IN THE CANADIAN FORCES
MAJOR GENEVIÈVE POITRAS: I’m Major Geneviève Poitras from Bathurst, New Brunswick – a Dental Officer at Canadian Forces Health Services Group Headquarters, in Ottawa.
Dental Officers provide care to military patients across Canada, and on deployments and exercises around the world. They serve members of all occupations and work in clinical settings, on naval warships or in mobile dental clinics. On base, Dental Officers see their patients in some of the best-equipped clinics in the country, with state-of-the-art equipment. They work in teams alongside other dentists, dental specialists, hygienists and dental technicians, as well as dedicated support personnel who take care of all the scheduling and paperwork.
POITRAS: One of the huge benefits to being a dentist in the Canadian Forces is – the treatment plan that you devise for your patient, you don’t have to worry about whether the patient can afford it or not. The patient gets the absolute best care.
At home here in Canada, Dental Officers can usually expect to work normal weekday office hours, with regular on-call duties to address dental emergencies at night or on the weekend.
POITRAS: A regular day-to-day for a dentist in the military is: you come in and, typically, for the first hour you see what we call ‘sick parade’, which are your dental emergencies. After that, you’ll see booked appointments, you’ll see exams, you’ll see restorative, you can do surgery – all scopes of general dentistry.
Dental Officers may also be called upon to provide clinical support to other bases and travel periodically. Military exercises and deployments up to several months out of country in a theatre of operations are also an important part of the job.
There are other opportunities within the military realm, including training in disaster victim identification.
POITRAS: I’m the deputy team lead for the Canadian Forces Forensic Odontology Response Team. We can be called upon at any time to aid in disaster victim identification through dental remains. We have what we call annual collective training, and this where we bring the team together and we use the software that we’re going to deploy with – we practise taking x-rays, we practise taking proper pictures, so that when we deploy, things go flawlessly.
After completing their entry-level occupational training, Dental Officers are typically posted to a large multidisciplinary clinic where they work alongside a team of dental specialists including periodontists, prosthodontists, oral surgeons and comprehensive dentists to continue developing their skills and knowledge.
POITRAS: Following the large specialty care centre, typically you go to a smaller clinic, and this is where you are likely a detachment commander, and you are offered a little bit more leadership opportunity.
As their career progresses, there are great opportunities to pursue subsidized advanced education in one of several dental specialties including oral and maxillofacial surgery; prosthodontics; periodontics; dental public health; and comprehensive dentistry. Continuing professional dental education and military-specific training are also available to all Dental Officers on an ongoing basis.
POITRAS: If you enjoy leadership, if you enjoy physical fitness, if you enjoy practising excellent dentistry, if you enjoy challenging yourself, if you enjoy seeing the world and making lasting friendships – this is for sure the career for you. And it is exciting – it is full of adventure. Joining the military was the best decision that I’ve made in my life.