No matter how safe, painless and easy dental checkups have become over the past few decades, there's still an oddly persistent belief that they're something to be afraid of. In truth, this couldn't be more wrong. Not only is the process of a dental checkup pretty simple and non-invasive in and of itself, it's also performed by a professional who has an incredible amount of training, both academic and practical, before they are permitted to treat you. As such, you're in really safe hands. Here's exactly what a dentist had to do in order to qualify.
As with any other branch of medicine, dentistry is a very competitive field of study. Candidates must not only achieve great results pre-university, but they must also pass the UMAT before they can even apply. UMAT stands for Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test. It is intended to ensure that every candidate who goes on to study dentistry—or any other medical program—has the personal skills to succeed. The test checks that candidates would be good at working with patients and communicating with them, both verbally and non-verbally, and checks their general problem-solving skills. As such, they have to pass a high bar even to begin to study.
Dentistry courses in Australia are five years long, covering a broad period of study. Students are taught all about oral hygiene and health, including how to spot and treat a wide variety of oral illnesses of varying severity. Right from the beginning, they must practice this knowledge practically in clinical training as well as learning the theory. This ensures that all candidates don't just understand oral health from the pages of a book, but actually know how to apply it to real patients. This continues throughout their five years on the course so that they never lose sight of exactly what they'll be doing once they're qualified.
Once formally qualified following their graduation, dentists must register themselves with the DBA (Dental Board of Australia). This registration must be renewed every year. The board requires that practising dentists operate to a high standard, respect patient confidentiality, and conduct themselves in a professional manner. It also asks that they continue to develop as professionals, ensuring that they can't ignore new advancements in dental knowledge or get 'out of the loop'.
In short, by the time you're sitting in the dentist's chair waiting for your bi-annual checkup, your dentist has jumped through more than enough hoops to prove that he or she is good and safe to work with you. Let that reassure you, and get that next appointment booked!