“I hate dentists!” is a comment we’ve all heard a thousand times. So why would anyone want to do dentistry?
This was a thought that had crossed my mind several times during work experience at a dental practice to help support my application to dental school. However, ultimately, several reasons overrode those negative aspects for me, and this is why I chose to be a dentist.
The BDS undergraduate dentistry degree in the UK is a 5-year programme that presents various challenges and rewards along the way. The most compelling reason why I continue to enjoy dentistry every single day is the privilege of helping another person, in often a life-changing way. Preventative dentistry encompasses a large part of the role of a dentist and involves educating patients to motivate and inspire them to look after their oral health. If you enjoy immersing yourself in a vibrant and diverse community of people, then dentistry will put you at the heart of that.
Oral health combines the unique aspects of function, health, and aesthetics; teeth are often what we notice first in another individual. This makes dentistry an incredibly interesting subject with several components to always consider when treating a patient. It really does show what you can do with a dental degree! The vast range of treatments that a dentist can carry out on a day-to-day basis still amazes me: from simple fillings to more complex root canal treatments and even placing implants. In this way, to me, a dentist is also a surgeon.
A lot of people compare a dentistry course and medicine, and they do possess many similarities, but dentists pave the way in combining healthcare, business, art, manual dexterity and continuity of patient care. These are all reasons that excited me to step into a profession that is ever-evolving, and patient-centred. As well as this, dentists apply sound knowledge in science to every decision made, making sure to utilise evidence-based research and guidelines to dictate treatment planning. As someone that always enjoyed sciences at school, I knew I wanted to combine this in my future career.
Some may see dentistry as a narrow field; however, this could not be further from the truth. Thirteen specialist lists exist on the GDC website including areas such as oral surgery, periodontics, endodontics, and restorative dentistry. Career progression and choices are plentiful, allowing you to be the type of dentist that you want.
At dental school studying for a dental degree, you will not only progress in your practical skills to treat patients but also cover the supporting theory in many different subject areas. A dentistry course is designed to make you a confident and compassionate clinician, aligning with the General Dental Council (GDC) values. If you are someone that thrives in a leadership position but also works well as a team, dentistry is a great option for you.
Being a dental student itself is also incredibly rewarding as you get given a huge amount of responsibility. You will have patients directly under your care with supervision from tutors and provide numerous treatments such as crowns, restorations, and dentures. Although it can be frustrating in the beginning when faced with a large amount of content to learn and difficult practical sessions, there is plenty of time to improve over the five years. Dentistry really does provide a stimulating, challenging and scientifically advancing career with the opportunity to work with people, learn for life, and maintain a good work-life balance. This is why I chose to be a dentist.
For further reasons to choose dentistry as a career, check out RainaOnTheCusp‘s YouTube channel.
University has a bit of a reputation as being the time we can ‘find ourselves’, explore new places, discover our passions, jump outside our comfort zones, and the list of sayings goes on. Three years ago, 18-year old Anusha would have eye-rolled if anyone said those things to me. I was very much the sort to think: “I’m going to London to study Dentistry so that I can come back and be a Dentist in Singapore, what more is there to it?”. That part is true – attending lectures and studying in the library wasn’t so different from all the studying we had to do in school. But looking back, I realise it’s about all the other things associated with our time at university – it’s the increased freedom to have new experiences in life that gives this period it’s well-deserved reputation.
Being an international student, in my opinion, takes this experience to a whole other level. For most, coming to university was new because it wasn’t school, but for me, the university was new because it was in a whole other country.
Some aspects were the same as anyone else starting university – I figured out how to study independently, I made new friends and got involved in student activity groups. And, like anyone living away from home, I learnt to cook, do laundry, set up direct debits and all that. But I do think, being a 13-hour flight from home and in a different time zone to my family and school friends meant there was an added layer. Small things were different – the mannerisms of people, the currency, the accents, the deafening tubes, the way Sainsbury’s in London is somehow so different to Fairprice in Singapore even though they’re both grocery stores. It was these tiny things that in reality didn’t matter but still made me feel like I stood slightly apart from everyone else.
I felt a little more alone and thought I didn’t have the same security blanket as anyone who was living in a country they’ve grown up in.
Now I should say I spent 5 years in London as a child and with English being my first language and having a mixed British-Indian accent, in some ways, it was easy for me to adjust to the move. But it turned out, ten years in Singapore was a long time and was enough to make me feel like I was in a new place again. Three years later, my friends still laugh when I say “pants” instead of “trousers” and I’m still wrapping my head around some of the slang – I will internally cringe when I hear someone say “peak”, but the occasional “innit” might slip my tongue. Also, people don’t realise I’m
an international student; most think I’m from London – I suppose I fit in well, especially in a course that is full of South Asians. But truthfully I do feel different. I am a third culture kid – I grew up away from India, I have a Singaporean passport but attended an international school. My identity is
made-up by the fact that I lived in five different countries, attended eight schools and have lived in more houses than I can be bothered to count. I suppose I now feel at home anywhere I go as long as I find a community, a group of wonderful friends and a purpose. The reason I’m bringing this up is this has affected my outlook – perhaps someone who grew up in Singapore their entire life has had an entirely different experience of being an international student in the UK than I have.
The big question I get when people find out I’m not from the UK is: Where do you want to practice?
Even before I started the course, my friends and family back home would ask if I’ll come back to Singapore after university. Out of my immense love for the life-style in Singapore, I replied with naive certainty that I would indeed return as soon as my degree ended, despite not actually having
stepped foot in London yet. I continued to receive these questions from fellow students, and in those early months of university, I still responded with “Singapore for sure”. However, as time passed, I grew less certain and wasn’t so sure what I wanted anymore. After three fabulous years of living in London, I’ve made friends I would hate to leave and my little, cluttered flat in Elephant in Castle has become my second home. Singapore might have been the country I grew up in for 10 years, but London is the city that I have grown into my own person. I know that decision, ‘London or
Singapore?’, is going to depend on a multitude of factors external to Dentistry and I am excited to see where I’ll end up – maybe even somewhere else entirely, who knows! But for now, when I get asked “Where will you settle down after university”, I respond with a little shrug of my shoulders and two words: “We’ll see”.
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