This week we we were happy to welcome a local high school student who will be working part time in our office. She has shown interest in becoming an orthodontist in the future, and wants to jump right in and see first hand what my day to day life is like at Meadows Orthodontics. I worked as a dental assistant when I was curious about the dental profession, so I think it is really neat that she wants to work with us at such a young age (much younger than when I started thinking about my long term career!) I thought I would write a bit about my profession and experiences as an orthodontist, and hopefully it may help kids who are considering a career as an orthodontist.
I think what our new friend is doing is the best way to see if orthodontics is a good fit. A question I am asked frequently is, “How can you work in people’s mouths all day long?” I explain to kids that the majority of health care professions deal with the human body, whether it be the mouth, feet, growths on skin, backs/spines, etc… I think it is important to work part time or as an intern in the field that you are considering, because yes, you may not be comfortable working in these situations. Nothing worse than going to more than 8-12 years of college before finding out that mouths, eyeballs, or rashes skeeve you out! My brother in-law is an ER doc, and although it is a really interesting job, it is not something that I would be comfortable with day in and day out. For me, working with peoples teeth is just the opposite- it is just a natural fit for me.
Another thing to consider is how involved and visible you want to be within your community. When I go to the grocery store, out to eat, or run an errand in Castle Rock, I almost always run into and end up talking with a number of patients or their parents. As an orthodontist you get to know thousands of people- it is not the best job for introverted personalities! I personally like seeing people I know all over town, but if you prefer to be more “anonymous”, this profession may not be a good fit, or you may consider living in another community from where you work.
During the workday itself, I there is rarely a moment when I am not talking to patients, kids, parents, or my staff. It is a job where you are “on” nearly all the time, as far as being in front of people (my wife was a teacher and she says it is similar in this regard). Again, I really like this about my career, while others may find it exhausting. Really think about your personality and if this seems like a fit for you.
Other components of my profession include:
Creativity- there is rarely a day that I am not challenged to figure out a mechanical, physical, aesthetic, or administrative issue that presents itself.
Working with your hands/artistry: I gravitated to orthodontics largely due to the artistic component that is involved with aligning peoples teeth and creating an optimal aesthetic appearance. This is a passion for me personally, and is what makes me love going to work each day!
Entrepreneurship: Most orthodontists own their own businesses, and there is no preparation or training for this part of my job in all the schooling I have done. It is learn as you go, and luckily I have my wife who has helped tremendously with the day -to -day adventures of running a practice. This includes hiring, training and managing a staff of assistants and administrators, doing payroll, taxes, filing and checking insurance claims, advertising, paying bills, keeping up with and enforcing HIPPA and OSHA regulations, maintaining professional and business insurances, licences….it goes on and on! Running a business is hard work (but also rewarding) and having the right people around you to help has been the key for me. If this is really unappealing to you, there are options to become an orthodontist and work for larger, corporate dental chains that allow you to largely not be involved with the administrative or business aspects of dental care.
As always, I welcome anybody young or old who is interested in a career in orthodontics to come in and speak with me. I did not start dental school until I was 29, so it is never too late!
Dr. Dan Rejman is a board certified orthodontist who is the owner of Meadows Orthodontics in Castle Rock, Colorado. He has two offices located within Castle Rock, and is a specialist in braces and invisalign for children, teens and adults.