Preparing for Dental School While in High School
It is not easy to make a career decision when graduating high school, let alone knowing what you want to do with your life during this time. However, students who know at least what direction they are going early have a distinct advantage both financially and academically. Making this tough decision in grades nine or ten can save you six months to a year of high school. You avoid the time-consuming situation of spending extra time because of mistakes regarding course selection. The results of knowing are, nailing down prerequisite requirements and getting to that paying job that much earlier.
Let’s say for example you know in grade ten that you are going to be a dentist, or at least work in the dental field. Near the end of that year, you will begin making course choices more relevant to your future goals. So, what do you need to do to prepare for dental school? In Canada, not every dental school has the same program requirements. Therefore, it is important to talk with your school guidance counselor or career consultant as soon as you establish your field of study. In general, to become a dentist you should focus on six main skills.
General Academic Ability
Dentists never stop learning. You must be a good student, enjoy learning new things, and overall have excellent general academic ability for all subjects. The field of dentistry is divers with lots of avenues, niches, and opportunities. You never know what fire might ignite inside you, what area of practice you may be drawn to. Keep your options open by having the ability to learn in different ways. This includes mastering math skills for obvious reasons, and we’re not talking about counting teeth. Rather, dosages of medication, conversions, volumes of liquids and gasses, and many other situations in dental offices require mathematical competency.
Your aptitude for the sciences will be tested. More specifically you will need to understand biology and chemistry and how they relate to dentistry. Therefore, a good course history including advanced level of both is necessary. Biology often requires a person to have the ability to memorize things well. Often this is difficult without an interest in the subject matter. Likewise having some idea of future application when participating in chemistry experiments can help a student preform better in class.
If you don’t enjoy reading or have trouble visualizing what you read, you may want to choose a different career. Reading and good communication skills are essential to most medical related futures. A dentist or hygienist must be a “people person” as most of their time will be spent surrounded by and conversing with a wide variety of people. Medical records that include descriptions, observations, treatment plans and more are all written and read, and sent and received by multiple people to provide proper care for your patients. For obvious reasons these must be clear to you and others. In addition to directly related reading comprehension is the continual education mentioned already, which without reading talent requires valuable time as payment for lack of ability.
Many areas of dentistry involve the ability to see with an eye for detail and an aesthetic sense. A dentist involved in a cosmetic procedure or service often is called upon to precisely match color, size, and shape of a tooth. Dental work can have a dramatic affect on a person’s appearance especially when it comes to orthodontics and reconstructive dental work. A dentist without artistic skill will quickly disappoint his or her clients. Therefore, artistic ability is a must to add to your portfolio of skills.
Physical Aspects of Dentistry
No one can deny the physical stamina needed to be on your feet all day hunched over in unnatural positions to work inside multiple people’s mouths. The manual dexterity and fine motor skills are not to be overlooked either. You can’t preform dental work the same way you would approach carpentry. Instead of hard inanimate wood, you have flesh and blood that feels every move you make. Strength, precision, and agility must be tempered with sensitivity, caution, and empathy to master the physical requirements of being a dentist. So yeah, don’t forget to excel in gym classes and sports as well.
Talk to Your Dentist
The more you learn about what it takes to prepare for dental school and a career in dentistry, the more you might see the need to make sure it’s what you want. As you can see it takes a well-rounded academic person to become a dentist. Why not talk to your dentist and other dental health professionals? If possible, spend some time in their offices, even if it means volunteering your time. This will give you an opportunity to see what life as a dentist is like and if it’s a career for you. Most of these professionals will be happy to help you learn about what they are passionate about themselves.
The Dental Aptitude Test
Many approaching graduation this year are aware that they need to take the Canadian Dental Association’s (CDA) Dental Aptitude Test (DAT) in order to qualify to attend a Canadian dental school. There have been some big changes to this test recently, be sure to check it out well in advance.