People always think being a doctor is a very important occupation, and tend to overlook dentists as essential healthcare professionals. But everyone needs a dentist to take care of their oral health.
Anyone who has ever had a tooth- ache will testify that a good dentist can be a lifesaver. And dentists, or dental surgeons as they are also known, take care of more than just teeth.
Over the years, the profession has evolved and developed tremendously. Today, dental surgeons can replace missing teeth with dental implants that are indistinguishable from the other teeth, straighten teeth and salvage teeth. They are even called upon to reconstruct hard and soft facial tissues, says Dr Chow Kai Foo, Honorary General Secretary of the Malaysian Dental Association.
Outlook: Malaysia now has 13 dental schools. The number of graduates from these local schools combined with Malaysians who graduate from foreign schools is enough to meet the current demand for dental surgeons.
“The career outlook is very bright, but we must always remain on the cutting edge of the science and art of dentistry,” says Dr Chow. “If we manage our human resources wisely, and never compromise the standard of our graduates for any reason, we will not decline.”
Local graduates have been of the highest standards and on par with world‘s best. But the field of dentistry is now balanced on the edge – the steep increase of the number of dental schools from three to 13 over the course of the past five years means there is now a shortage of good qualified teachers. This could possibly compromise the standard of Malaysian graduates, so institutes should be vigilant lest the quality of dental surgeons decline.
Knowing the profession: A vital component of a good dentist is compassion; being able to empathise is important. A postgraduate degree in dentistry is not really necessary for a successful career, though it will keep the professional at the cutting edge.
Continuing professional development is essential, as with any profession today. Dentists need to keep abreast of the constant advances in technologies, and scientific and artistic knowledge and expertise.
Students should know that a common misconception about a career in dentistry is that dentists make a lot of money, says Dr Chow. “Most dentists do attain a very generous income mainly through sheer hard work, study and by constantly keeping up with current advances. If a person wants to really make a lot of money, they should work towards owning a business that has unlimited growth. We must remember that every dentist has only one pair of hands and limited hours a day and there are only so many patients you can see before collapsing in exhaustion.”
What you need: “An aspiring dentist should have a deep appreciation of both the art and science of dentistry,” advises Dr Chow. “Most of all, they must have compassion for their patients who usually come to them in pain. Dentistry is a good choice of career, provided you go into it with your eyes wide open and armed with proper knowledge of what it entails.”