Is Manual Dexterity Really Needed For Dentistry?
What is manual dexterity?
Manual dexterity is defined as the ability to effectively use your hands and fingers with precision.
Manual dexterity is something that plays a crucial role within both medicine and dentistry. Dentistry, like certain aspects of medicine e.g., surgery, requires clinicians to have the ability to work within small fields and to great precision.
Procedures requiring manual dexterity
Many common dental procedures require this skill. Take root canals for example. Often in the NHS, root canal treatments are performed without the use of a microscope. Clinicians need to be able to access at times 4 canals which are extremely tiny to the naked eye. Once located, they need to work within this confined space, cleaning the canals, removing debris, shaping them and ultimately filling them. This procedure definitely requires a great deal of manual dexterity in addition to concentration, due diligence and accuracy.
Other procedures that require excellent manual dexterity include aesthetic cases such as class IV composite build ups. These are within the aesthetic zone and thus the cosmetic nature of it comes into play. In trying to mimic the adjacent tooth, one needs a steady hand and an eye for detail. This is needed in the initial dentine build up and also subsequently when restoring the enamel covering.
When drilling teeth whether it be for root canal treatments or simply fillings, one needs to be careful to ensure that they do not remove excessive amounts of tooth tissue. Dentistry has entered an era of conservation rather than destruction and thus the aim is to try and preserve as much healthy tooth tissue as feasibly possible. In achieving this aim, one must adopt a very steady hand. This will ensure cut cavities are appropriate and will in turn reduce possibilities of nerve exposure due to over-drilling.
Periodontal treatment is another example of the importance of manual dexterity in dentistry. The ability to measure pockets accurately to the nearest mm and ensure one doesn’t carry out subgingival debridement beyond a given pocket requires good hand control and dexterity.
Manual dexterity is a skill that interviewers will often look for in prospective dental students. They may ask for evidence that the applicant can display this and it is preferable that those applying for dentistry exhibit this skill through their personal statement.
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Methods of developing manual dexterity
Example ways of demonstrating good manual dexterity can be shown via the following:
- Sewing, knitting or crochet
- Cake decorating
- Henna or Mendhi application/business
- Painting, drawing or sketching
- Ceramic work
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Prospective students should aim to display one of these skills in their personal statement and can even go further by bringing a sample to show interviewers during the actual assessment. This will help reinforce that you uphold this essential skill of manual dexterity in addition to recognising that it’s a key skill for a dentist to adopt.
Not only is manual dexterity important but this ties in with hand-eye co-ordination. Clinicians are often working in very small fields and without loupes or microscopic aids, one’s visual concentration and hand-eye coordination proves essential.
Thus, in conclusion we can see that most of dentistry is centred around this essential skill base. One can certainly learn and improve their manual dexterity and it isn’t necessarily a natural skill someone possesses.
If you are thinking of applying for dentistry, look into the hobbies and skills aforementioned and through practice, one’s manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination will definitely improve. Ultimately, practice makes perfect.