June 30, 2021
by Dr. Sanjukta Mohanta B.Sc. DDS
Do you remember why you became a dentist? Are you happy you chose dentistry? What would you say to someone who wants to be a dentist – that it’s a dream job or to keep dreaming?
Recently, my friend’s son got accepted to both dentistry and medicine. My friend is a dentist and our dentist friends got into a debate about which profession he should choose. I thought that a bunch of dentists would champion their own team, but I was shocked that many cheered for the other side. They said the golden years are gone, that dentistry is stressful, that it is hard to manage a practice and that medicine is a better profession. If you were in his son’s shoes today, what would you do? His son chose medicine. My friend was relieved. I was intrigued. Why didn’t he want his son to follow his path? That set off a great conversation with my friend about why we became dentists and if we would do it again.
I remember writing my dental school application. I wrote about my positive experience with my dentist, hygienists and orthodontist, and how I wanted to help others like they helped me. I had crooked teeth; my brother told me that I looked like I ate rocks for breakfast. I was so embarrassed about my smile that I tried to do my own ortho by flattening out paper clips into a crude retainer and placing them over my teeth. I was so excited to get a headgear that I even wore it when I didn’t have to. After the braces came off, my true self came out. I wanted to make others feel the same way. I wanted to help people improve their lives through their smiles.
When I talked to my friends about why they became dentists, the answers were pretty similar: helping people, making a difference, working with our hands, being our own boss, making our parents proud, (not getting into medical school – LOL!). As dentists, we can do all of these things, but are we happy? Maybe a better question to ask is what do we value? Dentistry was a last-minute decision for me. My early years as a dentist were unhappy ones. I only started enjoying dentistry when I aligned my career to my values: community service, advocacy, education, helping those who need it the most. Think about why you went into dentistry. Are you doing what you hoped to do? Does your life align with your values?
My friend and I both love dentistry. He is glad he became a dentist when he did, but he said now it’s more expensive, more competitive and less lucrative than it once was. I agree. So, what would I say to someone who wants to be a dentist today? The answer came to me through an 8-year-old patient I saw yesterday. She has been coming in for multiple restorative appointments. While I was placing a stainless-steel crown, I could see she was beaming under the rubber dam. Her dad said, “You know, she loves coming here.” I asked her if she wants to be a dentist when she grows up. Her smile got bigger while she nodded up and down several times. She reminded me of how much I enjoyed going to the dentist as a little girl. She reminded me of why I became a dentist. I am improving people’s lives through their smiles and now this little girl wants to do the same. I told her that I could see her being a great dentist. I told her how wonderful it feels to help others. I told her she will love it.
About the Author
Dr. Sanjukta Mohanta is a general dentist practicing in Brampton, Ontario. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @drsanjmohanta on Instagram.
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