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Welcome! ToothCareers.com is designed for students in grades 7-12 who want to explore careers in dentistry. Did you know that dental professionals are in high demand in certain rural and urban settings in Minnesota? Click the maps to the right to learn more.
Look around this site and learn how different dental professionals work with and help patients. See what a day in the life is like for dentistry students and professionals. Find out if a career in dentistry may be right for you!
Patient Summary: Maya
Maya is a 39-year-old mother who stays at home with her four children.
Maya has a toothache in her front tooth. She also knows she has other cavities. It has been a while since she last saw the dentist. She has asked for a cleaning and examination.
Maya has a history of periodically seeing the dentist when “things hurt.” Her last examination and cleaning was approximately four years ago. She brushes daily and flosses about two times per week.
Maya drinks five cups of coffee per day with cream and sugar. She would like to keep as many teeth as possible. Her husband now has insurance and she has saved money, but may need to spread any dental work out over time.
I lead the patient to the exam room and ask her what brings her in today to confirm that she’s here for some fillings. I ask her if she has any questions and try to make her comfortable. Then, I leave the room to talk to the dental therapist about any concerns the patient has so the dental therapist knows what the patient’s concerns are and can provide a comfortable experience.
Once the dental therapist arrives, we prepare the patient. I also help place the rubber dam that isolates the teeth we’re working on.
I assist at the chair side and anticipate which instruments the dental therapist will need as the teeth are prepared (drilled). At the appropriate time, I mix the silver and composite (tooth-colored) filling materials.
I ask the patient how she is doing and make sure she is comfortable during the procedure.
After the procedure, I help to remove the rubber dam and suction out any remaining materials from the procedure. I take an “after” x-ray for our records and to show the patient what has been done.
After the dental therapist says goodbye, I review cleaning instructions with the patient and ask if she has any remaining questions.
I will not see the patient during this appointment. But, hopefully she’ll come back regularly for hygiene appointments so we can watch her teeth closely and avoid more cavities.
After the dentist has diagnosed the cavities and determined that I can complete the procedure, I greet the patient. I review her x-rays with her to explain the filling procedures. I answer any questions she has.
I give her some numbing solution so she doesn’t feel any pain from the drilling. I ask her how she’s feeling to make sure she’s comfortable.
The dental assistant and I place the rubber barrier to keep bacteria and saliva away from the tooth we’re working on. I place the pins to keep the rubber dam in place.
I drill the tooth to remove the old filling and the new cavity that started below the filling. Then, with the help of the dental assistant, I place the filling material in her mouth. I take time to make it the same shape as her other teeth with crevices in the metal material so that it is more comfortable for her to chew and bite.
Finally, I prepare the other cavity and place the composite material to fill it in. I take the time to make it look like her other teeth so that she can feel confident when she smiles.
I examine the patient and diagnose her overall dental needs including the cavities and the overhanging fillings and periodontal health. We discuss the different options for fillings and her budget. In this case, she wants to use a more expensive filling (tooth-colored composite) for the teeth that affect her smile, and amalgam (silver filling) for the cavity that is further back in her mouth.
I talk with the dental therapist about the restorations (fillings) that the patient needs. I will attend to other patients while the dental therapist completes the restorations. I will be available if the dental therapist needs my assistance.
Patient Summary: Elliot
Elliot is a 68-year-old male. His last dental visit was six months ago.
Elliot is interested in a mouth guard due to the wear on his teeth. Various dentists have told him that he grinds his teeth at night. Elliot also wants a cleaning and examination.
Patient has used chewing tobacco for 40+ years.
When the patient arrives in the treatment room for his mouth guard, I explain what is going to happen during his appointment and answer any questions he may have. If he asks any questions that I cannot answer, I will ask the dentist during the patient exam. When the dentist arrives, I assist the dentist at the chair side. I help take photos of the patient’s mouth and then take the impression of his teeth for the mouth guard. If we had the equipment in our office, I would make the mouth guard, but since we don’t, we’ll send the mouth guard prescription to the dental laboratory.
