Oral Surgery Shadowing

What could be a better way to spend my summer Friday mornings than breaking out my scrubs and watching bone grafts, complicated extractions, dental implant surgeries, and sinus lifts? I have had the opportunity to shadow a local oral and maxillofacial surgeon the past few weeks, and I have really enjoyed the experience. I know I want to go to dental school, but there are so many options to pursue other than general dentistry, and this has really influenced me to think more about specializing in surgery.

Even though I’m only observing and not technically qualified to do too much beyond that other than fetching supplies or opening packages of instruments for him, I am never bored. The procedures are so interesting, involved, and a nice change of pace from the countless fillings I’ve seen general dentists do during many hours of shadowing.  I’ve been impressed at the office’s efficiency of performing so many types of surgeries in one morning along with consults and follow-ups but still always caring and talking to patients and their families before and after.

I’ve never been bothered much by bloody or graphic medical situations (after all, I used to watch Grey’s Anatomy for years and first thought of going into neuro or cardiac surgery), but I still had a slight concern of how I would react in person to my first real time of seeing that much gum cutting, tooth yanking, or bone sculpting and drilling up close.  It didn’t phase me one bit.  Watching the precision and certainty of the surgeon and how he quickly adapts to any surprises is awesome. He seems so relaxed but focused at the same time.  With my own determined, decision-making, adrenaline-loving, and confident personality lining up with several of the qualities needed for this career, I really could picture myself doing this one day.

Another good thing is that the doc is such a nice, laid-back, and genuinely encouraging guy to me that I can completely be myself around him and his staff and not be afraid to ask any kind of question or even discuss our lives outside of dentistry.  It’s nice to not have to be so stuffy and formal in this situation, but to even feel comfortable asking him about the realities of residency, debt and salary, why more women don’t choose surgery, and what it truly takes to get into programs (normally being in about the top 5-10% of your dental school class).  I even talked to him about this food blog and trying the Insanity workout (he later informed me he did in fact order it).  He highly encourages me to come back whenever I can to continue to learn more about the field and gain even more experience.

Being able to impact people’s lives for the better by calming dental anxieties, building up bone and providing teeth where  missing, playing a pivotal role in complicated orthodontic work, safely removing wisdom or infected teeth, or even identifying oral cancer at the earliest stage are all things I’ve witnessed in just two days of spending time in the office.  I look forward to going back for a few days in July and continuing to search out everything I can about this as a possible route for my future if it’s where God leads me.

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