Dr Frederike Fehrmann has run her own dental practice, Wohlfühl Heuchelheim, since 2002. (Image: Frederike Fehrmann)
Interview: “It is time to rethink and adapt dental education to empower women”
As the manager of a dental practice and the co-founder of the Deutsches Zahnärztinnensymposium (DZÄS), an event that provides a forum for female dentists in Germany, Dr Frederike Fehrmann is an extremely busy woman. In this interview for International Women's Day, she discusses her experiences as a woman working in dentistry and offers advice for those who are considering entering the field.
Dr Fehrmann, how did you decide to enter the field of dentistry?
I knew very early that I wanted to study dentistry. My mother is an orthodontist and I always liked what she was doing. During my studies, though, things looked different—I wanted to do oral and maxillofacial surgery for a period. But then I was offered the dental practice where I now work, and though it was different from what I had expected, I was still able to develop my skills in many directions, arriving finally at CAD/CAM and laser dentistry, which have been my favourite areas in recent years.
My professional life is constantly changing and developing, and that is what makes it exciting. High-tech dental surgery is exactly what I want to do and work with.
In your experience, are there any advantages or disadvantages to being a woman in dentistry? Have these changed over time?
I think dentistry is great, but it’s the same in this field as in many other professions in which women work. We often have a double burden simply because of our responsibility to bring the next generation into the world. This is a topic that has been on my mind for a long time. In fact, the DZÄS will be hosting a symposium in Frankfurt later this year where we will highlight the balancing act between technology and mindfulness, between career and family. I’m looking forward to it very much.
In my experience, women tend to have certain advantages—for example, we often find it easier to deal with children as patients than male dentists do. However, we still have to assert ourselves constantly. But things are changing. At the university near us, there are hardly any male dental students. It is time to rethink and adapt dental education to empower women to fulfil their potential.
How important is it to have peers and mentors with whom you can discuss dental issues?
Having other women with whom one can exchange ideas is worth its weight in gold. Sometimes you discuss your problems and suddenly find there is a simple answer that you yourself would not have thought of, one that makes your life easier. It’s possible to do without a mentor, of course, but things do become more difficult. Both peers and mentors make you strong and help you progress continuously. Besides, women often talk and listen differently and understand even without words.
What qualities and skills do you think are needed to succeed in the dental world?
I have had feedback from many patients who say that they like to see women providing treatment, as we can often read between the lines and might be more likely to recognise when they are afraid, for example. Nevertheless, we frequently have to prove ourselves, repeatedly. How often have I heard the questions, especially as a young professional, “Are you able do that? Are you strong enough to remove that tooth?” I don’t think that a male dentist would be asked this.
Do you have any advice for girls and women considering a career in dentistry?
Just do it! Network and never, ever give up. Find a focus, something you do better than everyone else. Find mentors and colleagues who can help and guide you when needed. Educate yourself and find out what you’re passionate about.
Which Kuraray Noritake products do you employ in your daily workflow?
I use both KATANA AVENCIA Blocks and KATANA Zirconia Blocks in my CEREC workflow to produce CAD/CAM dentures. A colleague who works a lot with Kuraray Noritake told me about these blocks, and so I tried them out. The zirconia blocks impressed me by being super-translucent and variable in their colour texture. Their fit is excellent and the CEREC workflow is easy. The AVENCIA blocks are very simple to use because after milling they only need to be polished, not fired. This is particularly useful when supplying inlays.