July 13, 2020
As a high school student, you are at the critical stage of attempting to figure out what career you would like to pursue. Finding the right career path can often be overwhelming when you have endless options. In a way, the world is your oyster; this can be a lot to process. Don't despair, though, because you have many resources to help you on your journey.
Among the most respected fields that you might come across are dentistry and medicine. While medicine has always been a popular choice for college students, dentistry has gained more attention in recent years due to its appealing work-life balance.
From the most prominent dental careers are the following:
A General Dentist (DDS) provides a wide range of services for the maintenance of oral health. General dentists tend to focus on the prevention of various oral diseases through regular examinations. They also diagnose and treat patients undergoing such procedures as root canals, cavity fillings, bridgework, and fitting for dentures. Even more, they may refer patients to specialized dentists for specific cases.
An orthodontist specializes in jaw alignment and teeth positioning. They utilize oral appliances and precise methods to straighten and realign a patient’s teeth. It is common to see them practice on younger patients because teeth are typically easier to adjust at a young age. Nonetheless, it is not rare to find orthodontists performing procedures on adults as well. Although many orthodontists prefer to work at a dental office, others are usually employed in a hospital setting to assist patients who have suffered traumatic jaw injuries.
As the name suggests, members of this career field assist dental professionals. Dental assistants prepare and develop X-rays, take impressions/molds of patients’ teeth, and sterilize equipment. They also educate patients about their procedures and walk them through personal oral care. Other tasks may include fluoride applications, sealant applications, and topical anesthesia. Lastly, dental assistants may schedule appointments for patients and help with activities around the office.
Hygienists are similar to dental assistants. That being said, a dental hygienist’s workload is generally more substantial than that of a dental assistant. The hygienist provides preventative dental care while being supervised by a dentist, performs dental cleanings, and examines patients for signs of oral diseases (gingivitis and cancer screenings). Overall, their primary role is to educate patients on methods to improve oral health.
Becoming a Doctor
Perhaps you would like to dive into the world of the medical doctor. Similar to the field of dentistry, the medical career path offers tons of opportunities that may interest you. These include cardiology, which mainly focuses on illnesses of the heart, neurology, which assesses various activities of the brain, and dermatology, which examines conditions of the skin.
Regardless of the specialty, you choose to seek, there is a great deal of preparation required before your admission to medical school. Once you graduate from high school and begin your first semester in college, you should devise a plan regarding the prerequisites you need to take to keep yourself steady in medical school. It is highly recommended to consult your college mentor about the medical school admission process and how you can increase your chances of getting accepted.
Once you are accepted to a medical school, it will take you about four years to complete your medical degree. After that, you will need to find a residency program that fits your interests. At this stage, you can choose a specialty like the ones previously mentioned. The time it takes to complete a residency program is anywhere around three to seven years, depending on the specialty you select and learning the ins and outs of your patients, insurance companies, and potential malpractice issues in the space. For example, it will typically take three years to complete residency for a cardiologist. On the other hand, an aspiring surgeon will spend a minimum of five years in a residency program.
Whether you decide to take the dental route or the medical route, both will demand patience and perseverance to succeed. You will inevitably experience highs and lows, but the key is to avoid any obstacles that will hinder your progression. Having a support system will make your mission feasible to accomplish. Your friends and family should know that you are embarking on a path that deserves time and commitment, so remember to cherish the people who will encourage you along the way.