Time to break away from all the makeovers, and to a little bit of history and background of dentistry and how it has changed from a ruthless profession to a graceful artistic craft, highly backed by research and science.
When I was first introduced to this profession, all I could imagine in my head was the whirring noises of the dental hand piece, the smell of the monomer liquid used to repair dentures and glow of the blue light from the dental chair.
Then when I started my undergraduate course in dentistry, I realised it was more than just a technical chair side profession. I had to study anatomy, pharmacology, general surgery, pathology and many others. Not to mention the countless subjects on dentistry itself. The first 3 years was purely lectures, books and medical journals piling up. It felt like I was studying medicine with a minor of dentistry.
But by the time I got to my 4th year, the dentistry world opened up to me. We were introduced to the finer side of dentistry, the softer skills of talking to patients, managing demands and expectations, perfecting our hand skills, mastering techniques of the surgical and restorative aspects of dentistry and many more.
Dentistry was getting interesting. It wasn’t just all about treating patients anymore. It was art.
We learned how to manipulate our materials to shape it to the natural curves of a tooth, we learned about colour prisms, light reflections, brush strokes, feather touch and plenty more. Not only were we taught this in school, but the dental community and multiple dental NGO bodies in Malaysia just kept on having dental conferences every other weekend. And as knowledge-hungry-kiasu-students, we joined them all. This was the chance for us dental nerds to awe in amazement at the keynote speakers and their amazing presentations, to learn the new techniques of internationally recognised professors at solving and treating cases, to gawk at the new equipment and materials that was brought in by the dental suppliers, to join in workshops of layering, understanding micro-anatomy, learning newer updates of treatment procedures, and many others.
Dentistry became fun. It evolved from the roadside tooth puller to the scientifically, evidence-based type of treatment procedures that was sophisticated, perfected and proven to help patients. It had art involved in the basic concept of treatment and perfected it by ensuring that treatment procedures were done in a smooth, clean, sterile, and safe method. There was an indication for every treatment, a reason behind the treatment plans, and most importantly, it adhered to the strict protocols of safety, ethics and science.
Nonetheless, dentistry is still thought to be ruthless, painful, and worse, easy. Trust me, it’s not. It requires a lot of learning before attempting any of the procedures. We did not spend 5 years in an undergraduate course for nothing! Even then, the learning never ends.