It’s not extremely common for a child to know when they’re young what they want to do with their life and to stick with that ambition, but it’s far from unheard of either, and when it does happen, as a parent, you want to support your child. If you don’t really know much about a career in dentistry beyond your own regular visits to have your teeth cleaned, you might feel a little at sea when it comes to finding ways to encourage and help them. The tips below can get you started.
Encourage Certain Classes
While your kid is still in high school, there are several different types of courses that will be useful to them. They should take math and science courses for all four years of high school. Chemistry, biology, physics, and advanced math will all be helpful as they transition to much more difficult courses in college. If you think about the medical professionals you’ve encountered in your life, one thing you’ll probably remember is that what made the best ones so good wasn’t just their expertise in their particular field, as important as that is. It was also the way they were able to talk to and connect with you as a patient.
Classes in communications and psychology, if available, can help your kid better prepare for this element of the job. Advanced placement classes in every area from science to English and much more can help your child prepare for or even exempt some college requirements. Dentistry also requires good physical dexterity. Classes or extracurricular activities that help develop fine motor skills include drawing, woodworking, sewing, or playing a music instrument.
Shadowing and Mentoring
If you can help your kid arrange an opportunity to shadow a dentist at their job and perhaps even take on a mentor role, this can give them an idea of what dentists do every day. Your child might need help with this aspect, but encouraging them to do the legwork themselves to find and query dentists can be a great experience. Professionals might also be more receptive to an inquiry from the child instead of from a parent. While the first few people they approach may decline, there’s a good chance your child will soon land on someone who is interested in helping to educate the next generation of professionals.
Consider College Hurdles
Another way you can help your kid is in researching and choosing a college as well as deciding what to study. Pre-dentistry is not a major at most places, so to prepare for professional school, your child may want to consider a degree in an area such as molecular biology, chemistry, or biomedical engineering. It’s important that they take classes that will help them fulfill all prerequisites and succeed at taking tests and gaining entry into professional school, but it’s also important that they choose a subject that engages them.
As a parent, you may also be worried about the cost of college. By cosigning a student loan, it can be a great way to help your child take out loans when they don’t have a credit history that would otherwise allow them to do so. The ability to access private student loans can be particularly important if your kid does not qualify for federal aid or is not getting enough money from federal aid.
Encourage your kid to be open to different types of people and experiences. This can help make them better networkers, which is an important skill in any field. Networking is all about being able to connect with people authentically and build relationships with them. Your child will need to be able to do this with both colleagues and patients. Openness can also help them get past preconceived ideas about certain sub-specialties.
They might assume that there is just one area that they are really interested in focusing on or that certain areas might be unappealing. They may assume that pediatric dentistry isn’t for them if they don’t have a lot of experience with kids or might think that they want to focus primarily on orthodontics. The discovery that they actually enjoy working with children or that public health is a more interesting area might never come unless they remain open to possibilities beyond their own expectations. You don’t need to know anything special about the profession itself to encourage this as a character trait.
The Role of Art
If you’re looking up information about dentistry because of your kid’s interest, you may be surprised to find that in some places, it is discussed as an art alongside a science. It can be helpful to encourage your child to pursue this line of thinking since some aspects of the field are less objective than subjective. There’s also an art to helping patients improve the look of their mouth and their smile. Sharing these elements of the profession with your kid can help them better conceptualize different aspects of dentistry.