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More Than Pulling A Tooth

By Expert Author: Karen McDonagh

“So you can pull out teeth?’

This is among the first questions people usually ask when you tell them that you are a dentist. This only shows that even with a lot of information available on the internet, people do not have a real grasp on what a dentist does for a patient. Most people assume that dentists simply identify a painful or broken tooth and proceed to remove it from the oral cavity. Maybe this way of thinking can be attributed to the fact that a lot of people are still afraid of the dentist or going to the dental clinic, and therefore are not fully aware of what proper dental care entails.

Anyone who pursues a dental education will discover that dentistry is not merely about removing painful teeth from the mouth. A dental student soon realizes that taking this course is practically the same as taking medicine but with special concentration on the oral cavity and other parts of the head and neck related to it. As such, a person who graduates university with a degree in dental education and passes the licensing exams is considered a professional doctor.

Dental education begins with learning complete human anatomy, histology and physiology. Higher level subjects would eventually focus on these aspects as related to the head and neck system, more particularly on the oral cavity. Once these are learned, a dental student is then taught about possible abnormalities, which is what dental treatment serves to address. Even in university, the dental student is not first taught about removing teeth but actually trying to save it. The topics taught in Operative Dentistry, prior to entering Clinical Dentistry, teach students how to address diseased teeth through restoration in order to return it to a healthy state. It is only when the tooth is deemed to be non-restorable and unstable that removing or extracting it may be considered.

Another aspect in work life that a student may learn and practice through a dental education is that of communication with patients and the general public. It is essential that a dental practitioner knows how to properly speak with patients and to build rapport. This skill is an art in itself that many dental practitioners are not given credit for. Given that there are a lot of patients who are afraid of the dentist, it is crucial for the dental practitioner to be able to calmly speak with the anxious patient and help alleviate some of the fear, in order for the patient to receive the needed dental service. A training in practical dentistry allows future dental practitioners to sharpen such communication abilities.

It is commonly mistaken that dental professionals are only focused on treating patients to make an income. Although this may be the driving force for some practitioners, it is noteworthy that a dental student cannot complete a course of dental education without learning and involving one’s self in community oral health service. Dental students are taught about community health planning and promotion, even involving information on how to use successful media portals for such. It is encouraged to participate in community oral health programs for the endorsement and promulgation of good oral health status around the nation.

Contrary to what most people think, pursuing a dental education is actually quite challenging. It involves more than just learning to identify what tooth is painful and removing it to stop the pain. It involves deciphering what is normal and abnormal in the oral environment and deciding which dental treatment is the best, conservative and most acceptable for the patient, in order to restore the patient’s oral cavity into a state of health. It furthermore involves the dental practitioner being able to communicate to patients about oral health prevention and treatment, which may contribute to raising the standard of oral health in the country. By this it is seen that dental education is not as simple as most people think because of its scope of subjects to master and the skills that will be required beyond that of performing a dental procedure.

Karen McDonagh is a proud contributing author and write articles on several subjects including Dental Education. For more information please see this CPD for Dental Students.

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