Is residency worth it?

In my senior year of dental school, I was at a crossroad between pursuing a year of general residency and job opportunities.

Dr. Ahmed

The opportunities were attractive positions that promised continuing education and a competitive salary. Despite the heavy recruitment efforts, I decided to forgo another year of income to pursue an advanced education in general dentistry program.

Like many dental students, I felt my dental school provided a good foundation, but it was ill equipped to provide necessary training to meet the demands of our patients. I knew I needed to see and do more to gain the trust of my patients.

I spent hours scouring the internet, searching different forums to determine which programs were the “best” and worth the loss of income. I narrowed it down to programs that were responsive to my emails, provided a descriptive summary on their web page and places I preferred to live. This narrowed my options substantially because frankly I found many of the programs were vague and failed to differentiate themselves.

I made sure that the programs were not an extension of dental school (and I mean the bureaucratic b.s. that sucked the fun out of dentistry) or a year of doing more of the same procedures (which is obtainable through work experience).

I wanted the experience to be impactful via exposure to advanced treatments and comprehensive real-world decision-making.

Several applications and interviews later,  I landed in Phoenix, Arizona.

More than a year later, if I were to ask myself if it was all worth it: the answer would be absolutely YES!!!

I originally struggled with the idea of sacrificing another year of income while debt kept piling. But today, I am glad I invested in my education instead.

My experience was challenging, insightful and full of adrenaline. I did cases that I would never imagine doing as a new graduate. In that year, I discovered a love for implant surgery, found great mentors, and gained appreciation for removable prosthesis. I can confidently say I am able to manage my patients complex needs safely (within a reasonable scope), and that feeling is priceless.

To those in the same crossroad, or are feeling unsure, residency may be just what you need.

Based on my experience, here are a few things to consider when selecting a program. Some of these questions may feel intrusive, but consider how much you are required to share as an applicant while on the contrary you may know very little about your new dental family.

  • Rather than asking the usual question of “How many of  x, y, z  each resident do?” consider asking:
    • How are cases distributed among residents?
    • Does the resident treatment plan?
  • Learn about your dental directors.
    • Do they have teaching experience?
    • Are they paid on production or strictly hired to teach?
    • Will there be time set aside to discuss cases?
  • Find out the long term vision of the clinic.
    • What is their focus?
    • Will there be other programs or training held at the clinic? For example, my clinic also provided live patient implant training.
    • How does the resident fit into those programs, and is there any conflict of interest?
  • Discuss if there is routine performance evaluation and feedback.
    • Will there be opportunities to receive and provide feedback? What is the frequency?
    • How are you evaluated?
    • Who is your confidant if you have staff challenges?
    • How many assistants per doctor?

Good luck!

Dr. Nashid Ahmed is a New Dentist News guest blogger. She is general dentist in Phoenix, Arizona. She earned her dental degree from Indiana University in 2019 and completed an AEGD in Phoenix. During her free time, she likes to explore the city of Phoenix and the great outdoors of Arizona. She enjoys hiking, biking and trying new restaurants. She also enjoys reading and blogging about career development and workplace culture.

3 comments

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  • Exceptional analysis! Thank you for sharing how you evaluating each program and came up with a successful match. I did a GPR, end it was an exceptional experience and much needed after dental school, which barely provides the basics. As a plus, GPR‘s are paid positions, so I was able to make my first income as a dentist.
    Congratulations on a successful year, and best wishes for an amazing future!

    • Thank you! I should clarify that my AEGD was a paid position so it was not a total loss of income. Compared to a full time position it was a third of the national average. It was certainly livable but not enough to move the needle when it came to student loans.

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