I get asked all the time how I became interested in dentistry, or more accurately,”why would you want to put your hands in someone’s mouth all day??!!”- to which I usually respond that there are a lot stranger places in the human body that I could have my hands in……..But seriously, I tell people that I believe that there are 2 pot shots in life: who you marry and the job/profession you choose. In both cases, you might have a fairly good idea of what you’re getting into, but until you really get your feet wet, so to speak, you have no idea of its true reality.
For me, I thought it would be cool to be an orthodontist (putting braces on kids teeth) but it didn’t take long for me to realize that family practice is my calling. I love people and I especially love getting to know them over time. At this point, many of my patients have been with me for over 25 years- on a daily basis, my office feels like an open house party where old friends drop by to have their teeth looked at and we get a chance to catch up while, at the same time, new patients come in and reinvigorate the office with their energy and desires for an improved, healthy smile.
I got to thinking about this last week when Rachel came to observe our office in action. She is a freshman in college and is considering, in addition to several other options, becoming a dentist. It’s hard to know what comes up for most people when you introduce the image of a dentist- pain producer? nerdy guy in a smock snapped up to the neck?? Steve Martin in the movie Little Shop of Horrors?? caring, educated clinician who helps patients keep their teeth…..hard to know for sure but what I do know is that a dentist CAN be a very artistic, talented individual who strives to help their patients achieve the beautiful smiles they desire while ensuring its comfort and longevity.
So when Rachel mused about how she might be interested in dentistry, I encouraged her to hang out in our office with us for as long as she wanted to see what kind of magic might happen that day. Now, regular readers of this blog know that I love to teach. And I teach in several different venues: University of MD Dental School where I help out in the clinic, working with junior/senior dental students- they are just learning the very basics of procedures and are very interested to know how it is “in the real world”. I also teach newly graduated students who are in a General Practice Residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital- they are much more smug about what they think they know , so it’s my job to make sure they understand that their education is just beginning and it will continue for a lifetime. And then there is my favorite teaching venue- Spear Education in Scottsdale Arizona (www.speareducation.com) where I am a visiting faculty. This is where dedicated dentists, in all phases of their career, come to learn how to do the very best cosmetic dentistry that achieve maximum comfort and natural aesthetics.
But to have a college student spend the day with us, is almost the most awesome of responsibilities. Because it presents the opportunity to truly influence an individual and possibly alter their very life. All my patients know that I am very passionate about dentistry, my office, staff and patients. It was very easy for Edie, Cindy , Corinne and I to communicate that enthusiasm while Rachel observed us. I was especially glad that she was able to see our latest piece of technology in action. Our Cerec machine- that’s the one that makes a porcelain crown while the patient waits- no goopy impression, no temporary crown, no having to come back for a second appointment with an additional shot of Lidocaine……..
What made the procedure doubly cool was that I was making a porcelain onlay (a half crown) on my old pal, Lefty, an 87 year old professional fly fisherman who had just happened to have been at my house for dinner the week prior and who had brought me in his latest book complete with a signed message to me. The entire procedure went off without a hitch and Lefty was just blown away by the level of technology and efficiency of the Cerec machine. But more importantly, I hope that Rachel really got how awesome it can be when love of your profession, that you do at the highest level, blends seamlessly with love for the people you work on and the staff you work with. It’s just a genuine honor and privilege to have all those pieces in place on a daily basis to provide a profession and way of life that feels like a genuine blessing! It’s a lot for an 18 year old to take in at one time and honestly, I imagine it can be found with any profession that one truly loves but I feel that dentistry is uniquely positioned to offer a dynamite career.
Like I said, there are 2 potshots in life : who you marry and what profession you choose. I always tell people that I am one for two…..but that’s another story for another time!! Good luck Rachel- I know that you will choose well and be extremely successful with whatever path you choose.