When the patient comes back to have his mouth guard fitted, I again, bring the patient into the exam room and get him ready to see the dentist. As the dentist fits the mouth guard, I anticipate and provide tools, such as scissors, when the dentist asks for them. After the dentist has explained how to use and care for the mouth guard and has said goodbye to the patient, I ask the patient if he has any more questions, and then review how to care for the mouth guard.
I see the patient before he sees the dentist to make his mouth guard. I prepare my treatment room by bringing in sterilized instruments, a toothbrush, and floss. I also review his chart. Then I call the patient in from the waiting room and seat him in the examination chair. I ask how his mouth is feeling and offer a pillow or blanket to make him more comfortable. Since we don't have recent x-rays for this patient, I take bitewing x-rays. Then, I complete a full oral inspection. Using the air tool to dry each tooth off so I can see them better, I check grooves for decay. With the periodontal probe, I measure the space between each tooth and the gums and check for gum disease. Then, I look for lumps, bumps, and make notes of anything I'd like the dentist to check. Next, I inform the patient of what I've found and begin the cleaning. After the cleaning, I use the rubber cup polisher to polish the patient's teeth and finish up by flossing. Finally, I call the dentist in to do an exam to look for decay and other problems. As the dentist examines the patient, I make notes in the patient's chart. When the dentist is done, I give the patient a toothbrush and floss and take him to the next treatment room for the mouth guard.
Dental Laboratory Technician
I receive the dental impression from the dentist office with a prescription for a mouth guard. I make a cast. Place rubber material and the cast into a vacuum-like machine that forms the rubber around the cast. After that, I trim, polish, and disinfect the mouth guard before sending it to the dentist.
I could assess this patient’s teeth and mouth and fit his new mouth guard, however, the dentist on the team will see this patient. I will see another patient.
When I meet the patient, I ask what I can do for him. It’s my job to find out what the patient’s concerns are so that I can deal with his concerns and recommend options for any dental problems. I then examine the patient’s mouth to confirm that a mouth guard is a good solution and see if we need to talk about any other dental problems. If, in fact, he does need a mouth guard, I will take a dental impression so we can make the guard fit his mouth perfectly.
As I examine the patient’s mouth, I notice an abnormal white area that looks suspicious and possibly serious. I know that this patient has used chewing tobacco for many years and I think he could have oral cancer. Since further testing is needed to diagnose this particular problem, I explain to the patient what I see and that I’m concerned about it. Then, I refer the patient to a pathologist, a doctor who can make a definitive diagnosis, or oral surgeon who can biopsy the area and send it to pathologist who can diagnose the sample. The patient would see a surgeon for any necessary treatment.
When the patient comes back to receive his mouth guard, I place it in his mouth, and evaluate the fit, ask him how it feels, and figure out where I might need to make adjustments. I then use the cutting and grinding instruments to make the mouth guard a perfect fit for the patient. I also ask if the patient has followed-up with the referral for the oral lesion to an oral surgeon or a pathologist. If he hasn’t, I offer to help him do so.
Patient Summary: Elena
Elena is a 40-year-old female.
Elena would like to have a better smile.
Elena has smoked a pack of cigarettes every day for 10 years and would like to quit. She would also like her teeth cleaned.
After the dental hygienist completes the cleaning, I assist the dentist during the exam by anticipating and handing instruments as needed. I record patient information during the examination and am present during the discussion about veneers for the patient’s teeth.
I call the patient into the treatment room. I take x-rays, make a teeth chart in the patient’s record, and clean her teeth. I also talk to her about options that she has for better looking teeth. I spend more time with the patient, so I can take the time and discuss her goals for her smile before she sees the dentist. I ask about her goal to quit smoking. I describe how smoking affects the immune system and after smoking for several years, the immune system can't fight off bacteria in the mouth and the bacteria leads to gum disease. I provide materials for quitting smoking, such as brochures and hotline telephone numbers. When the dentist comes in for the exam, I assist with making a treatment plan for the veneers.
