“Why do you want to be a dentist?” is a common that should be easy to answer, if you have prepared. Some applicants may feel that this is an easy question to answer, and neglect to prepare adequately, only to find they trip up during the interview and give a rambling, incoherent answer. This question gets to the heart of why you are choosing dentistry, and it should be a concise, unique answer that demonstrates your journey and decision to pursue dentistry. and the US are certainly going to present you with this question, so reading these expert-approved samples can help you formulate a clear, succinct answer.
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Stan Brock and Remote Area Medical (RAM), the organization he founded, traveled the United States, from California to West Virginia, setting up full-service medical and dental clinics in stadiums and warehouses to give people free health care. Some people camped out for three days waiting to be seen. There was a news report about RAM and the interviewers interviewed one woman and her children who had severe dental problems.
It only took a few hours of dental work to change this entire family’s lives. Seeing how proud this mom and her kids were after seeing the dentist made me realize how important, and life-changing dentistry can be. Dentists may not always have a chance to save someone’s life, but there is no denying we change people’s lives for the better and that is something I want to do, both in my practice and hopefully, one day, with RAM.
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I started researching what I needed to do to get into dental school, and I read that shadowing a dentist is a good way to see the daily ups and downs of being a dentist. I contacted my own dentist and asked whether I would be able to shadow her. Unfortunately, she declined but was kind enough to refer me to another dentist, Dr. Stephanie James, who was willing to let me shadow her.
Before my first day, Dr. James told me to familiarize myself with HIPPA protocols to protect patient’s privacy and confidentiality. I did, but I was still nervous on my first day. I was worried that I would interfere with Dr. James or that her patients would feel uncomfortable with me being there. Dr. James told me that she would ask every patient if they were willing to let me observe their procedures. If they agreed, I could stay; if not, then I would leave the room.
Fortunately, many of Dr. James patients were amenable to having me observe, and it was an eye-opening experience. I had been inspired by RAM and their work, but after observing Dr. James, I realized that dentistry is also dealing with smaller, more everyday problems. It’s not always changing someone’s life. It can also be demonstrating good oral hygiene or simply filling in a cavity. Shadowing Dr. James tempered my expectations about becoming a dentist and I think it made me appreciate all aspects of being a dentist.
One morning, when I was still a child, I saw my father in pain when he came home after working the midnight shift. He was grimacing and holding his jaw. I asked him what was wrong and he said it was nothing. A few days passed, and when I saw him next his jaw was swollen and he had a fever. We had just resettled in Canada after leaving El Salvador, but neither I nor my parents spoke any English, at least, not well.
My mother and I asked our neighbor in broken English where we could go and she was kind enough to drive us to Dr. Martin Grove’s office. Dr. Grove came into the waiting room to see us, and began speaking perfect Spanish. As soon as my father heard Dr. Grove speaking Spanish, he broke down. I think he was relieved to hear someone speaking Spanish, for a lot of reasons. I think my father was exhausted, scared, homesick and in so much pain, that he just couldn’t hold it in anymore.
Dr. Grove removed the abscess and would not accept payment, which was fortunate because we had no money to pay him. But we bought insurance eventually, and we all came to see him. I was never really sick as a child, so I didn’t have many reasons to see my family doctor. But my sweet tooth meant I saw Dr. Grove a lot.
When I was still in high school and during one of my appointments, I asked Dr. Grove, out of curiosity, what I would have to do become a dentist. He told me that I needed to do well in science courses like biology and chemistry, do a lot of volunteer work in the community or anything involving helping and serving others.
I remembered that an assisted living center had opened up in our neighborhood, so I asked if I could start volunteering to spend time with the folks at the center. I also started taking online tutoring courses to advance my knowledge of the sciences, since I often struggled with those subjects in the past. After a few months of tutoring, I scored a 97% on a biology exam, and felt confident enough to take online, introductory courses in anatomy and pharmacology.
When I told Dr. Grove about this, he volunteered to let me shadow him for a few weeks. He let me watch when he interacted with patients and also told me his own motivations for becoming a dentist. He told me that his father had also experienced a lot of problems with his oral health. Dr. Grove grew up in a small town, and it was the fact that his father had to travel to see a dentist that inspired him to become one. He was motivated, as I am, by service and helping people address a very important, but overlooked aspect of their well-being: oral health.
I was fourteen when my dentist told me and my parents that I would need braces and I thought my life was over. I remember feeling hot and nervous. I squirmed in my chair as the dentist spoke. A girl at my school, Tracey, had braces and my friends and I would tease her endlessly about them, even to the point of crying.
Now, as I sit before you, I consider myself a well-educated adult trying to enter a profession based on compassion, duty, and service, so when I look back on who I was as a teenager, which was not so long ago, I feel pangs of regret. I don’t console myself by saying I was young, immature and so many other things, but I’m glad I’m not that person anymore.
