry. Is it right for you?

  • Are you a people person with good communication skills?
  • Do you enjoy helping others with personal interaction?
  • Are you creative and do you work well with your hands?
  • Do you function comfortably with intricate detail without being bored?
  • Are you decisive and accept responsibility for your judgments?

If you feel positive about these qualities, please read on.

Dentistry -- A Career for the Future

Many health care professionals made their career decision in late high school or early college. It is never too soon or too late to begin serious thinking -- and dialogue -- about your career in dentistry.

These are the challenges and rewards that dentistry offers:

Variety: Dentistry is a rapidly changing, expanding profession, involving:

  • Detection of diseases: Although primarily focused on oral health, dentists are often the first health care professionals to recognize and identify a wide variety of diseases, ranging from hypertension to throat cancer.
  • Diagnosis: Dentists diagnose and treat problems affecting the teeth, gums, tongue, lips and jaws.
  • Cosmetic dental procedures improve patients' appearance, often with dramatic results.
  • Surgical Treatment: Repair, restore and maintain the teeth, gums and oral tissues that have been lost or damaged by accidents, disease or trauma.
  • Public education and the prevention of disease are the prime responsibility of the dental team to achieve the best oral health.
  • Most importantly, dentists treat people, not just their teeth and mouths.

Creativity: Dentists are artists as well as scientists. To brighten one tooth or realign an entire jaw, dentists always utilize the artist's touch.

Prestige: Dentists provide an essential health care service and are well respected within the community. Dentists are skilled, conscientious, civic-minded individuals who work with community leaders, educators, other health professionals and government officials. They often volunteer services to school health programs and to elderly, handicapped or poor citizens -- the hallmark of professionalism.

Flexibility: Dentistry allows you to be your own boss. Dentists can balance their personal and professional lives to meet their individual needs and desires. Dentistry offers opportunities in private and public settings including private practice, teaching, research, public health and administration.

Security: The average income of a dentist is in the highest 8 percent of U.S. family income. The demand for dental care will continue to grow. The increasing number of older adults are keeping their teeth longer, and are more aware of the importance of dental health in their senior years.

Personal Satisfaction: A career in dentistry is personally fulfilling. Dentists perform an important public service to help people maintain their health and appearance. It's a lifetime challenge, always at the cutting edge of technology, insuring a future of excitement and rewards.

Opportunities for Minorities and Women

Dentistry offers minority students exceptional career opportunities. The need for dentists from minority groups is very strong. Dental care may be accepted more readily when the dentist has knowledge of the patient's language and insight into their cultural background. Career opportunities for women in dentistry are also particularly good.

Careers in Dental Hygiene

Dental hygienists are important members of the dental health care team who work with dentists in the delivery of dental care to patients. Hygienists use their knowledge and clinical skills to provide dental hygiene care for patients. They use their interpersonal skills to motivate and instruct patients on methods that prevent oral disease and maintain oral health.

Dental hygiene offers women and men of all ages and racial and ethnic backgrounds exceptional career opportunities. A minimum of two years of college education that combines classroom and clinical coursework is necessary to become a dental hygienist. This education prepares graduates to provide care to patients in dental offices, clinics and educational or health care institutions.  Studying in an accredited program provides education that is based on the latest procedures and techniques.

Dental hygienists are a valuable asset in a dental practice. In addition to performing technical duties, they play an important role in teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene techniques and counseling them regarding good nutrition information and its impact on oral health.

Careers in Dental Assisting

The dental assistant takes on significant responsibility as a member of the dental health care team. Assistants greatly increase the efficiency of the dentist in the delivery of quality oral health care and are valuable members of the dental care team. If you have strong communication skills, enjoy working with your hands as well as your mind and want a career with responsibility, dental assisting is for you.

The best way to become a dental assistant is to receive a formal education. Studying in a Commission on Dental Accreditation accredited program provides education that is based on the latest procedures and techniques.

In some areas of the country, dental assistants can begin their careers without a college degree; however, education is encouraged. Assistants often have considerable freedom to choose their own hours. So if a career in health care and 1-2 years of formal education appeals to you, then dental assisting is a career you will want to explore.

A career as a dental assistant offers many challenges. In addition to assisting the dentist during a variety of procedures, other specific tasks that dental assistants may perform include: taking and developing dental radiographs (X-rays); sterilizing instruments and equipment; and taking impressions of patients' teeth.

Careers in Dental Laboratory Technology

The dental laboratory technician is an important member of the dental health care team. Dental technicians make dental prostheses, or appliances, which are replacements for natural teeth to help people who have lost some or all of their teeth to eat, chew, talk and smile in a manner that is similar to, or better than, the way they did before.

The hallmarks of the qualified dental laboratory technician are skills in using small hand instruments, accuracy, artistic ability and attention to minute detail. The duties of a dental laboratory technician are comprehensive and varied. Although dental technicians seldom work directly with patients, except under the direction of a licensed dentist, they are valuable members of the dental care team, using molds of patients' teeth and soft tissues to create:

 

  • Full dentures for patients who are missing teeth
  • Removable partial dentures or fixed dental bridges for patients who are missing only one or a few teeth
  • Tooth crowns, which are caps for teeth that are designed to restore their original size and shape
  • Veneers which enhance the aesthetics and function of the patient
  • Orthodontic appliances and splints to help straighten and protect teeth

Dental technicians work with a variety of materials in replacing damaged or missing tooth structure. These include waxes, plastics, precious and non-precious alloys, stainless steel, a variety of porcelains and composites or polymer glass combinations. Additionally, many technicians acquire skill in the use of sophisticated instruments and equipment while performing laboratory procedures. It is important for the technician to help create tooth replacements that are both aesthetic and functional in order to improve a patient's appearance.

The Dental Specialties

There are more than 140,000 active dentists in the U.S. today. Most dentists practice general DMD dentistry, giving them the capability of providing comprehensive care to a wide variety of patients. Some dentists choose to limit their practices to one of the nine recognized dental specialties.

A Message to Parents

If your son or daughter demonstrates scientific ability and interest, works well with people and enjoys helping others, he or she may derive lifelong satisfaction from a career in dentistry. As a parent whose son or daughter is considering becoming a dentist, you undoubtedly have many questions, such as "What employment opportunities does a dental career offer?" and, "Is dental school a good financial investment?"

Those who choose a dental career may face considerable challenges. The demands before, during and after dental school are many, but the rewards are even greater. Dentistry offers your son or daughter prestige, variety, flexibility and financial security.

A major concern of any potential dental student's family is cost. Though a dental education may be expensive, it is within the reach of people from all economic backgrounds. Financial assistance in the form of loans is readily available from a variety of sources.

A dental education is a sound financial investment that will more than pay for itself.

Getting a Dental Education

Now is the time to start planning your pre-dental education.

Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right dental treatments for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.

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