A dentist comes in many shapes and forms, the most typical being the general or family dentist. It is their job to provide care to their patients’ teeth and gums through performing routine checks and sometimes specialized procedures. A generalized dentist will be licensed to provide oral care and diagnose any dental problems, perform minor procedures such as pulling teeth, and diagnose any further oral problems. If further treatment is required, they can also refer you to a specialist who can render the more advanced care that might be needed.
In order to provide the general treatment, they are assisted by dental hygienists and dental assistants. It is the job of a dental hygienist to make sure that you leave that dental chair with teeth that sparkle. On the other hand, the dental assistant will be the one to assist with dental procedures by monitoring and administering anesthesia, perform radiographs, and other tasks as needed. Under United States law, the dental hygienists and assistants must be supervised by a dentist.
All of the individuals who are going to be sticking their hands and tools into the mouth of a patient need to be skilled communicators. They should be able to explain what they are doing in terms that a layperson will understand and also be able to provide instruction on how to continue exemplary oral hygiene once at home. Preventative measures must be taken to ensure that patients can avoid gum disease – which occurs in more than 80% of the population – and that patients do not allow conditions such as cavities and toothaches to continue until they become something worse. To this end, dentists must provide patients with instruction on how to take care of their teeth and gums.
A typical workday consists of 7-10 hour days, except in emergency situations, and posted office hours that are, more or less, adhered to. This structure and normalcy of routine allows most to have a fairly normal and stable family life outside of their practice. They are also usually able to take vacations around the holidays and spend weekends with their families. Most practices feature more than one professional so that they can rotate taking time off. As far as revenue is concerned, each patient treated equals an increase in additional revenue, so it is common for many patients to be seen in a day, with one afternoon a week usually set aside for paperwork and files and catch-up duties.
The percentage of those who leave the field of dentistry is low – it maxes out at around 9% a year. This is mostly due to such factors as retirement, death, health problems, transfer to other careers, or a return to school for further education. Most professionals in this field enjoy their job and the hours it provides and tend to commit to a life-long career.