Public Health Dentistry

Dental public health focuses on the health of populations in a non-clinical way. The most widely known dental public health implication has been the fluoridation of water. A major focus of public health is preventing disease in large populations, rather than treating diseases on an individual basis. There are also ways that you can get involved clinically to treat underserved patients, such as in a Nationally Qualified Health Center (NQHC).

Rachel-HymesRachel Hymes, DMD 

South Carolina '10
General Dentist, Mountain City Dental Clinic
Mountain City, Tenn.

  1. Why did you choose to pursue this career path?

    I chose to pursue dentistry in order to serve those in need as well as to have a skill in order to do mission work. I was able to find a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in the mountains of Tennessee that was in desperate need of a dentist and chose to move to Mountain City, Tenn.

  2. What does your typical day look like? Did some aspects of your job surprise you?

    I work 8 a.m.-5 p.m. every day and see patients of all ages from all walks of life. We do all aspects of dentistry except root canals and placing implants. Every day we do extractions, fillings, partials, etc. The most surprising thing about my job was finding out how little many people know about basic oral hygiene, as well as health in general. Much of the population in the area only drink soda and give it to very young children. It is sad to see how bad meth mouth is, and how it affects such young people.

  3. What challenges present themselves frequently in your specialty?

    My biggest challenges are when parents do not keep appointments to have their children’s teeth restored and convincing them to drink less soda.

  4. What makes your field unique?

    Working at an FQHC allows all people, despite their income level, to be treated. Everyone is charged a minimal fee, but it depends on the patient’s income as to what percentage they pay. This makes dentistry available to all people.

  5. What additional training, credentials or licenses are required beyond dental school for your career? What additional training would you recommend beyond what is required?

    Dental school prepared me to work in this environment. No additional training was needed, but CE is crucial to increase your knowledge. Being a part of the ADA, as well as your state and local dental societies, is invaluable. Each person involved has so much knowledge and experience and is always willing to help.

  6. What are current trends in your field? In what ways is it advancing?

    There is always new materials and equipment coming out. Make sure it is tested well before you in invest in it.

  7. What skills are especially important in your field?

    It is important to be a people person and caring towards individuals. It is also important to be good with your hands.

  8. What advice would you give to somebody interested in your career path?

    Keep your grades up and study hard. Make sure you shadow this career in order to make sure it is something you can do every day. This job keeps you busy all the time and there is never a dull moment. You work very hard, but it is very rewarding. I love my job, and would recommend it to anyone!