Learn how to work in dentistry
Learn how to work in dentistry

If you’re in dental school, and wondering what your job is going to be like after you graduate, you might be in for a few surprises. Many dental school grads will simply coast through their work life, cleaning teeth and handing out advice. Depending on wher you practice your trade, though, you might encounter a few things that seem a bit out of the ordinary.

In fact, some of the things that you might see as a dental school grad who’s new to practice might scare you. Some of them will involve the dentist in whose practice you’re working. Others will involve patients. Here are some of the things that you might see, but would rather not.

Improper Sterilization

If you’ve been to dental school, and you paid attention, then you know that it’s very important to sterilize the instruments. In one Pennsylvania dental clinic, a dental hygienist was horrified to discover that the instruments weren’t autoclaved, just “cold sterilized.” In fact, when she tried to use the autoclave, he office manager scolded her. The conditions were so bad in that clinic that the hygienist only lasted three months before leaving in favor of another position.

Keep it Off the Counter!

In a Texas dental clinic, a woman entered the check-in area and deposited a rotten tooth on the counter, and began to spin it around. It wasn’t even her own tooth! It was her husband’s, and she wanted to know, if she brought him in to the clinic, could they put his tooth back in.

Picture of a rotten tooth on a counter.

The receptionist explained that it wouldn’t likely be possible, and then promptly disinfected everything that she’d touched.

Oh, Gross!

In another clinic, toothbrushes were rinsed and disinfected in the ultrasonic, and then re-used. A dental technician was reprimanded for throwing them away instead of disinfecting them. She quit rather than continue doing so.

Everything Old is New Again

How about this? In Michigan, a dentist bought old instruments at an antique sale. He tried to clean them up using an ultrasonic machine, but they were still rusty. He used them anyway.

Beyond Disgusting

In Minnesota, a worker in a dental clinic was scrubbing away at a stain on the carpet when the dentist entered, saw what she was doing, laughed, and said that she’d never get the stain out. Why? Because he’d tried already. The stain was due to the dentist an someone else having a “play date” in the clinic. The stain was due to a bottle of sexual lube that had spilled.

Some People Shouldn’t Get Nitrous

Another recent dental school grad reports that the dentist at her clinic once gave nitrous oxide to a patient who was drunk, saying that it would do her no harm. One time, the drunk patient vomited all over the grad. Another time, the patient inhaled a crown and gagged on it.

Messy Family Life

It’s unfortunate that sometimes, dental school grads end up in practices where the main partners have family lives that are not all that good. One grad found herself in a situation where the main dentist was going through a divorce, and pretty messed up He hired another assistant and began an affair with her.

Scared patient in a dentist's chair with a dental hygienist closing in.

This assistant was incompetent, insubordinate, and also prone to “coming on” to male patients. She was also horribly rude to the hygienists. Her behavior got to the point where the dentist finally fired her, but plenty of damage was already done.

Bad Dentists

One dental school grad reports having worked in a pediatric dental clinic where the dentist wore a “NO CRYING” button on his coat, and very much stuck to that rule. Parents weren’t allowed to be in the back when their kids were being treated, and the dentist was so abusive toward children that more than one assistant actually vomited when seeing how kids were treated. She couldn’t handle having to reassure parents that their kids were okay, when she knew perfectly well that they weren’t.

Bad Son!

Another dental assistant, in Florida, had her dentist’s mother come in for impressions preparatory to receiving dentures. She had a lot of bone loss in her jaw, and she most definitely needed dentures in order to restore her bite and her smile.

While taking the impressions, the dental school grad was horrified to find out that two of the woman’s teeth had become dislodged, and were stuck in the impression material. She couldn’t understand how any dentist could neglect his own mother’s dental health to the point where this would happen.

Whether it was the dentist’s fault (for not seeing what was happening in his own back yard) or his mother’s fault (perhaps for resisting treatment), in the final analysis there was no good outcome. The mother lost teeth that could have been saved. The dentist blew it. And the grad felt guilty, even though she shouldn’t have.

The Final Word: Dentistry

If you’re considering dental school and contemplating a future as a dental assistant or a dental hygienist, then you must be a wonderfully caring person. You want to help people. And most of the time, this career will help you to do just that.

Kind dentist giving a high five to a kid in his dentist's chair.

Remember, though, that not all dental clinics are created equal – you will encounter good dentists and bad dentists, and sometimes, you’ll encounter situations that will break your heart. In the long run, though, I think that dental school grads will find themselves in very rewarding careers, where they can help people in the way that they want to.

If you want to put a smile on someone else’s face, then dental school could lead you on the right career path.

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