As soon as you walk across that stage and shake your dean’s hand, you’re not magically imparted with all the dental wisdom in the world. What happens is that you’re entrusted to understand your limitations as a new dentist while you’re granted the opportunity to experience the practice of dentistry and consistently strive to be a better practitioner.
We all have questions. But where do we find answers? Have you ever had what you thought was a stupid question? I sure have. What do you do in those situations? With so many resources for new dentists, it’s overwhelming knowing where to start and it will probably be different for everybody. My hope is to encourage you to take the time to familiarize yourself with available resources and simply start! Here are 4 tips that have been successful for me!
- Stay in touch with classmates
You are probably already a part of a group message (GroupMe, Facebook, etc.) forum where you and your classmates talk about the cases you see and the experiences you encounter. It’s a safe place because these are the people you’ve experienced dental school with and you feel confident that besides a rotten emoji or goofy meme — you won’t be judged for the questions you ask. While it is crucial to have a safe place, I caution you that lingering within a comfort zone of your peers with similar levels of experience is not going to accelerate your growth.
- Get to know local dentists and specialists
Our generation is one of increased collaboration and my dental network has exploded in recent weeks through my local dental society, study club and DSO. I’m finding myself in the same rooms as some of the most respected and well-known dentists. Intimidating, right? Well, it turns out that besides experienced dentists, they’re also people who are incredibly welcoming to new dentists. Putting a face to the name of the specialist you’ve been referring to or meeting the dentists right down the street is awesome. While we are all managing businesses, that should never take away from the fact that we’re health care providers wanting the best care for our surrounding community.
- Nurture newfound relationships
As simple as this sounds, when meeting someone who offers their assistance — take them up on that offer! It might be as simple as a text, email or Facebook message but initiate the conversation so when the time comes and you really need that level of feedback, you won’t feel like you’re starting from scratch. Talking to more experienced dentists can be so incredibly overwhelming. You’re worried you’re going to say the wrong thing or ask the wrong question but it’s these feelings that hinder us from truly growing. Within my practice, I have the opportunity to work with two of the most supportive dentists I have ever met. I’ve never felt embarrassed nor regretted asking any question.
- Utilize your team
Hands down, I love my team. I feel blessed to be stepping into a practice with a great team culture prioritizing patient care. When you work with dental assistants, business assistants and hygienists with years of experience over you, it creates an interesting dynamic. You have the license to practice dentistry but realistically, you’ve only seen a fraction of what you’ll encounter during your career. Use your professional judgment but pay close attention to what your team may notice and the advice they have to offer. My learning curve included everything from favorite materials and instruments to a better understanding of insurances has been accelerated thanks to my team. Each professional relationship will be unique so take the time to build one another and learn how to grow together!
The life of a new dentist is a funny thing. You have the opportunity to utilize knowledge and skillsets that you have worked hard to finesse. But the simple truth is that you have experienced an incredibly small fraction of your dental career. It’s not that you’re on to the next chapter. It’s more that you just finished the book cover and maybe have a working title. Your table of contents is still being formulated because you don’t know where your new dentist life is going to take you! You want your first chapter to be a successful one so ask for help when you need it!
What’s your advice for asking questions as a new dentist?
Dr. Daryn Lu is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and a general dentist in Shawnee, Oklahoma. A 2015 graduate from the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry, Daryn’s passion for his profession shows through his extensive history within organized dentistry. From an eager predental member of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) to a passionate local, district, and national volunteer leader — the depth of his experiences has helped shape him as a dental professional and lifelong learner. In his spare time, Daryn is an avid traveler, self-proclaimed foodie, and social media junkie. He lives to travel, travels to eat and shares foodie pictures on your newsfeed.