On Tuesday, February 6, 2024, Grant Prior ’14, DDS spoke to Catholic Central students about becoming a dentist after graduation as part of the school’s 2023-2024 Career Conference Speaker series.
Prior graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry and currently works as an Associate Dentist for Chelsea Dexter Dental Group in Chelsea, Michigan. However, he will be moving to a dental practice in Novi soon.
During his presentation, Prior discussed his path to dentistry. He stated that he attended dental school for seven years, but most programs require eight years, including four years of undergraduate classes.
To get into dentistry school, students must pass the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). Prior studied for the DAT for 4 months ranging from 8 to 10 hours a day, stating that it was harder to get into dentistry school at the time than it was medical school.
He covered topics such as what general dentistry encompasses as well as what a typical day as a dentist looks like, stating, “As a dentist, anything in the head and neck is your responsibility.”
Prior stated that diagnosing tumors, cysts, and gum disease is a big part of his job. He has diagnosed 15 tumors or cysts in the past year alone and performs four to five surgeries a week.
Bone surgeries are the most common type of surgery he performs. These are meant to correct a break in the jaw or tooth. However, Prior also stated that he does Botox injections for TMJ and works with patients who have sleep apnea.
To become a successful dentist, Prior told CC students that they must become a servant leader. “Lead by example,” he stated. “At least in my practice, there is no job that I can’t do.”
He also discussed the importance of interpersonal skills and working as part of a team, stating that it’s important to connect with your patients or they won’t come back.
“If you’re a good dentist, people will follow you wherever you go. Just like a sports team, you’re only as good as your team. Teamwork is important. You all must contribute to get the win and create a successful day every single time,” he stated.
Prior told students that successful dentists are life-long learners and that they should take advantage of the resources offered at Catholic Central.
“People go to dentists for a specific reason. You have to be able to do something that sets you apart. Be a life-long learner. Take advantage of what you have here. You guys have a golden opportunity here. This is a world-class institution. Thousands of kids would give anything to have this opportunity. Let the Goodness, Disciple, Knowledge Program be your foundation. If you follow these principles, you will be OK for life,” he stated.
To keep up to date with his education, Prior takes 100 hours of continuing education credits every other year. However, he stated that most dentists only need 60 hours.
For students interested in becoming a dentist, Prior recommended taking art, ceramics, and biology classes while at Catholic Central.
“Dentistry is art and science put together. You’ll be working with your hands a lot. I recommend taking drawing, ceramics, introduction to art classes, and human anatomy classes, such as AP Bio, and AP Chemistry, that kind of stuff. You also need financial literacy with a heavy emphasis on biological science, but there is an intersection of art,” Prior stated.
He also recommended that students shadow various medical professionals and check out various dental schools to determine what field they want to get into.
“I shadowed all around the dentistry world from PAs to MDs and oral surgeons. It was a long day, but it helped me decide what I wanted to do. Explore each school’s dental school programs.”
Prior concluded the presentation by showing examples of clinical cases and before and after pictures, including examples of cavities, chipped teeth, dentures, teeth whitening, and infected teeth.
He also took questions from the students and talked about the pros and cons of becoming a dentist, stating that being a dentist has been ranked among the top professionals.
“Why become a dentist? Because you get to restore health and smiles in your patients. You get to work with your hands every day and you can be your own boss. You have control of your schedule. I only work 4 days a week now, less than 40 hours. Dentistry gives you a chance to explore your passions. You have a chance to help people. You have to want to help people and do it for the right reasons. You can have a comfortable life. However, it can be a high-stress job. You have to be the leader and navigate medical emergencies,” Prior stated.