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The Real Poop

Are you ready for the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth?

Do you know how to brush your teeth? According to the Mentadent Smart Mouth Survey, two out of three adults do not know how to properly brush their teeth. To properly brush your teeth, you must hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against your gums. (Oh great—we need to know geometry, too?) Start by brushing the outer tooth surfaces, move to the inner tooth surfaces and finish on the chewing surfaces of your teeth. The brush should move in tooth-wide strokes. Be sure to brush your tongue to remove bacteria. Seriously.

You've got to love teeth, gums, and tongues to become a dentist or really work in anything in the ToothWorld. If the sight of a root canal grosses you out, this gig may not be the right career for you. Dentists, who are general practitioners, do not put braces on people. Those of you who take great pleasure in torturing kids with braces and headgear have to go the orthodontist route.

Dentists remove plaque from teeth, fill cavities, repair cracked teeth, extract (remove) teeth, treat gum problems, write prescriptions, examine x rays, and make models for dental appliances like dentures. The majority of dentists are general practitioners, but there are dentists who practice specialized fields. Others recommend toothpaste brands. Don't be that pain in the rear guy who is the 1 out of 5 who votes the other way.

Other flavors of dentist:

Endodontists: Perform root canals. Yay! Everyone loves these guys.

Oral Radiologists: Diagnose and treat diseases in the neck and head.

Oral Maxillofacial Surgeons: Operate on the gums, neck, head, teeth, jaws, and mouth. They also repair cleft lips and remove impacted teeth. They are also highly feared and respected in the hallways behind the studio where Wheel of Fortune is filmed.

Oral Pathologists: Diagnose oral diseases such as oral cancer.

Periodontists: Treats gums and bones around the teeth.

Prosthodontists: Replace missing teeth. Hockey players have these guys on speed dial.

How do you choose what career path to take in the dentistry world?

Basically, you will have plenty of time to decide. Dentists generally earn their bachelor's degree before entering dental school. Then there are four years of dental school. Most graduates then find themselves in a residency program for at least a year. Before you can fill anyone's cavity on your own (really not recommended for a number of reasons), you must get a license within your state; typically, states have their own requirements for obtaining a dental license. To become licensed, you must have a degree from an accredited dental school (no online dental degrees) and pass an exam (divided into "written" and "practical"). Once you have your license, where do you set up shop?

Dentists may work in offices with a group of other dentists or on their own. If you work for an established dentist, you usually are considered an "associate dentist." Like others in the medical field, there is a good likelihood that you will have to answer emergency calls. Many dentists have to be available for their patients at night and on weekends. Sometimes, they have another dentist or their associate dentist come in if there is an emergency. For that reason, you never really know when you’ll have to put down that fishing pole or shopping bag and come into the office.

For the most part, your hours will be normal business hours. Many people go into dentistry for that reason. Normal hours, good pay, and a relatively stress free atmosphere are some of the benefits of this career path. Despite the great pay and comfortable working environment, you may see some gnarly stuff. For fun, look up "bad teeth" in your search engine of choice.

Why do people let their dental hygiene go?

More than one million Americans don’t go to the dentist…because they can’t afford it. Sadly (and disgustingly), one in four children suffer from tooth decay and one in four Medicare beneficiaries are missing all of their natural teeth. The result is a country with severe dental problems. Unfortunately, people wait until they absolutely have to go see someone. Furthermore, people are afraid of dentists; afraid of the pain they may experience, strange instruments, and the sound of the drill. And, in extreme cases, monsters hiding under the dental chair.

Good dentists are able to put people’s fears at rest, explain complicated procedures and create a welcoming atmosphere in their office. In addition, dentists must be patient, have leadership skills, employ problem-solving skills, and be able to effectively communicate to their staff and clients. Ready to drill some teeth? Well, we're telling you the tooth.