Going into dentistry was one of the greatest choices I’ve made, and I want every dental student to know they’ve chosen a rewarding profession in which they’re likely to succeed. For me, dentistry was the plan since childhood. Although I didn’t understand what being a dentist entailed back then, I remember thinking, “I could be a good dentist.”
Fast forward about 15 years, and I was in dental school — and it was harder than I expected.
Here are some things I wish I’d known while in school:
You will question whether or not you’re good enough.
There were so many assignments and so much reading that it often felt like I’d never be able to keep up. What made it even more difficult was the fact that some students seemed to be breezing through. It was hard to believe that the hard work was going to pay off (which, spoiler alert, it certainly did.)
Your classmates will quit — and you’ll wonder if you should, too.
I’ll never forget how the ones who quit seemed so relieved. It was tantalizing to think walking away could be so easy. Even though it was hard, I knew quitting was never an option. I put my head down and focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. You should also seek out support from students in the same boat as you.
Pay attention in every class, even if it doesn’t interest you.
It can be difficult to pay attention, but it’s important, even in the classes that don’t interest you. Learn as many different techniques and procedures as you can. The more you know, the better you’ll be at diagnosing and delivering care to your patients someday.
The real world is nothing like dental school.
When you’re in dental school, it almost seems like you’re practicing. The truth is, whether you find a job at a practice, start a residency program or take on your own business, the real world is nothing like dental school.
One day, you’ll have employees coming to you with every question and complaint, in addition to being a dentist. It’s up to you to put out the fires, and it can be overwhelming until you get your bearings. This is when having those well-established connections can help out.
In a way, dental school lasts forever.
Even though you’ve graduated from dental school, you should never stop learning. I believe continuing education is the best thing you can do for yourself and for your patients. It makes your own life easier because you’re able to learn more effective techniques, and it improves your patients’ lives because they’re getting better treatment when they’re in your chair.
~Neil J. Gajjar, BSc, DDS, MAGD, FADI, FPFA, FICD, FACD, Cert. IV Sedation
Neil J. Gajjar, DDS, MAGD, runs an eight-doctor practice in Mississauga, Ontario, and is the Academy of General Dentistry’s President-Elect. He’s devoted to his family and giving back to the industry as a clinical instructor and lecturer on managing medical emergencies in the dental office and oral pathology.
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Founded in 1952, AGD is the only association that exclusively represents the needs and interests of general dentists, providing more than 40,000 members with resources and support to deliver the best dental care and oral health education to the public.