Advice High School Tips

So you want to be a dentist? – High School Edition #1

Over the years I have met many high schoolers who aspire to become a dentist. They ask me “I want to be a dentist. What should I do?” Parents also ask this question looking to give their child the best opportunity to become a dentist. For this reason, the series is dedicated to giving high schoolers every secret to succeed in high school, getting into college, and making college an easy experience. Over the next few publications I will go through every tip and trick that I wish I knew throughout this process.

The following excerpt is an experience I had in high school.

As a pre-dental student, my dream of becoming a dentist started in high school. During high school I was asked numerous times why I wanted to become a dentist. During this time, I didn’t have much to say that would defend my “dream”.  Because of this, people often brushed off my poorly developed answer and categorized me with every other high schooler with similar dreams of becoming a doctor/lawyer.

It took me a while to realize that my answer was a poor attempt at defending my career of choice. I was very fortunate to attend a unique opportunity touring the UoP School of Dentistry campus. This tour included areas that tour groups don’t usually see like the gross anatomy lab and the multi-million dollar surgical rooms. During this trip, a dental student from Stanford asked me why I wanted to be a dentist. Immaturely,  I corrected him and told him that I actually wanted to be a prosthodontist. He unnecessarily apologized and asked me, “why do you want to be a prosthodontist?”
I told him that it seemed like it would be something that would be fun. That was it;  the entirety of my answer. The puzzled look on the dental student’s face as he seemed dumbfounded by my answer. He changed the subject and shortly after doing so, the realization of how idiotic I sound began to sink in. This moment of my life is something I will never forget; one that is deeply engraved in my brain. This moment was the first time I asked myself if I EVEN KNEW why I wanted to become a dentist.
Up until now, this story has stayed close to my heart because I am horrifyingly embarrassed of it. However, it is time to share it because there is much good that can be learned from it. I learned that while it is good to dream about the future it is important to also account for everything in between. Before anybody should be concerned about specializing in dentistry they should be well on their way to dental school or in dental school.

The point of the story above is to get you motivated to start early in exploring the field of dentistry. Ask your dentist if you could shadow his office for a day since you are interested in becoming a dentist. I can guarantee you, that the dentist would love your company! Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The first time I saw the back of a dental office, I asked the Dr. Paul Binon where his office ships instruments to to get cleaned and how long does it take the instruments to get it back. He chuckled, walked me to the sterilization room, and showed me the whole process. One day of shadowing will be enough to know if you are interested enough in dentistry to ask to visit another day. The sooner you do this the better! This will allow you to better structure your future plans.

Some high schools offer specialized programs like the Regional Occupation Program (ROP) in California for people interested in technology, medicine, dentistry, carpentry, business, etc. These programs are typically designed for those who are planning on working immediately after high school, however the dental assisting program is a great benefit to pre-dental students. Arrange a meeting with your counselor and tell them that you are considering becoming a dentist and have shadowed in an office. They will enlighten you on any programs they have to offer or a plan to help you as best as possible. These programs are often HEAVILY subsidized for high school students. The entire program cost me around $300 dollars which is absurdly cheap for all the experience I gained on top of the certifications I received like the legal right to take x-rays. You can find a list of programs in California by visiting the California Department of Education.

As always, if you have any questions, visit the Ask Elias page! The next few posts cover tips/tricks that I have never seen published so be on the lookout!

Have a great day!

By Elias Almaz

I am a dentist in Sacramento, CA. During undergrad, I served as the President of my local Pre-Dental Society and learned the intricacies of the dental admissions process. documents much of what I learned during that time.