For most people, being a dentist is synonymous to being well financially, driving late model cars, owning nice houses, and traveling around the globe. The reality is that even when many dentists live that kind of life, the dentistry career road is not an easy one to travel. Dental school itself is a four year long commitment. The first two years are pre-clinical, which means they are taught everything in excruciating detail.
Basically, dentists are doctors specializing in the oral cavity region. That’s why they have to study anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, histology, genetics, pathology, etc. On top of all that, they had lab classes where they learn how to drill and restore teeth, make crowns and bridges, dentures, etc and all the theory behind it.
In the final exam period, there are approximately 13 exams to go through. That doesn’t include all the practical exams they have, which are very stressful. Each written exam usually covers 300 pages of textbook material, including minute details like “what wavelength is composite resin cured at” and lots more technical questions. In short, dentists are not “tooth technicians” but doctors, and the road isn’t easy. You have to really want it, and expect to work hard all along the way.
That is why I went ahead and asked Dr. Maritza Nunez from Nunez Dental in Jackson Heights, NY, for an interview. She’s been practicing dentistry for over 30 years and graduated as Doctor of Dental Surgery – DDS in 1990 at the New York University College of Dentistry. She was awarded the Hispanic Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011.
So, for me, she had the credentials and expertise to talk about this. I began by asking her how was a day to day life like at a dental office, at least at hers. “I can only tell you that during the time I have been at the office, my main concern has been to be better each and every day as far as caring and servicing my patients,” she explains.
“In the dental universities, we learn to deal with and treat your teeth; but it is in the daily life of a dental office where you learn to serve with your heart and care for the patients. You really need to feel passion for your profession. Patients tend to notice right away if a dentist is committed or not.”
Another misconception is that the dentists are only after the money. Even when making good money is a valid concern – whose career does not want to be well paid? Dr. Nunez promptly clarifies that as a dentist, you do not treat patient’s oral needs just to have a monetary compensation.
“First and foremost, we need to treat patients as human beings who want to be first heard and treated with all the respect and understanding possible. Therein lies the secret to get the respect and love from patients and is one of the main reasons of success in a dental office. If doctors practice this way, then they deserve to be compensated.”
I asked Dr. Nunez for the most valuable recommendation she could give that could impact patient’s lives positively.
She says, “I’d like to remind our patients to continue thinking intelligently about preventive dentistry. Ninety percent of the cases treated here at our office could have been avoided with just regular visits. As people are trying to “save” money by skipping their regular visits, another enemy factor is setting in slowly but surely: the terrible periodontal disease or gum disease, the main cause of most tooth loss and decay in the world.
“Unfortunately, once it kicks in strongly, it is not curable. Only you can control it with specialized treatment and regular cleanings. This gum disease has some irreversible collateral damage and is a constant source of infection in our body. Think in terms of prevention. Act before it gets out of control. And when you do it this way, you also save a lot of money, that’s a fact.”
“That is my advice,” she concludes.