You are here

A vital part of our overall health is those pearly whites inside of our mouths. While we regularly visit our family doctor for check-ups, prescriptions, or consultations, paying a semi-annual visit to our dentist is just as important.

Dentists play a huge role in maintaining the health of the public, but it takes a special type of person to flourish in the field. According to the Canadian Dental Association, prior to making the leap into dentistry, you should ask yourself a series of questions. For instance, do I enjoying interacting with and helping people? Would I enjoy self-employment? Do I have a strong memory, interest, and ability in science?

If you nodded “yes” to all of the above, then dentistry could be your match.

Our students get a drill in their hands in the very first week of school.

Getting into dental school

Similar to the admissions process for any other graduate program, dentistry is no different. For the Doctor of Dental Surgery program at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Dentistry, students are required to have 60 credit hours and basic knowledge in fields like microbiology, physiology, and biochemistry.

“They also have to take the dental aptitude test, which is a national test run by the Canadian Dental Association,” says Dr. Ferne Kraglund, assistant dean for student affairs at the Faculty of Dentistry. “They test a variety of tools such as reading comprehension and basic science. There’s also a cognitive component, like perception ability and carving ability because we work with our hands.”

It’s a competitive admissions process, but students who do get accepted have the opportunity to enjoy the small class size—first year classes have 38 students. “It’s nice because everyone gets to know everyone, and that also includes your classmates and professors,” says Dr. Kraglund. “You’re not merely a number like you are in your undergraduate classes where there may be hundreds of people.”

A different approach to learning

At Dalhousie’s Doctor of Dental Surgery program, classes are very clinical-orientated. In their first year, students take on didactic courses and pre-clinicals. As they progress through the program, didactics decrease and students being the clinical portion.

“What students have said that they like about the program is that we start the clinical portion very early. Our students get a drill in their hands in the very first week of school,” explains Dr. Kraglund. “They really get to build their confidence and competence early on to get regular and early contact with patients.”

The program readies students to start practicing in Canada immediately after graduation, given they come from an accredited school, like Dalhousie, and they pass the national board exam. According to Dr. Kraglund, a majority of her students have gone into private practice. Since buying a practice right after school is rare, most students aim to become partners.

“A lot of them tend to go out and be partners or associates into a practice so that [they] are essentially like an independent contractor for a dentist that’s already established.”

And once these grads establish rapport and experience working in the field, they can eventually transform these relationships into partnerships or buy-ins with a practice.

Photos: Digender/Thinkstock

grad school, health care, dental surgery