I recently read a great article titled, “If I Were 22: Embrace Your Ignorance.” The article is written by a Harvard graduate. He is looking back to when he was 22 and thought he knew everything, before he learned the hard way that he did not. I can relate to that feeling. I am 29 years old and one year out from dental school. I have been working in a private practice since July. The article rings true with what I’ve experienced over the past year.
After graduating dental school, I didn’t realize everything I didn’t know. I believed I was ready to step into the role as dentist, manager, and boss. As my one year mark approaches, I find myself looking back and thinking about what I would have changed or done differently if only I’d know this or asked that before starting. That’s the problem with hindsight: it’s 20/20. Since a lot of dental students are getting ready to graduate and begin their careers, I would like to take this opportunity to pass on some of the things I’ve learned over the past year.
I am not yet an expert in dentistry, and I don’t know if I ever will be. What I lack in clinical experience I try to make up for with patient care. Dental school teaches you the basics of prepping a tooth or making a partial, but there is a ton of on-the-job training that can only come with experience, and it all comes back to treatment planning.
CE is awesome! Take as much as you can to help fill in the gaps and get better. Read through the posts on Dentaltown, take courses, shadow other dentists/specialists in your area, and attend your dental society meetings.
I’ve realized that you never do the same thing twice in dentistry. Every time I think it’s just another crown, filling, or extraction, the circumstance, the mouths, or the people change. That’s why we have all heard the phrase, “We are practicing dentistry.” The moment you start to be overly confident or try to cut corners, it will back fire. Get proficient at doing everything the right way, and then try to improve your speed or technique.
Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. Just make sure you go look up the answer. That’s why there are reference books. Keep them in your office and review them as often as you need. Google is also very helpful.
Finally, ask questions from everyone and treat everyone as a mentor. When I started working, people just assumed I knew everything about everything. We learn a lot in dental school, but classes and clinicals are no substitute for years of practice. So, ask your hygienists, front office, and office manager as many questions as you can. You can even shadow them for a day or two to learn about what they face every day. It is important to become knowledgeable in all the parts that make up a dental office, not just the dentistry.
As dentists, we are in a profession where we are surrounded with our successes and failures. This can be frustrating, whether you are a new graduate or a seasoned dentist. So maybe the best piece of advice I have is to remember that we are in a profession of life-long learning: there is always something new to learn.
Grant Glauser, DDS