Most people in the UK who choose to study dentistry at university will have graduated and be about to start their foundation year of work by the age of 23.
But at 23 I was only getting started and in my first year (of 5!) at dental school…Meaning I will graduate when I’m 28 years OLD.
Most people decide what they want to study at university when they are 17. They apply and if are successfully accepted they usually start when 18/19 years old. That was true for me as well, but the thought of studying dentistry 6 years ago was not even on my radar. I could only just about look after my own teeth!
All I knew back then was that I wanted to study something scientific, as those were the subjects I chose to study at A-Level. I chose scientific subjects because that’s what I enjoyed learning about. That’s not to say other subjects didn’t interest me, I loved (and still do love) fine art, history and design & technology. I also am seriously passionate about Italian, French and Spanish languages and their cultures, but unfortunately, we only get to choose 3/4 subjects to continue learning and I made a commitment then to focus on the science-y subjects.
Honestly, if I could live life multiple times over I’d do a different thing each time! I’d love to be a teacher, a carpenter, a firefighter, a world traveller, a professional athlete (rugby, football, or boxing), a photographer, a neurosurgeon, an artist, a graphic designer. I can still do many of my passions besides dentistry of course, and I intend to. But it’s a little different when you decide to dedicate the bulk of your life to something.
My Past Education
I thought I’d briefly mention my academic history for anyone reading this who is still at school and considering dentistry. Only because I know from when I used to read threads on The Student Room that it was really common to see questions where people asked others what their grades were.
- A* Grades in: Chemistry, Italian, Spanish, French, Religious Studies
- A Grades in: English, Maths, Physics, Biology, Design and Technology, History
- A Grades in: Biology, Maths, Chemistry
- B Grade: Economics
- C Grade: Italian
- A Grades in: Biology, Maths, Chemistry
When it came to deciding what to apply for as a uni course, I never thought of dentistry. And even to this day, I find it a little strange for a 17-year-old to be able to confidently say they want to spend the rest of their lives looking in other people’s mouths. How can you really know that’s what you want to do at such a young age?! But that’s what most people who study dentistry do in this country.
Unlike the system in the US for example, where you need to spend 4 years at college (university) doing a number of mini-courses in different subject areas with a focus around the sciences (your ‘major’) before then proceeding to apply to dental school in your early 20s. That’s a system I find more sensible as the path for future dentists, simply because there are so many other options for people in this life, and choosing a vocational degree at 17 seems like too bold a move in my opinion.
You haven’t really experienced what life has to offer at 17 years of age, yet you have immediately narrowed your future path to one that involves dentistry! I don’t particularly accept this can be a truly considered decision but that’s the system we have here in the UK.
Although the more people I speak to about this, the more I appreciate that it is reasonable to accept that even at such a young age people can understand dentistry enough to decide to enter the profession.
My first degree turned out to be Biomedical Science, which I studied in London at Imperial College. It was a 3-year course and I saw it as a perfect gateway degree for continuing into medically related vocations like medicine/PhD/dentistry etc. I say that, but I never seriously thought about what I’d do after graduating until I had actually graduated. When I was doing the course, I had that tunnel vision where I was just living in the moment, enjoying being a student in London.
It’s such a cringe-y cliché but going to university really does change you; it’s when you become an independent for the first time and start getting an idea about who you really are, what you’re passionate about, what you like/dislike etc. My 17-year-old self and 20-year-old self were incredibly different people.
Looking back just on my first year at uni, I was so immature and lacked any real focus or direction. That year was about all the extra-curricular experiences – I scraped by academically (I got 0% in one essay assignment and had to resit an exam in the summer) and didn’t take the learning from my course seriously. I’d like to think that it wasn’t only me but that a lot of first-year uni students were similar. It’s a shame really because with hindsight I know that deciding to go to university isn’t cheap – it was expensive back in 2010 when I started my first degree (~£3,300 a year) but now its outrageous (~£9,000 a year)!!!
That’s one reason why I know that my route to dentistry shouldn’t have started any sooner than it has. But here I am now, studying a course that I am 100% committed to and wanting to make the most of in every way possible. If I had started training as a dentist as an 18-year old, I feel like the first couple years of the course would be kinda lost on me…
With the benefit of hindsight, I can honestly say that all my experiences before dentistry were useful in at least some way and that I can carry forward everything I’ve learnt with me now and it will all help me become an excellent dentist/bloke.
No regrets 🙂