Dental Laboratory Technician
I receive the dentist’s prescription and create the veneers from the impression. First, I create models of each of her teeth that need veneers and then I make the actual veneer that the dentist will cement on the patient’s teeth. I use my art skills to “paint” the tooth to make it look natural.
I don’t see this patient. My allowed duties do not include veneers. I could, however, take the x-rays if others on the team are with other patients.
When I meet this patient, we discuss her goals for her teeth. We talk about her options and the expense of each. Besides veneers, she could have composites (tooth-colored filling material). My role is to educate her about the procedure. I like to involve my patients in the decision-making process. After she decides that she wants veneers, we begin the procedure. Together, the patient and I pick out the color for her veneers. We want them to look as natural as possible. This procedure takes two appointments. Today we prepare her teeth for the veneers, take an impression to send to the lab to make the veneers, and place temporaries (covers shaped like teeth) on the teeth.
When Elena returns for her second appointment, we try on the veneers, adjust them to fit well and look like her natural teeth. Once the patient is happy with the veneers, we cement them on the teeth.
Patient Summary: Hanh
Hanh is a 63-year-old retired female.
Patient has been told that she needs some extensive work and a tooth pulled. She would like a second opinion.
After bringing the patient to the treatment room, I take an x-ray. If the patient has told me any concerns about the procedure, I tell the dentist about them.
When the dentist arrives to begin the appointment, I go to the lab in our office to pour materials for the impression. Back in the treatment room, I take an impression of the teeth before we do any work. Then, I assist the dentist during the removal of the bridge and the cavity. I anticipate the dentist’s needs by having instruments ready to hand over. I also suction saliva from the patient’s mouth to keep the field of operation clear. After the bridge is removed and the cavity is filled, I assist the dentist in taking an impression of the patient’s teeth so we can send models of the patient’s teeth to the lab with the dentist’s prescription for a new bridge. I also assist when we take a photo of the patient’s teeth.
I assist the dentist as the temporary bridge is set.
When the patient returns for the second appointment, I prepare the patient for the procedure. When the dentist comes in the treatment room, I assist while the permanent bridge is fit and set.
Dental Laboratory Technician
First, I read the prescription so I understand what I need to make. Then, I make a cast from the impressions that I received from the dental office.
From the casts, I can shape the crowns. I shade them according to the color selections the dentist wrote on the prescription. Here’s where I’m able to use my artistic skills!
After the crowns are shaped and painted, I smooth out the bridge and sterilize it.
I would not see this patient because I do not create bridges or extract teeth. The dentist will handle this one. I could, if needed, take the x-rays for this patient.
I show the patient her x-ray and explain that there is a big cavity and the bridge is no longer functional as there is no longer a solid foundation for the front of the bridge. We talk about her options and decide to fill the cavity and make a new bridge. This will take two appointments.
During the first appointment, I remove the bridge. I also restore the tooth that has the cavity and place a build-up material for the filling. I then prepare the filled tooth for the bridge. I take a final impression to capture all the details that are needed in order to make a well fitting bridge. I place a temporary bridge with cement, and write a prescription for the new bridge that will be sent to the dental lab.
During the second appointment, I fit the bridge in place and make any adjustments. When the patient and I are satisfied with the fit, I cement the bridge in place.
Patient Summary: Oscar
Oscar is a 48-year-old salesperson who works in a large company.
Oscar would like to keep his teeth and wants to figure out how to fix them. He reports no pain at this time.
The patient loves to eat candy and goes to bed without brushing. He occasionally wakes in the middle of the night and eats a snack. His last dental work was 10 years ago. He smokes 2-3 packs of cigarettes per day.
