Vancouver Career Spotlight: Dentist

Vancouver Career Spotlight is an interview-style blog series that features the amazing professionals that live and work in the Greater Vancouver area. Our vision is to showcase the many career opportunities that exist in Vancouver and provide inspiration to the future generation of workers and career changers.

For today’s blog, we travel to the northwestern part of British Columbia.  Dr. Amanda Slamka is a Dentist at Tyhee Dental in Smithers, BC.  She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours from Brock University prior to obtaining her Doctor of Dental Medicine degree at the University of Sydney.  She is a member of the British Columbia Dental Association and the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia.


Why did you choose this career path?

When I was little I had braces, headgear, the works!  My dentist didn’t only make my teeth healthy and straight, but he taught me how the dental procedures worked.  This sparked my love and interest in Dentistry — so much that I would accompany all my family members to their dental appointments just so I could watch and learn.

What are your main responsibilities?

My main responsibilities include: diagnosing and treating my patient’s chief complaint, preventing disease and promoting healthy lifestyle choices, and patient education.

What are the opportunities for career growth and advancement? 

Continued professional development courses allow me to be up-to-date on current literature and techniques.  I could also become a specialist and pick a field within dentistry that interests me and focus on honing those specific techniques and treatments.  Another area of growth would be to focus on the business management aspect of the practice as opposed to hands-on patient care.  I could also advance my career as an educator, working for university dental programs as a clinical instructor.

What kind of person would like this career? 

Interest in arts, engineering and sciences.  Dentistry is composed of all three of these components which makes everyday and every treatment so different.  Patient management is a huge component as most patients are very anxious at the dental office.  As a dentist, your ability to communicate well with patients and staff is a huge strength.

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What is a common misconception people have about Dentists?

That as dentists, “we just drill and fill a hole.”  Dentistry is a multi-disciplinary profession which requires an understanding of the entire body.  Every system is connected.  Every diagnosis and treatment takes the entire body into consideration.  Some treatments include: correcting sleep apnea with orthodontics or oral surgery, head and neck cancer screenings, removal of disease using endodontics, restorative, and surgical removal of hard and soft tissue, to name a few.  Patients often see their dentist more frequently than their family doctor, and this allows us to notice any changes to the patient’s health through frequent screenings.  For example: patients with undiagnosed diabetes can have breath that smells like acetone, delayed healing of oral ulcers, periodontitis, and will have high blood sugar levels.  We can then refer the patient to a doctor to manage and treat accordingly.  Dentists are a part of a multi-disciplinary management of patient care.

What school subjects would a person in this career typically excel in?

In high school: science (biology, chemistry), math, physics (if interested in orthodontics). 

In university: math and sciences.  Students in Dentistry have undergrads that consisted of engineering, business, health science, biology and nursing.

What type of education would you typically need to work as a Dentist? 

You would generally complete a Bachelor of Science, and then a Doctor of Dental Medicine / Doctor of Dental Surgery, which is a total of at least 8 years of post-secondary education. 

Applying for a post grad degree can be difficult and stressful as it is very competitive and every school has a different set of requirements.  It would be good to look at where you are going to apply for post grad in your 1st and 2nd year to ensure you take the appropriate courses. 

I also learned that you need to have a few back-up plans as opposed to just striving after one option as many post grad opportunities have different requirements for applications.  If you did not meet the requirements, you would have to attend university for an additional period of time to obtain them.  I was lucky and got into my first choice of Dental school, but if things did not work out, then I would have had to continue taking classes to meet the requirements.

What are the best programs to get this education?

The only university in British Columbia that has a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) program is UBC.  There are other dental schools across Canada if you are looking for options outside of the province.

What types of organizations would typically hire a Dentist?

You are self-employed as a dentist. You can work as an apprentice for a dental office or own your own practice.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a career as a Dentist?

Do something you love and enjoy!  It’s a long road, and if you don’t love what you’re doing, it will be very hard as it is a stressful career and journey.  Shadowing dentists or other careers that you think you’re interested in is a good test to see if this job is for you.

I hope you enjoyed this Career Spotlight interview about the dental career track. Below are additional resources if you’re interested in researching this career further. Feel free to ask questions in the comments. If you’re interested in seeing if this career is right for you, send us a message here, and let’s help you find a career that aligns with your personality, interests, and goals.


More information about Dentists in BC:

WorkBC – Dentists (earnings, workforce statistics, related careers, etc.)

College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia

Education Programs (in the Greater Vancouver area):

University of British Columbia

Crossroads Career Audit Email Course

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