- A typical day for a dentist varies depending on the specialty and type of practice you choose.
- By finding the specialty area and type of practice that’s right for you, you’ll enjoy a long, successful career.
- There’s not a perfect time or place to start prepping for the INBDE. The earlier you start the better, so you can divide the material into manageable chunks.
Welcome to our expert spotlight series! We’re interviewing practicing dentists in different specialty areas to learn what a typical day is like for them. They’re offering some great advice for all you dental students getting ready to start your career or prepping for the INBDE!
Expert Spotlight: Janice Townsend, Pediatric Dentist
Janice A. Townsend, DDS, MS has been a pediatric dentist for 15 years. She now serves as the chief of dentistry at a large children’s hospital and as chair of the pediatric dentistry department at a dental school.
Dr. Townsend chose this specialty because she has always enjoyed working with children, and pediatric dentistry allows her to work with patients who have a variety of healthcare needs. This area of dentistry allows her to practice a wide range of dental procedures that can alleviate a child’s pain quickly.
There really isn’t a typical day for a pediatric dentist, especially for one working in a large children’s hospital. Dr. Townsend may spend her day in the operating room. With patients who are too young for a regular dentist chair, or who have very complex needs, it’s safer to treat them while they’re sedated.
She may be in the dental clinic, where children are getting routine cleanings or fillings. She may be called for an in-house consult, evaluating a pediatric patient newly diagnosed with cancer or in need of a complex surgery where untreated dental disease could cause a life-threatening emergency. If Dr. Townsend is on call, she might end up treating a patient who’s suffered a traumatic dental injury from a fall, sports injury, or car accident.
The unpredictability and opportunity to work with such a wide range of patients is one reason why Dr. Townsend enjoys pediatric dentistry. Since the field is age defined rather than procedure defined, she and her team have the ability to flex a large skill set with the kids they see. The hospital setting lets her collaborate with a team to treat patients no other dentist will care for due to lack of specialized treatment, or because the patient doesn’t have proper insurance or the ability to pay.
It is a rewarding, but challenging field. Unlike adults, children can’t choose their environment. They often can’t help that they have cavities because they are not living in a household where proper dental hygiene is taught. It is difficult to see children go through really challenging medical conditions so early in life, but this motivates Dr. Townsend to work harder and bring these special patients some relief.
Reflecting on her own career, Dr. Townsend offers this thought to dental students getting ready to start theirs:
“All of my dental students go on to be successful. There is no ‘right path’ to success. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. It’s okay to go slow and to quit something if it isn’t a good fit. Life is long, so make sure you’ve chosen the right specialty for yourself, and that you’re practicing the way you want to practice.”
And finally, for those of you prepping for the INBDE, she has this advice:
“There’s never a perfect time or place to study. Start early, and just do it! Divide the material into little sections, write things down from memory, and use repetition to retain the knowledge.”