After the patient has seen the hygienist, I seat the patient and let the dental therapist know the patient is ready. During the procedures, I sit on the other side of the patient and hand instruments to the dental therapist as needed. I use the suction and water to keep the areas we’re working on visible. I also mix filling materials when needed.
I may be the first one to see this patient, but if patients are in pain, they'd likely see the dentist first. Following a discussion with the dentist about this patient, I start by taking a full set of x-rays since he hasn't been to the dentist for a long time. I perform a head and neck exam to determine the patient’s dental health. Then I clean the patient’s teeth using ultrasonic and hand instruments. Since this patient has a lot of decay and would likely have very sensitive gums, I offer local anesthesia for cleaning. After I complete the cleaning, I tell the patient what I see in his mouth. I ask the patient to describe how he takes care of his teeth. We discuss how cavities are formed and how to change habits that cause tooth decay. We review brushing and flossing techniques. I also ask the patient if he’s open to quitting smoking and invite him to ask questions. When the dentist comes in for the exam, we confirm that the patient needs extra gum tissue treatment called root planing—a process where we clean under the gums. He will have to come back at another time for a longer appointment. I encourage him to come back on a regular basis so we can prevent the problems he's dealing with right now.
I prepare the patient’s large cavities, fill them with composite (tooth-colored filling), and then polish them. I also repair the large tooth fracture by preparing the tooth, placing pins, and filling it with amalgam (silver-colored filling). I take pride in my work and create crevices in the top of the tooth, just like the natural teeth. This makes the tooth feel more natural to the patient.
After the dental hygienist has cleaned Oscar’s teeth, I examine his teeth and mouth and formulate a comprehensive treatment plan. The dental therapist on the team will provide restoration services for this patient so I can see other patients. I will be available if the dental therapist has any questions.
Patient Summary: Ana
Ana is a 26-year-old postal worker.
Ana would like to be able to chew better on her right side.
Lower, right side tooth (#30) extracted in 2001 because of a big cavity.
During the first appointment, I begin by taking a panoramic x-ray so the dentist can see the bone structure. I take an impression of the patient’s lower teeth and go to the lab in our office to make a cast. The cast will be sent to the dental lab so a guide for the implant can be made.
During the second appointment, I assist chair side by handing instruments and suctioning as the dentist drills for the implant. I also keep the patient’s mouth open while the dentist works.
After the implant is placed, I take an x-ray of the implant. I then assist with the creation of an impression so that the dental lab technician can make a crown to fit perfectly in the patient’s mouth. I mix cement and assist as the dentist places a temporary crown.
During the final appointment, I assist chair-side by handing instruments to the dentist as they fit and adjust the crown. I mix cement and assist as the dentist places the final crown. I take an x-ray of the implant for our records. After the dentist has explained to the patient how to care for the crown, I ask if she has any remaining questions.
I will show this patient how to brush and floss her new tooth implant. I will also encourage her to come back regularly for cleanings so she can avoid more problems with her teeth.
Dental Laboratory Technician
When I receive the patient cast from the dentist’s office, I make a surgical guide for the implant. This will guide the dentist in the placement of the implant so that I can make a crown that will fit the space correctly. I then send it back to the dentist in time for the patient’s next appointment.
After the patient’s second appointment, I receive the cast of the implant. I use this cast to make the final crown. I use my eye for detail and sculpting skills to make the crown look natural and fit perfectly in the patient’s mouth.
During the first appointment, I discuss with the patient the treatment plan and describe how an implant will be placed in her mouth and restored with a crown. I explain that the procedure will take three appointments.
During the second appointment, I use the surgical guide that was created at the dental lab to prepare for the placement of the implant foundation. After the implant cylinder has integrated with the patient’s bone, the next step is to make a final impression that captures all of the detail that the lab technician will need in order to make a great crown.
During the final appointment, I place the crown abutment on the implant to restore the missing space.