I resisted the braces at first. I begged my parents not to get them. I told them without shame that the kids at school would make fun of me. But there was no getting around it. One of my baby teeth had not fallen out and it was blocking my adult teeth from emerging. My dentist showed my parents and I the x-ray. That one baby tooth had caused what looked like a traffic jam of teeth in my gums.
When I told my friends that I would need to get them, they all laughed, but they didn’t care. I was more nervous about Tracey and what she would do or say. Then it dawned on me that I was finally seeing things from her perspective, something even her tears could not get me to do. I got my braces and on my first day back at school I saw Tracey.
I apologized to her for everything I had said and asked for forgiveness. She walked away without saying a word and never spoke to me again. I was hurt, but later I realized I was naïve to think I was worthy of forgiveness. But her actions inspired me even more. The more I thought about it, her reaction was a kind of forgiveness.
When the shoe was on the other foot, she could’ve chosen to be as immature, and heartless as I was, but she didn’t. She stopped short of assuaging my guilt, but she showed me more compassion and consideration than I ever showed her. I want to become a dentist because I want to help people feel accepted, confident and cared for, because I witnessed first-hand how transformative and life-changing it can be when someone shows you even a little bit of compassion.
After I graduated high school, I took a gap year before entering university and traveled to Mexico to volunteer with a non-profit helping promote oral health and hygiene in rural areas that lacked these services. My Spanish was lacking, but I still helped explain proper oral hygiene with dolls and plush toys, which got the kids’ attention and let me communicate without having to speak.
I stayed there for almost three months. I became close with one of the professional dentists who volunteered at the clinic. He told me that he had just finished dental school and was going back to the States to start his practice. He also mentioned that if I was serious about dental school, that I should start preparing for the DAT, which is what I did as soon as I returned.
I took a DAT prep course and started studying in earnest after that. It paid off as I scored a 20 on my first-attempt. My scores gave me the confidence I needed to apply, but I never forgot that my other motivation was to always show compassion and understanding, so I also started volunteering at a dental clinic inside a minimum-security prison. I choose to volunteer there because the needs of incarcerated persons are often ignored, and it was important to me to interact with people who are not always shown compassion.
Asking “why do you want to be a dentist” is a simple way for interviewers to get you to reveal things about yourself that are not discernible from your official transcripts, CV, and GPA score.
But it is more than likely you will be asked why do you want to be a dentist, along with the “tell me about yourself” question. Both the former and latter are things you can also address in your , which can help you formulate and refine your answer for your interview. But another reason this question is commonly asked is because the selection committee wants to see how you communicate verbally and express yourself.
Applicants who mumble an answer, provide one with no narrative structure, or come up with an answer on the spot will fare worse than applicants who plan out an answer beforehand and practice speaking it out loud to build confidence. Even if you are 100% sure of why you want to become a dentist, you need to practice how you are going to narrate your story, so preparation for this question is very important.
And one more, perhaps most important reason, that dental school interviewers ask you this question is because they want you to demonstrate a genuine passion and desire to practice dentistry for a lifetime, which is what you are signing up to do. Tests, exams, and interviews are how you get into dental school, but it is your drive and motivation that will carry you through your career.
There are a lot of reasons to become a dentist, some of them more noble than others, but there is also nothing wrong with wanting a career in a stable, financially rewarding profession like dentistry or orthodontics. But you do not want to say that is the only reason you want to be a dentist.
Dental school acceptance rates are not as low as they are for medical school, but that does not mean you should view dentistry simply as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.
If you reduce the profession to a simple money-making venture or some other selfish reason, it reflects poorly on you but is also uncouth and a little insulting.
Here are few more things you should avoid talking about.
1. Financial Stability
We’ve touched on this already, but it is imperative you leave out any mention of financial gain or wanting to make money. Adequate compensation is a given in any profession, but if you are only out to make money, there are many other ways to do so that do not require you to go to dental school.
2. Building a Business
If you end up becoming a dentist and opening a practice, you will have to advertise and market your services, so you will need to be business literate, but if the business side of being a dentist is all you focus on, then, again, there are other ways to have a successful business in areas that do not involve health care and people’s well-being. You can have a thriving practice without sacrificing your patients and their needs, which should always come first.
3. Can’t Get into Medical School
Every health care profession is worthy of respect, and if you choose to disparage any one of them, directly or indirectly, you are guaranteed to be rejected. Telling a panel of interviewers who have dedicated their professional lives to dentistry you want to be a dentist because are lower than medical school acceptance rates is an affront to them and to doctors. Equally bad would be saying that being a dentist is better than being a nurse or physician assistant.
