I spend an embarrassing amount of time on Facebook dental groups. I love seeing what you all are talking about, especially new dentists. It reminds me of how far I’ve come in my dental journey. If I ever have anything of value to add, I’ll chime in, usually in GIF format. Lately, I have found myself fascinated by those still in dental school that are asking stuff like “which CE should I take” in an effort to be the best dentist they can be by graduation day.
As a dental mentor for the last decade, I’d like to offer 5 practical things dental students and new dentists can do, that will set you up for success. This might shock you but most of them don’t involve clinical dentistry.
- QuickBooks – become familiar with it. Even better, learn how to use it. Sure, in your ideal fantasy world, your dental accountant will handle all of your expenses, accounts payable and payroll for you. But once you realize that your accountant will make more money handling your books than you do as a noob, you will understand the value of doing some things on your own, at least for a while.
- Read “Profit First” – I’m super pissed that this book has only been out since 2017. If I would have read this back in 1997, when I graduated, I would have been much better off financially than I am now. Mind you, I’m still doing pretty well. But, there’s a chance I would have been 10X had I used the principles outlined in this book. Buy it now, read it. Then read it again when you buy your first practice. You can thank me with Amazon gift cards later.
- Get a Makeover – Look, let’s be honest. Unless you’re a player, you’ve lost touch with how you look. The look you had in college will not serve you well in the professional world. Take a look in your closet, you know I’m right. Toss everything and start over. This includes clothes, shoes and even makeup. Get some advice, if you have to, from someone who looks put together. Gentlemen, this includes you. If you’re thinking you’re just going to wear scrubs while seeing patients, then make sure your hair and shoes convey your professionalism. There is nothing worse than a doctor wearing old dirty sneakers. Patients do notice and will subliminally judge you for it and their perception is their reality.
- Develop Confidence– Surround yourself with people who make you better. Read books on interpersonal communication and practice what you’ve learned so you can better interact with patients. Most of what we do as dentists is patient management, the clinical dentistry is secondary. The better you are at handling people, the more successful you will be.
- Along those lines, grow a thick skin. Sadly, it’s true – not everyone loves the dentist. In fact, it doesn’t matter how nice or professional you are, there are some patients that will just push all your buttons and outright insult you. Learn to let it go. Don’t take it too personally. If it’s an ongoing theme, ask for some insight on how you’re coming off to patients. Feedback is a gift.
- On the flip side some of you noobs are super cocky. We seasoned dentists secretly laugh at you. Stop it. Be confident but humble and embrace the fact that there is so much more to learn. You don’t even know what you don’t know.
- Decrease Your Procedure Time – I hate to tell you this, but no one is going to give you 3 hours to do an occlusal composite. You’ll be lucky if you get 30 minutes. Get on those Facebook groups and ask for time saving tips – things that will help expedite your procedure. In the real world, patients are paying for your expertise and your efficiency. They don’t want to be in your chair any longer than they have to be. Speed comes with repetitions. Do whatever you have to do to get more procedures under your belt. Volunteer at a local clinic, shadow a dentist in private practice, whatever. Just focus on doing the job well and in a timely manner. That is way more important at this stage than taking an All-on-Four CE course.
You spent many years learning how to think in millimeters. Unfortunately, that can create a myopic worldview in some of us. Most successful dentists have learned to look at the whole picture. You don’t know how lucky you are to have thousands of dentists at your disposal on a daily basis. That is a blessing of social media. Use it wisely and take into consideration all of the various opinions being offered. You can learn from the experience, and mistakes, of others.
Remember to think outside the box. Ask questions but be ready to listen too. There is more to dentistry than clinical technique. Best wishes for a prosperous future!
Josie Dovidio, DDS, a Southern California dentist since 1997, is a lover of all things health and wellness. A gluten-free, keto enthusiast, she is an Amazon social media influencer and her favorite items for healthy living can be found by clicking this link.
Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Dr. Alan Mead and Dr. Josie Dovidio talk about being mid-career dentists on Episode 055 of The Alan Mead Experience. Click here to listen.