One of the reasons that many of you have chosen dentistry as a profession is to establish autonomy. You’d like to set your own schedule, take vacations when you please and not answer to a boss. However, patients want to be seen early in the morning and late at night, so your workdays will be long. Patients want to be seen during the weekend, so your weekends will be short. While it’s tempting to believe that you will be able to schedule your patients to meet your needs, you may not be able to meet your financial obligations if you do. If you learn to balance your work and your life while you are in dental school, it may be easier for you to continue to do so once you enter the profession. We have some simple suggestions that might help.
Where would you like your dental career to take you? Clinical dentistry is not your only option. Many dentists pursue non-clinical dental career opportunities. The ADA Center for Professional Success has career resources to give you a better picture of options open to a graduating dental student.
Following dental school, we search high and low for the perfect fit. No matter the practice setting, chances are you’ll be working alongside another dentist. I’ve been blessed to work with an incredible mentor for the past 1.5 years.
From the moment I met him right before graduating dental school, he’s been there to support me clinically with complex cases, emotionally on the days when dentistry has kicked my butt and through leadership challenges when I’ve struggled with the team. We recently sat down for a meeting where he shared with me, “I’m happy where I am with dentistry. My greatest success will be when you succeed.”
“Adam, stop suturing. You’re bleeding.” A look of terror flushed over me as I removed the needle from the extraction socket. I recalled my patient’s mention of Hepatitis B and immediately panicked. Thoughts of possible co-infection with HIV or Hepatitis C set in. My first sharps injury, and there I stood, helpless and afraid, as I bled from a cut to my thumb.
We learn all about these types of occupational exposures in the classroom. But sometimes, when faced with a real-life situation requiring a rapid decision, it can be hard to know how best to react. While we work carefully to avoid these incidents, they can and will happen. It’s our duty to protect our patients and ourselves by quickly managing and accurately reporting these exposures as they occur.
Depending on who you talk to, choosing to specialize could be either a premature decision where you miss out on the satisfaction of practicing a broad spectrum of dental procedures, or a great decision that will enable you to refine a highly-honed skillset simply by investing in a few additional years of schooling. This often means spending some time sorting through advice and anecdotes from friends, family and mentors in order to form your own decision on the matter. However, I believe that the best way to make an informed decision about specializing is to honestly assess yourself.
D4’s, get ready…homestretch ahead. D1-D3’s, getting ready early… is exactly what you need.
As a D22, practice owner, and founder of igniteDDS, everyday, I get asked what the most successful young dentists do differently. The short story…they become president and CEO of their personal corporation.
I will always remember learning how to cut a crown preparation for the first time. As I sat in class and looked down at my hands, I wondered if they would ever be skilled and steady enough to refine a margin or achieve the perfect taper. I felt intimidated, but the crushing weight and pressure on my chest did not feel like normal school stress or anxiety. At that exact moment, life was literally throwing me a curve ball (or as I later found out, three).
In our lab session following class, I found myself struggling to catch my breath and felt extreme discomfort in my chest and arms. With the help of faculty members and classmates, I was taken to the emergency room, where I waited for hours with many unanswered questions. My diagnosis finally came: three pulmonary emboli. While it felt reassuring to know exactly what I was facing, I had no idea what a long struggle the recovery would be.