10 Things I Love About Being a Dentist & a Few Things I Could Live Without

My eight-year-old self would have a full-on conniption if he knew that I ended up becoming a dentist. You see, me and the dentist were not exactly on the best of terms back then. The reality of most of my childhood was that dental visits came in twos. One appointment to get my teeth cleaned, and another appointment a couple weeks later to get fillings or silver caps. So, I’m sure that younger me would have a hard time believing that not only do I not hate being a dentist, but I actually kind of love it. Sure, like every job, there are bad days, but for me personally, the good days outweigh the bad. 

#1 My favorite part about being a dentist is educating my patients. I don’t know if it’s the PTSD from all of my childhood dental trauma, but anything I can do to help my patients avoid unpleasant dental visits is incredibly rewarding. A lot of the time, big results come from some pretty small changes. For example, most people don’t understand that sipping coffee or soda throughout the day is way worse for your teeth than drinking coffee or soda in a short period. 

#2 Smile makeovers never get old. While cosmetic dentistry is not the main focus of my practice, I really enjoy doing it! In a lot of cases, fixing someone’s smile with crowns or veneers is also functional, meaning that we not only make the teeth look amazing, we also put the teeth in a healthier position for ideal oral health. One Christmas, we gifted a woman from our church a smile makeover and it is so satisfying to know that it’s a gift she will enjoy every day of her life.

#3 I love giving my patients tools that make their home care easier. I am a big woodworker and one of the mantras my grandpa and my dad taught me is that the right tool makes all the difference. There is continual innovation in dental products, so I view it as my personal responsibility to make my patients aware of any new products that make cleaning their teeth and mouth quicker, easier, or more effective. 

#4 It’s so satisfying to change people’s attitudes toward the dentist. I have developed several techniques to make shots nearly painless. I explain everything that I am doing to my patients and give them regular updates on how much longer the procedure is going to take. We have huge TVs in front of the patient and on the ceiling so they can watch Netflix and relax. We even give our patients who have had a restorative procedure a warm towel to refresh at the end of the appointment. I love hearing “that was the best dental visit I’ve ever had.”

#5 I love the work-life balance. I have a work schedule that allows me to get my kids out the door to school every day. I work four days a week and usually take four weeks off each year to travel and spend time with my friends and family. That right there proves it’s worth it to stay in school, kids!

#6 No two days are the same as a dentist. Even if I am doing a bunch of fillings today and I did nothing but fillings the day before, every mouth and every tooth is a little different. It’s kind of like a puzzle. I think that’s probably why they call it the “practice” of dentistry. You’re constantly learning, growing, and honing your craft. 

#7 I talked earlier about smile makeovers with crowns and veneers, but there’s another (probably more satisfying) type of mouth makeover. When people have severe periodontal (gum) disease, the bone around their teeth starts to disappear. As this happens, the teeth become mobile and once they do, they’re on the fast track toward extraction. I always have an honest, straightforward conversation with these patients, and many times that’s enough for them to say, “What do I need to do to fix this?” It’s music to my ears! In many cases, in-office gum infection therapy combined with improved home care can reverse these negative patterns in just a few months. While we can’t get the lost bone back, we can get the teeth and gums to a point where they are much stronger and more stable. 

#8 I enjoy developing relationships with my patients. For most people, the dentist is the healthcare provider that they see most often. In my practice, we have a number of four-generation families; kids, parents, grandparents, great grandparents. It’s fun seeing my patients at the grocery store, sporting events, PTA meetings, etc.

#9 Helping my staff grow and learn is really fulfilling. There was a girl who worked at a sandwich shop across from my dental office and she always gave us amazing customer service. When one of the assistants at my office moved away, we offered the girl at the sandwich shop a job. She slowly learned the ropes and developed into an awesome assistant. She has now gone back to school to become a dentist! 

#10 I loved inventing the Slate Electric Flosser. My number one goal in inventing it was to help people avoid unpleasant dental visits. Toothbrushes, in my opinion, are about as good as they’re going to get, meaning that they do quite a good job of removing the plaque and bacteria in the areas where the toothbrush physically touches. BUT, I still see tons of cavities and gum disease every day in my practice. Knowing that most people are only willing to pick up one tool in addition to their toothbrush, I spent a significant amount of time designing the Slate Electric Flosser to address every area of the mouth that the toothbrush misses. It brings me a lot of satisfaction to know that people all over the world are setting themselves up for lifelong oral and systemic health by purchasing my product.      

While every job has things about it that aren’t so great, there are three that are pretty unique to dentistry. One, I get told multiple times per day, “I hate you. Not you specifically. Just dentists in general.” That gets pretty old after a while. Two, I can do blood and guts all day long, but pulling food out of people’s decayed or fractured teeth…nope! I gag every time. And three, the worst part about being a dentist: finger lickers. When people try to figure out what I’m doing in their mouth by licking my fingers. Worst. Feeling. Ever. Regardless, dentistry is an incredibly rewarding, engaging field of work and I’m so grateful to be able to serve and care for people in this way; even if there’s the occasional finger licker.