IF you are thinking of doing dentistry, do read on. With 42 years experience behind me as an academician in this area, I can tell you dentistry can be as fun as it can be stressful.
It’s a course blending the Science and Art of education. It is about healing people, making them look and feel good and its about educating them on why the mouth is the most important organ of the whole body. Wrong, if you perceived it’s just about teeth!
Why ever not? You certainly will not be here today if not for your first cry of life when mum delivered you. It’s the mouth too that helps you to grow...milk, food, vitamins, everything goes to and through the mouth before it gets anywhere else.
What should I do first?
If you are interested, check out the Malaysian Dental Council website (http://mdc.moh.gov.my/)
to find out what schools are accredited. This is important as you may end up not being able to be registered as a practitioner to practise dentistry upon graduation. It is best and cheaper if you study locally for this first degree. We have six public and seven private institutions all under the purview of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency and the Malaysian Dental Council. The Malaysian programmes are consistently monitored by the relevant agencies as they are required to maintain certain professional standards including competently producing dentists who are able to practise safe dentistry! Your future patients will feel more assured in seeking your services if you are one.
My recommendation is for you to check out the different schools as each has its own uniqueness. Each learner is unique too, so it’s for you to check out which of the schools is most suitable to your lifestyle!
What if I choose to study abroad? The new Dental Act 2018 was enforced as of June 2018. An Act means it’s a law, therefore if you study abroad, the act stipulates that you will have to sit for the Professional Qualifying Exam (PQE) conducted by the Malaysian Dental Council before you can be registered. It’s a three-part examination.
Most countries around the world have one or equivalent to the PQE (only format may change) under the purview of the country’s Dental Council if you want to practise in their country.
What is in store when I sign up?Let me tell you the basic entry requirements to enter a dentistry programme. Each school has its own requirements but you need to have a good Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or equivalent and accompanied with good grades at Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) or equivalent (A-level, International Baccalaureate, Matriculation, Foundation, Pre-University etc). A further chance is also given to those who have a Bachelor of Science degree or Diploma in Health Sciences with specific grades and Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA). Each school also has its own added criteria and requirements, therefore it is vital for you to explore the schools if you really are keen to go for dentistry.
Second, your journey will start with two years of Preclinical Courses, a mixture of medical and dental sciences (after all the mouth is connected to the whole body) all geared to preparing you to treat you own patients in the clinical years of three, four and five. It’s amazing how much can be done or need to be done in what many people assume is a small organ of the body.
Clinical experience is not only about serving the individual patient but you get to also learn to communicate and interact with people from all walks of life. You will also be involved in community work and get to also do limited hospital exposure. You will get to meet all the respective specialists (oral surgeons, dental public health, prosthodontics, orthodontists, endodontists, periodontists and many more) as they will be there to guide you through the five years of learning. You will be surprised at how many specialists there are just for one mouth!
The Dental Act also states that you will have to undertake one year of compulsory service. It’s a move to enhance your understanding of the real service world, enhance your clinical skills, sensitise you to the real life communities and public who are your future clients. The exposure teaches you the basic life skills of communications and human interactions.
It’s an experience not many countries in the world give to their fresh graduates. Many fresh graduates grumble when they come into the programme but come out of it – enlightened!
After that, you are your own man. The options are many. Join the government service if there’s availability of positions. Or open your own practice if you are ready for it financially, mentally and emotionally. Or work as a locum in colleagues’ practices if you don’t choose to open one yourself. If you are academically inclined you can try out the universities running dentistry programmes or even go back to school to do specialisations. You can always opt to join the Armed Forces Medical Corp.
Seriously, dentistry has its own attractions. It is also a life long profession. Age is only a number if you choose to go on even after retirement.
We welcome you to join the Dentistry Fraternity!
PROF DR RAHIMAH ABDUL KADIR
Founding DeanFaculty of Dentistry
Lincoln University College