The term “profession” originates from the Latin language and is used to define an officially specified labor activity. Professions serve as sources of means of subsistence and groundings of social status (Newsome, & Langley, 2014). Individuals choose their professional engagement in accordance with personal life goals, ambitions, inclinations, and trends in societal attitudes to a particular profession (Gonzalez, Abu Kasim, & Naimie, 2013). In addition to mandatory education, training, skills, and experience, every profession implies a person’s engagement with and contribution to society. Dentistry is identified as a profession because it is characterized by specific requirements for dentists’ education, skills, and involvement in satisfaction of public needs. Thus, in the aggregate, such words as competent, highly skilled, and socially responsible are equivalent to “professional”.
The utilization of innovative materials, high-quality equipment, and revolutionary technology are inherent in the professional field of dentistry, predetermining requirements for dentists’ education and training. Dental education is an ongoing and vital process that demands “more commitment from the dental practitioner than in the past” (Newsome, & Langley, 2014, p. 499). The development of clinical, scientific and interpersonal skills is an irreplaceable constituent of the dental curriculum (Gonzalez et al., 2013). Therefore, taking into consideration the pace of changes in dental care, it is essential to ensure the competence of dentists through their undergraduate education and training programs. The professionalism of dentists is an imperative at all stages of dental care, including the examination, diagnostics, selection of methods, care planning, treatment, discussion of preventive measures, and warnings of possible discomfort. Competent dental professionals are only able to assure the effectiveness of these practices.
Nevertheless, the concept of professionalism is far broader than the notion of competence. Professionalism in oral health care requires dentists to develop and improve such abilities as critical thinking, leadership, problem-solving, mindfulness, teamwork, and communication skills (Gonzalez et al., 2013; Newsome, & Langley, 2014). In the provision of dental care, it is vital to recognize, accept, and respect the competence and skills “of each member of the team” (Gonzalez et al., 2013, p. 74). Hence, leadership and teamwork skills are of paramount importance (Newsome, & Langley, 2014, p. 501). Dental care operations make an immediate and profound impact on patients, and dentists should possess well developed critical thinking and problem-solving skills to determine the most appropriate treatment. What is more, dentistry is a demanding professional area that requires ingenuity, precision, security, and endurance. The aforementioned factors testify to the adequacy of using “highly skilled” as a synonym for “professional”.
Professionals involved in dental care contribute to the satisfaction of social needs by easing patients’ pain and relieving their suffering. The healing power of dentists does not solely depend on the state-of-the-art equipment, advanced treatment methods, and expensive medications. Delivering their services, dentists are driven by ethics standards and take into account individual characteristics of patients, their assertions, emotions, and dignity (Gonzalez et al., 2013; Newsome, & Langley, 2014). Moreover, while communicating with patients, dentists ensure a safe and quiet environment and show concerns about all oral needs of their patients because those experience the most comfort when they interact with a socially responsible medical professional who does not perceive them as another health care problem or an income source.
Summing up, to correspond to the requirements for profession and professionalism, dentists should possess extensive knowledge, well-developed practical skills, morality, patience, compassion for others, and commitment to their careers. Dental professionals should be aware of ethical and legal regulations, theoretical concepts, evidence-based practices, and medical and psychological aspects of oral health care.
Gonzalez, M. A. G., Abu Kasim, N. H., & Naimie, Z. (2013). Soft skills and dental education. European Journal of Dental Education, 17(2), 73-82.
Newsome, P. R. H., & Langley, P. P. (2014). Professionalism, then and now. British Dental Journal, 216(9), 497-502.