With 28 molars in our mouth, a dentist will never be jobless. Prachi Rege gleans information on the various specializations in dentistry and its support functions.
Did you know that your jaw movement could be the reason for constant migraines, neck or ear pain? Though people either ignore these pains or pop in a pill, the cure for these aches could lie with a dentist. "Every person needs a dentist," declares Dr Sandesh Mayekar, renowned aesthetic and cosmetic dentist.
By that logic one can clearly estimate the number of dentists that are required to cater to a billion plus people. Previously dentistry was assoicated only with diagnosis and treatments of the teeth and gums. Today the job role of a dentist has undergone a sea change. With people craving to flaunt that million dollar smile, dentists nowadays practice in three core areas- cosmetic dentistry, implantology and functional craniofacial aesthetics. An ideal dentist is the one who can give a holistic treatment to his/ her patients. "In my opinion a successful dentist follows the CRP rule. C stands for ‘correct diagnosis’, R is ‘right treatment plan’ and P is for ‘proper treatment’," comments Mayekar.
To be a dentist one requires to study the five year Bachelor of Dental study (BDS) programme offered by private and government institutes in the country (see below). One could either set up a private practice or go on to pursue the three years Master of Dental Study (MDS). You could then specialise in—Endodontics (root canal), prosthodontics, periodontics (Gums), orthodontics and pediatric dentistry which deals with children`s oral health. Getting into a MDS programme however is difficult as the number of seats is limited. “With a ratio of 15 students for one seat, most opt to set up private practice, rather than get caught in the stiff competition,” points out Dr Gaurav Nagarsekar, a practicing cosmetic dentist from Goa.
Though cosmetic dentistry is in demand, there are no formal specialised courses for the same. Students either go abroad or sign up with academies in the country which provide certificates from foreign universities. However, one needs to be careful while choosing a course in cosmetic dentistry. "Don`t go for distance learning or short-term programmes. You need at least good two years of comprehensive training," advises Mayekar.
Swapnyl Chodankar, a Pune based cosmetic dentist advises BDS graduates to work as assistants with an experienced doctor. “Hands-on experience helps to understand the treatment technique closely. There is no replacement for practical training," he explains. Once you are armed with degrees, good amount of practical training and appropriate certificates, it is time to make yourself heard and seen in the market. According to Chodankar, those desirous of private practice must first look for a good location. “It takes at least three years to earn loyal patients.”
Like a doctor is incomplete without a chemist, a dentist can`t function without a dental technician. They are the ones who make the custom made dental implants like teeth caps, partial dentures, complete dentures, crowns and bridges and orthodontic appliances. Dental Technology is the art and Science of fabricating corrective replacements for natural teeth.
Students who have finished their class XII science can sign up for a two to three year diploma course offered by various institutes across the country (see below). "Due to the increasing popularity for cosmetic dentistry, there is almost a 98 per cent demand for dental technicans in the country," says Basheer Thayykal, director, Central Institute for Dental Technology.
Acrelyic, metal, ceramic Cadcam (Zirconia), flexible dentures are some of the popular materials that a dental techologist works with. Since a dental technologist is responsible for measuring, designing and creating these implants according to the requirements of the concerned patients, precision is an important skill," says Vinod Kadam, a dental technologist.
According to Kadam, those with good artistic handiwork should sign up for this career. "Earlier people didn`t mind the prostheics and dentures to stand out as artificial. Nowaday, the USP of a dental technican is to make them look as natural as possible." Though it is a rewarding career, setting up a lab is a huge investment. "It mostly depends on the quality of machines and material one uses to make the caps and prosthetics," informs Kadam. Manpower required at the lab could vary from three to 300 depending upon the number of dentists it is catering to. “A technician might just earn more than a dentist,” quips Mayekar, stating that a small cap could earn you anywhere between Rs 400 to 8000 and a bigger prosthetic can be charged Rs 15000 onwards.
Institutes for Dentistry:
MGV Dental College, Nasik
Goa Dental College
Institutes for Dental Technicians:
SDM College of Dental Sciences, Dharwad
Ragas Dental College, Chennai
The skilled doctor
Dentists don’t mint money, in fact they face many a challenges, says cosmetic dentist Dr Siddhesh Sardesai.
A good dentist needs to have skill and knowledge of using the right materials and technique to treat the patient. I decided to become a dentist when I was in class IX. It has become my passion now. After my BDS I pursued certificate courses in Endodontic from University of Manitoba, Canada and a Cosmetic dentistry course certified by the State University of New York, Buffalo. Thanks to these I am able to apply advanced techniques on my patients; these consume less time and treat better.
It is important for a dentist to constantly update himself with the current advances in the field. While certificate courses are helpful, one must make it a point to attend conferences and lectures by national and foreign experts. In order to get yourself well acquainted into the dental community you need to sign up with your local medical association, once you have set up your practice.
Dentists do not get any emergency cases. In a private practice, your evenings will be busy; as that is the time when you will get maximum patients. Quality of your service and your skill will earn you loyal patients. Treating seven patients on an average every day is a healthy number. Meet them on an appointment basis as per their convenience. Treat every case as your first; this will help you to grow in the profession.
Remuneration may range anywhere from Rs 100 to a lakh and depends on the type of treatment or consultation. The field is getting competitive by the day. It is a challenge for private practioners to assure their patients that the treatment they are giving is the best.