This past summer, I had the unique opportunity to assist in setting up a new dental practice – Riverview Dental Care Ltd. in Saint Charles, Illinois. A relative was opening a new clinic, her first private practice, and they asked me if I wanted to help. I felt fortunate to have this experience as a predental student, as typically, one may not have these experiences until after graduating from dental school or opening their own practice.
Unpacking delivery boxes and systemically organizing dental supplies in each operatory, sometimes separating supplies by procedure, helped me learn about different dental instruments and materials for various procedures such as fillings, root canals, crowns, bridges, dentures and extractions. It was interesting to see that some instruments are utilized in multiple procedures whereas other instruments are unique to specific procedures.
Furthermore, I was present in the office for many professional training sessions for the Dentimax practice management software and equipment such as electric handpieces, ultrasonic scalers and the digital x-ray machines for panoramic and intraoral x-rays. I was also the patient the dentist used for a demo procedure done by a Pola Advanced Tooth Whitening System representative using the kit the dentist ordered for the in-office whitening procedure.
While the dentist was getting acquainted with these aspects of her new clinic, I was getting exposure to the technicalities alongside her and observing that there can be a learning curve in terms of technology when opening a practice. Through these different experiences in helping set up the practice, I became familiar with many some of the ins and outs of a clinic that one may overlook in an established practice, but that are necessary to consider in a new clinic.
In addition to helping with the technology and equipment in the office, I helped with some tasks pertaining to marketing and advertising. I learned how essential these tasks are for a new dental clinic in order to build a patient base. I labeled and stamped many promotional postcards for the dentist to send out to residents and businesses within a certain radius of the clinic. I also suggested and subsequently created a Facebook page for the clinic because social media can be a powerful tool to help attract new patients and create recognition in the community. As directed by the dentist, I also created goodie bags for patients to take home following their hygiene visits, which included floss, toothpaste and a toothbrush stamped with the practice name and phone number. These were some of the key ways I assisted the dentist in advertising her new clinic and establishing a patient base in the area.
The experience was very enriching. Assisting the dentist taught me various things about practice management and the business aspects of owning and running a private practice. I was also able to learn about chair-side assisting and the utilization and maintenance of major dental equipment. For an experience such as mine, I would recommend going to local dental society webpages for more information and insights on new practices in your area, speaking to dentists in the area, and networking with your university predental club for opportunities. Overall, I was able to learn, observe and assist with numerous tasks to help set up a new dental practice that one may not have the chance to in a typical predental shadowing experience.
~Shreya Thakkar, predental