HackCollege Interviews: A Dentist
If you’ve ever had a root canal or a professional cleaning, you know those services may not be cheap but are very necessary. However, most people don’t look forward to seeing the dentist. And yet, it is a noble job.
After all, not everyone can do what a dentist does. So, that made me think about what makes a good dentist and made me wonder why would-be dentists decide to commit to the field. I went out of my way to interview a close friend, Brad Goodchild, about what being a dentist is really like. His answers are below.
What is your professional job title?
I am formally known as a Children’s Dental Prevention Program Supervisor.
How did you get into your industry and how long have you been in it?
My father is a retired dentist. His twin brother was a DDS, as was one of my grandfathers, and one great uncle as well. I’ve been making a living in this industry for 20 years, so I think it’s safe to say that it runs in the family. Dentistry provides a unique blend of psychic rewards and an opportunity to put hands on dexterity, artistic skills, and diagnostic ability to use helping people.
Can you tell me what your typical day is like?
I take care of poor children, mostly immigrants, in three suburban Atlanta clinics. Most days include some tears, blood, pus, snot bubbles, toothaches, crying, and occasionally some vomit or lice. Usually, we will be required to repair a lot of decay damaged teeth and extract the ones that are unsalvageable. We also try our best to prevent these problems by sealing teeth (with a protective resin coating) and equipping kids with brushes, toothpaste, floss, and the knowledge of how to maintain their teeth. It’s a meaningful job and I provide a service that many people need.
Have you had a job in the same industry that you didn’t enjoy as much? Why?
There are bad days and bad positions in any profession. We have some of the same issues as every other workplace. There are bad coworkers who are tardy, grumpy, lazy, unhelpful, and don’t keep current with technology, training, and skills. I’ve seen bosses who micromanage, underpay, overwork, and underappreciate employees.
Some facilities are run down and have poorly maintained or older equipment and older technology. There are opportunities to treat people in the private sector, military, public health, hospitals, research, and academic areas. It’s very important to be particular about finding a place for yourself that best matches your skill set and interests. I’m fortunate in that I haven’t personally had any overwhelmingly negative situations.
Do you have advice for students looking to get into your industry? Do you have specific advice for women?
Everyone can have equal success in this industry. The most important thing is taking the Dental Aptitude Test (DAT–the dental equivalent of the MCAT or LSAT), prerequisite undergraduate work that leans heavily on the sciences, and of course, scoring high enough grade averages to be competitive enough to beat out many students for the relatively few slots available. If you want to work in a dental office in any capacity, it is advised to develop work experience while studying. Internships are also a plus. I can’t stress enough how much emphasis is placed upon hands-on experience in this field. You can have all of the education in the world, but without that applicable experience, it will be harder to find a job in the field.
Which certifications and skills should beginners possess if they hope to work in your industry?
Other than going through the necessary educational procedures to become properly qualified to work in the industry, there are certain behavioral traits and qualities that work well in this profession. Having a calm, patient demeanor is very beneficial. People who are able to place themselves in other people’s shoes, exhibit professionalism under stressful situations, and display empathy and a kind bedside manner are typically the most successful in this industry.