The role of a Dentist
A dentist is essentially a doctor who specialises in the field of oral health and hygiene. They are responsible for diagnosing oral diseases, preventing oral disease, maintaining the oral health and hygiene of patients, administering anaesthetics, monitoring the development of teeth and jaws, and performing oral surgery. Dentists are also expected to look out for signs in a patient’s mouth that may indicate health issues elsewhere in the body. Dentistry is a difficult field to enter, but it’s one of the most financially rewarding roles in healthcare. Most dentists are self-employed and treat patients through both the public and private sectors.
How do I become a Dentist?
To practise as a dentist in Ireland you must be registered with the Dental Council of Ireland. To do so you must first obtain a Bachelor of Dental Science degree. Currently, both University College Cork and Trinity College Dublin offer Bachelor of Dental Science BDS and Bachelor of Dental Science B.A., B.Dent. Sc respectively.
The first two years of a dentistry degree are very similar to most medicine degrees, proving a foundation in anatomy, biochemistry and physiology. You may be required to learn Greek or Latin, as those are the languages associated with medicine. In the third year things become specialised, and by the fourth and fifth year you will be expected to treat patients. Subjects covered include endodontics (root canal therapy), oral medicine, oral surgery, orthodontics, paediatric dentistry, prosthetics and restorative dentistry. Between the fourth and fifth year you will have the opportunity to take a voluntary clinical placement at an institution either in Ireland or internationally.
The process of registering with the Dental Council of Ireland can take up to three months, and by no means should you begin seeing patients before having your application accepted. Practising dentistry in Ireland without being registered with the Dental Council of Ireland is illegal.
Dentists who wish to set up their own practises are advised to study a business module while in college. This will help to prepare you for the task of setting up a privately run business.
While most dentists operate general practises, some are employed in the public dental service in public health clinics, dental hospitals and schools.
Who you will work with
Whether running your own practise or operating in the public dental service, as a dentist you will work alongside and liaise with a number of health care specialists. Dentists will have regular working relationships with:
• Dental nurses
• General practitioners
• Dental hygienists
• Health service managers
• Medical sales representatives
• Laboratory technicians
Key skills for Dentists
Speciality aside, a dentist is essentially required to possess the same attributes as any doctor, surgeon or general practitioner. Providing a high quality of care for the patient is vital.
• Compassion and understanding of patients’ needs and sensitivity to their apprehensions
• Ability to balance professional objectivity with building friendly relationships with patients
• Communication skills that allow you to communicate with suppliers, fellow health care professionals and patients
• Critical thinking to identify and diagnose patients’ ailments
• Physical and mental ability to perform intricate operations for extended periods of time
• Enthusiasm for dental hygiene, the importance of which you should be able to communicate to patients
• A willingness to continue your education in an ever-changing field of medicine
www.ucc.ie/en/ck702/: UCC Dentistry
www.tcd.ie/dental/: TCD School of Dental Science
www.dentalcouncil.ie: Dental Council of Ireland
www.dentist.ie: Irish Dental Association