1. Your Manual Dexterity Skills
All dental school applicants must answer that gauge exactly that, how dexterous you are with both hands. You do not have to physically demonstrate your dexterity, but write down instances in your past when using your hands was important. You are typically asked these questions before you submit your or (if you live in Texas) application, but you can briefly touch upon them when you go in for your . For example, you can talk about how putting together toy models, playing the piano or violin, or using your hands to cook or bake have prepared you to be a dentist.
2. Focus on Other Strengths
You can ask a firm like BeMo about how you can talk about your strengths deftly without seeming boastful or arrogant, while also talking about your weaknesses without seeming insecure or self-deprecating. Self-knowledge is an important quality to have, especially in the medical field, as you are expected to conduct yourself in a professional manner and use your best judgement when making decisions.
3. Be Your Best Self
Many applicants waste time thinking how to mold themselves to the standards of the admissions committee, when they should be doing the opposite. Admissions committees do not want you to contort your true self and personality to meet their guidelines. Anyone who gets to the interview stage of the dental school application process has already demonstrated their knowledge and aptitude academically, but when you are face-to-face with your interviewers you can show them who you are behind the artifice of grades and .
Applicants often write online about how to answer this question and are frustrated by the fact that they cannot state the true reasons (money, job security, no life-and-death decisions) out of fear of seeming callous or shallow. Others say that you have to “perform” and “sell yourself” to be convincing, even though you do not believe in what you are saying.
But this is entirely the wrong approach. You do not have to perform, or put on a façade. You should show yourself warts-and-all. You are allowed to be human. You are allowed and encouraged to talk about how you struggled in your introduction to chemistry class, how your braces helped restore your self-esteem or confidence, or what challenges you foresee in your future career and education.
Answering why you want to be a dentist should be easy if you’ve put in the time and effort to prepare. On the surface, it may seem like a simple question to answer, but a lot of applicants have a hard time answering in an intelligent, insightful and personable way. The content of your answer should be a true reflection of your desires and motivations to pursue dentistry, and they should not be an act that you put on to fool the admissions committee.
1. How should I answer “why do you want to be a dentist?”
You should answer as honestly and authentically as possible, without guile or artifice, as you would when writing your . Your interviewers understand how commonplace and ubiquitous the question is, but what matters to them is what your answer reveals about your personality, communication and social skills, and what is motivating you to become a dentist.
2. Should I tell my interviewers what they want to hear or answer honestly?
Answer honestly, always. If you prepare something beforehand, a script, for example, that you think will please your interviewers, you are defeating the purpose of the entire exercise. The point of the question is to get you to open up about why you are choosing dentistry, which is one of the few things that distinguishes you from all other applicants.
3. What should I say to answer “why do you want to be a dentist?”
Use the sample answers above to start asking yourself questions such as, “why do I want to do this?”, “what are my goals?”, “what happened in the past that made me want to choose dentistry?”. Explore your history, and what makes you different from other candidates. Your are also important and reflect well on you, but the committee will have some idea of your extracurriculars from your application, so you don’t need to go into too much detail. If you can learn your own strengths and weaknesses, then you will be able to adequately answer, “why do you want to be a dentist?”
4. What are some good answers to “why do you want to be a dentist?”
A good answer is one that is well-thought out, authentic and from the heart. You can talk about anything in your past that truly made you want to be a dentist, and you do not have to dress up or embellish your story, if you think it is not interesting or compelling enough. If you want to be a dentist because you love the sciences, and health care, in general, say that. If you don’t have a profound, moving story behind your desire to become a dentist, then you do not have to make one up, just be honest.
5. Is there anyone who can help me prepare?
6. What should I avoid talking about?
You should avoid mentioning self-interested reasons for wanting to become a dentist (money, prestige, financial opportunities), as well as reasons that show you have no passion for it, such as wanting to become a dentist because of family affiliation – unless you truly want to follow in your family’s footsteps – and mentioning that you could not enter any other health care profession.
7. Does it matter what I say in my answer?
It matters, most definitely. Your answer should be a reflection of your true self, and if you reveal yourself to be unprepared, uninterested in the question, and, by extension, the entire admissions process, you’ll only set yourself up for failure.
8. What if the only reasons I want to be a dentist are to make money, financial gain?
If your real reasons for wanting to be a dentist are the money and financial gain, you should ask yourself if that is really true, or not. Being a dentist carries enormous responsibilities that go beyond money and compensation. If you do become a dentist, your first concern should always be your patients, and if you feel like your desire to accumulate wealth will interfere with that, then you should choose another profession.
With that said, it is common for any health care professional to think about how they will provide for themselves and their families. But, one of the main attractions of a career in health care, and dentistry specifically, is the near-constant demand for high-quality, well-trained, well-educated professionals. The never-ending demand allows these same professionals to pursue opportunities not based on compensation but other interests such as location, specialty, and overall challenge.