One year down, plenty more to go

This has been the quickest year and 2 months of my entire life. I’ve done more dentistry in one year than I ever really imagined I could do, I’ve tried to figure out this whole work-life balance a little better, and I’ve become a CE junkie.

Dr. Sowa

Dr. Sowa

I’ve mentioned plenty of times how fortunate I am to practice in the office I am in. I’ve bragged about the great mentors and staff I see every day. I have done way more dentistry than I ever expected to do in my first year out. The great thing is I’ve learned (and am still learning) my limitations just by trying. I’ve tackled plenty of extractions with socket preservation after attending a course with the other doctors in my office. I’ve challenged myself with successfully completing some of the more difficult root canal treatments. I’ve dabbled in plenty of cosmetic treatments I never was able to complete in dental school. I’m very lucky to work where there is a steady patient flow and willing mentors to encourage you to work to your fullest potential.

Though I had a few jobs in between college in dental school during my “gap years”, This is the first time I’ve had a very consistent busy 8-5 day. In this year, I’ve had to redirect where my time is spent outside of the office. I’ve learned to value every moment outside of work. I’ve learned to say no to things I would always say yes to in dental school. I’m learning to better balance my focuses within organized dentistry as to not spread myself too thin. I’ve also learned that every external problem I had in dental school is nothing compared to the stress it puts on you when you’re doing dentistry all day. Sleepless nights after you find out your father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are more difficult to overcome when you’re expected to bring your ‘A’ Game to the office each morning. Juggling external stressors while giving patients the best possible treatment has been a challenge. Internalizing these stressors during the workday can also backlash in your personal life. Simply put, adulting is hard. I will continue to learn from all the dentists before me how to handle these situations and every other situation to come.

I’m most surprised that my favorite part of being a dentist is the constant learning I’m able to do. I assumed I would want a break from learning after dental school, but a year out and learning is way more fun now than in dental school. I’m an avid reader of JADA and religiously take the CE quizzes online. I subscribe to a few dental related podcasts as well. I’m constantly bringing new bits of information I learn back to the office to make me a better dentist.

The hardest thing I’ve learned in my whole year of practicing is not necessarily the dentistry. It’s communicating with patients. Many of my challenges this year were due to some form of miscommunication. I’ve had days where I leave the office in tears because I did everything humanly possible to help somebody, but it still wasn’t enough. On the flipside, I’ve learned to not take things too personally after those experiences. I’ve learned how to phrase things to not be in that situation. I’ve learned that some patients just don’t like me (or any female dentist for that matter). I still have plenty to learn in terms of dentistry and communicating with patients, but I build confidence in this aspect every day.

It’s been a wild first year out, and I wouldn’t change any minute. Here’s to the next 30-plus years!

Dr. Katie Sowa is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. She grew up in Houston and recently graduated from The University of Texas School of Dentistry in 2015. Katie is a general dentist in a large group practice in Katy, Texas (a quick 25 minute commute from Houston). When she’s not working or staying involved with the Greater Houston Dental Society and the Texas Dental Association, she’s usually posting pictures of her miniature Australian shepherd puppy or her CrossFit workouts.

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