FEW kids get excited to visit the dentist, but when Oberon local William Fitzpatrick got the opportunity to see things from the other side of the chair, he found his lifelong passion.
On a year 10 work experience visit to The Dental Practice, he observed Dr Mark Sinclair treating patients and decided to become a dentist himself.
"My mum is a nurse and my dad is a farmer, so I've been raised to value working with your hands as well as helping others," he said.
"Dentistry is a blend of the two, so it felt like a natural choice for me."
Admission to dentistry courses is competitive, with average ATARs in the high 90s.
While a student at St Stanislaus' College, Mr Fitzpatrick focused on maths and science subjects in preparation for the course requirements.
He stayed close to The Dental Practice, working as a dental assistant during the holidays, and jumped at the chance to take a full-time job at the practice, which is part of Bupa Dental Corporation.
The team were just as excited to welcome Mr Fitzpatrick to their ranks.
"We've been providing dental care to the Bathurst area for over 30 years, so to bring on a dentist who knows our community is really exciting," practice manager Donna Turnbull said.
"William has been coming here since he was a little boy, so we knew he would be a great fit.
"The clinic is serious about fostering talent in the local area."
Mr Fitzpatrick is one of three local students who have gone on to study dentistry after completing work experience at the clinic.
"Attracting and retaining dentists in regional areas has always been a challenge," Ms Turnbull said.
"Many recent graduates will work in smaller towns and cities when they're starting out, but return to the city to start a family or further their careers."
A recent report from the Regional Australia Institute confirms this, showing that the number of small towns with access to a dentist is around five per cent and dropping.
As for Mr Fitzpatrick, he plans to stay in the local area and give back to his family, friends and the wider community where he was raised.