Author of"" Business Talks to Young Men," "Straight Talis to Employers," etc.
Although the number of women dentists is not large, it is likely to increase very much in the future, as there is a genuine opening for women dentists in this country, and doubtless the fact that in 1910 the Royal College of Surgeons (England) opened its doors to women, and now grants them its licence in dental surgery, will act as an impetus.
Before that time the qualifications of the Scotch and Irish colleges were the ones generally taken by women, and this was, no doubt, a drawback to the English girl wishing to pursue her studies in the south.
Besides private practice, there will be a demand for women dentists for public work now that the medical inspection of schools is made to include the examination of children's teeth. The result of the first inspection revealed the fact that 80 per cent, of the scholars were suffering from defective teeth.
The year 1910 marked a new era in the profession, when a woman dentist-dr. Eva Handley, L.d.s., was for the first time appointed to be a member of the honorary visiting staff of a general London hospital.
There may be difficulties in the way of the woman dentist working up a practice, but these can be overcome by a woman of energy who is well qualified for her work. There is also one thing to be said for this profession, which cannot be said of many others in which women engage, the opportunities of making an income of, say, £300 to £500 a year do exist.
Many women engage in high school teaching, in indexing, in the higher branches of library work, and in order to succeed they must possess a first-class university education and high degrees. Even when thus qualified, their prospects are uncertain and salaries often inadequate to their attainments. But in dentistry there is a wider scope for the ambitious, and there is at least no difficulty in obtaining a post as an assistant, or making an income by the practice of mechanical dentistry-that is, the making and repairing of artificial teeth.
The first step that must be taken is to become registered as a dental student. To do so the candidate must produce evidence of having passed some general educational test, such as the Oxford and Cambridge Junior or Senior Locals, London University Matriculation, etc., to mention a few of many alternative examinations mentioned in the regulations. Full particulars as to these can be obtained from the Registrar of the General Medical Council, Henry E. Allen, Esq., LL.B., 299, Oxford Street, London, W.
Within six months of registration the candidate can present herself for the preliminary scientific examination, but must first produce certificates from some recognised institution to show that she has satisfactorily passed through a course of study in chemistry, physics, and practical chemistry, which form the subjects of the examination. This preliminary scientific study can be begun prior to registration as a student.
Before she can sit for the first professional examination, which deals with the mechanical side of the profession, such as the manufacture of artificial teeth and their adjustment, dental metallurgy, etc., the student must have been engaged for three years in acquiring a knowledge of the details of mechanical dentistry under the instruction of a competent practitioner, or under the direction of the superintendent of a recognised dental hospital, and have attended lectures at the hospital for at least six months.
Perhaps the best training open to London students is that provided at the National Dental Hospital, Great Portland Street, W., where a two-years' course is arranged, including mechanical training and hospital lectures, for a combined fee of £120; and the course in general medicine and surgery at the London School of Medicine for Women attached to the Royal Free Hospital, these latter studies being required for the final examination.
The medical course lasts two years, and costs £ 60. Four years is the minimum period of training, but many students find that they cannot cover the ground in less than five or even six years. As the examination fees and the licence of the English College cost together £21, it will be seen that the total cost of training in dentistry is over £200.
The cost of the licence granted by the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, and that of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, is rather less, and the dental and medical training is not so expensive as in the metropolis.
Many, especially provincial, students who have not access to a good medical and dental school apprentice themselves for three years to a dental practitioner, only attending the hospital for the necessary lectures prescribed by the regulations.
The final examination consists of,two parts - Part I. dealing with general anatomy and physiology as well as general surgery and pathology, and Part II. dealing with dental anatomy and physiology and surgery and practical dental surgery. Candidates have to give a practical exhibition of stopping teeth, which are held in a vice, and of extracting them.
When qualified it is best at first to take a post as assistant to a dentist with a large practice in order to gain valuable experience, and after a year or two of such work to set up for oneself. The woman dentist will find her best chance lies in making a speciality of women and children's work. With regard to the latter she has a great advantage over the man dentist, who, as a rule, finds the little ones his most troublesome patients. His well-meant efforts at allaying their fears are generally anything but successful, for he does not know how to manage them as a woman would. It would be a good plan for a woman to go into partnership with a man dentist with a good practice, and to devote herself to working up the women and children's department.
The work is far less exacting than that which falls to the lot of the lady doctor; the hours are regular, and there are no night calls, nor is there the worry and strain, which are inseparable from the life of the medical man.
One reason, perhaps, why the work does not at first sight seem attractive is that the popular idea of a dentist is that of a mere extractor of teeth-a torturer with whom most people are acquainted. As a matter of fact, teeth drawing forms a comparatively small part of the dentist's work, since nowadays so many new ways of treating dental disease are open to the scientific practitioner that the forceps are used only as a last resort.
Women are at no disadvantage as compared with men, even in drawing teeth, as it is not so much strength but skill and knack which are required; while in the delicate work of stopping, filing, making, and adjusting teeth they possess a delicacy of touch which renders them specially suitable for the work.
Another advantage of dentistry as a profession for women is that all the work, if the dentist is in practice for herself, is done in her own home, so that if she should marry, her long and expensive training would not be thrown away, as she would not necessarily have to abandon her profession.
One thing that may delay her success at the beginning is that some women object to being attended by a woman dentist, for much the same reasons that make them prefer a man to a woman doctor. They have not sufficient confidence in the skill and nerve of one of their own sex, especially when it comes to a question of using the knife or other instruments. This prejudice, however, is fast dying out, in the face of the fact that women have proved their capacity to perform the most difficult and delicate operations. If the woman dentist finds that at first her patients are shy of submitting themselves to her care when a tooth has to be drawn, she will have no difficulty in attracting lady clients if she can make a reputation for skill in improving the appearance of teeth by correcting dental irregularities and defects, and in this women often show themselves extremely clever.
There is a lower branch of the profession which would appeal to a girl who is possessed of manual skill and dexterity rather than scientific leanings and attainments, and that is the practice of mechanical dentistry.
The necessary training entails a three years' course at a dental hospital, or apprenticeship to a workshop. The work consists of making artificial teeth, crowns, and bridges, stoppings, etc., and when expert one can either obtain a post with a qualified dentist or open a laboratory of one's own, and take in piece work. Several women are engaged in this work, and their earnings average from £2 to £3 a week.
Some dentists employ women who have had this training in the double capacity of laboratory assistant and secretary, and a clever girl in this position may sometimes rise to be a manager of the whole business under her employer, and thus earn a very good salary.
The following is a good institution for the training of girls: Clark's College (Commercial Training).