At this time of year, we have become accustomed to answering two questions asked by third year dental students. The first is: “Should I apply to residency programs?” The second is: “How do I know which residency program is right for me?”
Regardless of which school you’re attending, what grade point average you’ve maintained or how many scalings and root planings you’ve completed, we instantly and unequivocally answer “YES!!!” to the first question.
When you’ve grown up in a town with a population totaling 9,074 people, wanting to become a dentist at the age of 12 might seem a bit far-fetched. What I didn’t realize at the time was how a rural hometown would benefit me in the process of becoming a dentist as well as when I return home to practice after graduation.
The dentists that have become my mentors are a husband and wife team, and they have known my family and me since I was in preschool. They have invested their attention in me for years and shown me the ropes of a dental practice. Since they both grew up in my little hometown, they knew exactly the position I would be in going into school. They also told me how financially beneficial it could be to come back and work in my hometown after graduation.
It’s 11:45 a.m. My heart is pounding and my palm are sweating as I prepare to run downstairs. Although the event doesn’t start until noon, I cannot possibly risk missing my free lunch. Yes, folks, there is a lunch and learn today and I want — no, need — to get my hands on that free lunch. Some students may turn to leave as soon as they find out that it’s “only pizza,” but I choose to stay. After all, you can never really have too much pizza.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why are these event organizers so nice to us? Why do those vendors and companies provide us with free perks like pizza and toothpaste in exchange for an hour of our time?
Flap design and suturing are critical components of surgical dentistry due to their role in exposing otherwise inaccessible teeth or osseous structures during oral surgery. Under the mentorship of Dr. Jeffrey A. Elo at the Western University of Health Sciences, I investigated how the use of a novel incision and flap design with primary closure can drastically reduce the rate of alveolar osteitis (“dry socket”) following mandibular third molar removal, a phenomenon which reportedly affects 10-45% of patients.
Dentistry is a door to many unexpected opportunities. This was certainly the case for Dr. Sam Smiley of Dublin, Ohio. 13 years into his career, Dr. Smiley received a fateful call from the Columbus Zoo. A 350-pound western gorilla was not eating properly and was in obvious distress. Dr. Smiley was asked if he’d perform a dental exam during the gorilla’s routine physical. He agreed, and so began his career as a volunteer dentist for the Columbus Zoo.
While I was studying at a coffee shop, I happened to meet a dentist. After chatting for a bit about his experiences in private practice and public health, I asked him if he had any advice for a current dental student. Without hesitation, he said, “It’s important to have a mentor who is willing to teach and guide you.”
Out of the many relationships that are created and maintained in the dental world, I believe that mentorship is one of the most vital and rewarding relationships. A mentor can teach and provide insight to the mentee that isn’t found in the classroom or a group setting. Having someone who is already doing what you’re working toward is beneficial throughout your journey. This one-on-one relationship allows the mentor to provide personalized advice for their specific questions or worries.
The time has come. You’ve fulfilled your dreams of becoming a dentist! People will start referring to you as Dr. (insert your name), and that may take a little getting used to. But like most new accomplishments, this one comes with a set of new challenges to sort through. One thing to consider when buying or establishing a dental practice of your own is where to live in proximity to your practice. Here are a few pros and cons to consider when making the decision.