5 Ways to Jumpstart Your Dental Career

Whether you've hit a plateau or are ready to jump into a brand new dental career, here are five simple steps to jumpstart your dental career.

By Paige Anderson, CRDH

By the time you graduate dental school, you’ve been in higher education for eight years—longer if you choose to pursue a specialty, AEGD, or GPR. You’re probably chomping at the bit and ready to dive into a full workload, or perhaps you're an established dentist and feel prepared to reinvigorate your career. Whether you've hit a plateau or are ready to leap into a brand new dental career, we'll review five steps to jumpstart your dental career.

1. Invest in Advanced Training Opportunities

Succeeding in dentistry is all about staying dedicated to lifelong learning. Techniques and technology are constantly evolving, so choosing continuing education opportunities that keep you up to date will be essential throughout your career.

Perhaps now more than ever, patients want a one-stop shop to get routine cleanings, restorative work, dental implants, and even braces all in one place. An excellent way to jumpstart your career as a family dentist is to consider pursuing certifications enabling you to provide services beyond what most general dentists can provide.

However, it’s also vital to know when your patients will be better served by a specialist, which is precisely why building professional relationships is the next item on our list.

2. Build Professional Relationships and Learn From Mentors

Networking with other dentists and specialists in your area allows you to create a shortlist to match each patient with the right expert for their needs and personality.

Suppose you’re starting as a specialist. In that case, you must build strong relationships with general dentists in your area to ensure they feel comfortable trusting you with their patients.

Attending dental conferences, workshops, and networking events is an excellent way to expand your professional circle and learn from experienced mentors.

For newcomers to the field, you may wonder whether you should establish your practice right from the start. While it can be tempting to fly solo, working alongside a mentor for the first few years is one of the best ways to deepen your skillset and correct mistakes before they become long-term habits.

Debriefing with a mentor after a tough case or touching base with them about disagreements within your team can help you navigate the more challenging aspects of dentistry with grace.

3. Consider Opportunities Outside the Dental Office

Your first few years as a new associate may leave you with a lighter workday than you might have hoped. Building a full patient roster takes time, but you need practice to perfect your skills and attract more patients.

One solution is to seek out volunteer and outreach opportunities where you can provide dental services for underserved communities. Service opportunities give you the hands-on experience you need, help you build a reputation as a caring healthcare provider, and grow roots in your community.

Many new dentists start with part-time clinical positions. In that case, you may want to consider career opportunities outside of clinical practice. A dental degree may qualify you for various positions, including research, product development, forensic odontology, teaching, or medical writing.

Adding to your credentials with published articles or experiences outside the dental office helps to establish you as an authority in the field while giving you a way to pivot if your current position doesn’t work out.

4. Perfect Your Soft Skills

Having the skill set to execute perfect techniques and create fantastic esthetics makes you a good dentist. However, becoming a sought-after dentist takes more than that.

Patients want to get quality dentistry, but they need to feel safe, respected, and understood before they agree to let you provide treatment.

Soft skills that can have the most benefit include:

  • Time management is one of the hardest things to learn as a new dentist. Between hygiene checks, waiting for anesthesia to kick in, and finding time for administrative tasks, you may feel like you’re running yourself ragged at first. If you’re running late (which will happen!), take a second to greet your patients and let them know you’ll be with them as soon as possible. This small effort can go a long way to keeping them happy and calm.
  • Stress management. Dentistry is a stressful career. Learning how to manage stress and navigate difficult moods your team members may be having is essential in providing patients with a calm, welcoming environment.
  • Communication. When you can help patients feel genuinely heard, they will never want to see another dentist. Especially at new patient appointments, sit face to face and listen to your patient’s concerns. Practice active listening skills and approach every person with curiosity rather than judgment.

Providing a calm, compassionate chairside manner is the best way to build a relationship that can change how patients feel about seeing a dentist. They’ll be more likely to return to you and refer friends and family.

Treatment presentation is arguably the most essential skill to learn. Suppose you’ve already created the right atmosphere by respecting your patients’ time, providing a calm and authoritative demeanor, and genuinely listening to their concerns. In that case, they will be much more likely to accept your recommendations and complete your treatment plan.

5. Attract Patients With a Strong Professional Brand

Whether you’re building a solo practice or establishing yourself as a new team member in an existing practice, patients want to feel like they know you.

Creating a digital footprint can allow patients to familiarize themselves with your sense of humor, communication style, and professional credentials. Seeing your work in before-and-after photos and watching you interact with happy patients could make the difference between scheduling an appointment with you or the "dentist down the street."

Show your personality, but be careful not to get too personal; politics and opinions are best left on your social media accounts.

You can hire social media specialists to help you curate the right vibe and reach your patients where they are. Email newsletters and weekly blogs will keep you on your patients’ radar and educate them about the value of specific treatments you offer, making them more likely to seek the care they need. This extra step can provide a running start to a long career of helping patients enjoy a better quality of life with strong, healthy teeth and a smile they love to share with the world.

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Author: Paige Anderson is a certified registered dental hygienist with eight years of clinical experience and an English degree. She blends her two areas of expertise to create resources for dental providers so they can change lives by giving their patients the highest possible standard of care.

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