Dentistry is a health care field focusing on oral health and the treatment, diagnosis, prevention and study of oral diseases. Despite its focus on oral health, dentistry is widely considered essential to overall health. Most general dentists enjoy the variety of procedures they do each day, and when necessary, can refer patients out to specialty dentists. Many dentists still work and own private practices. While private practices can be of varying sizes, the practice is owned by a dentist and that dentist is responsible for the care of his or her patients.
Ryan Dulde, DDS
Dentist/Owner, Eagle Family Dentistry
- Why did you choose to pursue this career path?
Dentistry has so much to offer. A dentist develops strong relationships with patients and staff, makes a good living, works convenient hours and has the power to get patients out of pain or bring their smiles back to life.
- What does your typical day look like? Did some aspects of your job surprise you?
As the owner of a start-up business, my day-to-day schedule varies greatly! Some days are very busy with patient care, while slower days are spent meeting with vendors, marketing the practice or handling administrative duties. I am surprised how much of my daily job isn't performing dental treatment and how much of my work follows me home at night.
- What challenges present themselves frequently in your specialty?
The technical aspect of dentistry is extremely detailed—we work in a world of millimeters. Communication is also a challenge, with both patients and staff. Managing the expectations of your patients is perhaps the most important aspect for building trust and confidence.
- What makes your field unique?
Dentistry is a blend of art, science and business. It takes a well-rounded person to be successful in all three at once. We have a lot more in common with surgeons than physicians because we fix problems with our hands.
- What additional training, credentials or licenses are required beyond dental school for your career? What additional training would you recommend beyond what is required?
After earning a degree and a license, there is little regulation for what a general dentist can or can't do. To be recognized as a specialist, like an oral surgeon or an orthodontist, a dentist must attend a specialty program and then limit their practice to only that area of dentistry. Although additional training is not required for dentists, it is a great idea for generalists to complete a residency in advanced general dentistry. There are so many things to learn in the dental field that four years isn't enough to squeeze it all in. A residency makes the transition to dental practice much smoother and makes the dentist more skilled and experienced.
- What are current trends in your field? In what ways is it advancing?
The materials and the technology used in dentistry is getting better every year! We're now able to take digital x-rays that appear on a computer monitor in seconds, with less radiation to the patient. Most dental restorations and appliances can now be made off a digital scan rather than a physical model. Dental implants allow us to replace a missing tooth or an entire mouth, eliminating the need for dentures. Metal is being eliminated from dentistry as advanced ceramics are being used for ultra-strong restorations that also look very real and natural.
- What skills are especially important in your field?
Patience, attention to detail, good hand skills and coordination, resilience, strong leadership skills and a talent for talking to people.
- What advice would you give to somebody interested in your career path?
Talk with a LOT of dentists, both new and experienced. Find out what they think about dentistry as a profession. If possible, seek out experiences in many different types of offices, both specialty and general. Ask staff members at dental offices about the dentist's best and worst days, and you'll get a good sense of the full spectrum. Consider becoming a dental lab technician or dental assistant for a period of time if your career plans allow it.