An excerpt from the forthcoming book, “101 Things They Didn’t Teach You at Dental School”
Is Dentistry really what you want to do? You don’t have to.
Many dentists made the decision about what to study at university in their mid-teens. A time of life that is short on maturity, experience and insight. Parents, teachers and career advisers see dentistry as a well-remunerated, socially acceptable profession with a good secure future.
Unfortunately a number of dentists are ill suited to a profession that makes extensive physical, mental and emotional demands. How many of us have the nerve to say that it’s not what we want?
After 5 years as an undergraduate and carrying a large student debt it is a very brave new graduate who would dare tell their parents and family that they have chosen the wrong subject to study. Humanities and pure sciences graduates would be fortunate to continue with their subjects. It is only the vocational degree where the graduate is able, or expected, to follow the career pathway without a second thought.
Socially, to turn away is akin to leaving your fiancée at the altar, yet an individual is to be admired for admitting that they don’t feel the commitment needed to make a happy marriage.
Turn things on their head, if you know in your heart of hearts that you are unfulfilled and unhappy being a dentist isn’t it better to say so sooner than later? How many more miserable years do you want to tolerate? How much stress and heartache can you endure once you have admitted to yourself that you’re in the wrong place?
There are far too many dentists who have plodded on through their BDS and Foundation Training then on to associate posts and partnerships without considering the future or an alternative.
They think this is the way that it has to be, it will get better, easier, less of trial to get out of bed in the morning – next year. Living from holiday to holiday they get little fulfilment from the work they do or the people for whom they are supposed to care.
Often these are the ones who succumb to the stressors. The use of alcohol and other drugs, gambling or other addictions along with failed relationships are commonplace.
I have attended funerals of apparently happy and successful dentists who have taken their own lives because they could only see that one way out.
These problems are not unique to dentists and many people as Thoreau put it “live lives of quiet desperation”.
What else is possible?
Answer – anything that you want to be. There are ex-dentists who are successful architects, writers, lawyers, and musicians. I know a former orthodontist who now builds dry stone walls (and will teach you how to build them too). The discipline of your training means that you are suited to re-train.
Stuck in a government-devised rut, which rewards quantity not quality?
If you want to change then say so, and do something about it. This isn’t a rehearsal; there is no second chance at life, no re-run. If you want to be better, nobody else can do it for you.