What is something you learned along the way in dentistry that you wish someone told you earlier in your career?
“The expert at anything was once a beginner.” Oh, how I wish I had known and believed these words when I first started dentistry. After graduating dental school, not only did I lack confidence in my skills, but I was hesitant to reach out to more seasoned dentists and colleagues for help. I was so incredibly shy at meetings and study clubs because I did’t want to look stupid or incompetent. What I didn't realize is: these "experts” I looked to had failures, too; everyone has them. Even the best of us have had composites fail, crowns come off, and a surgery or two that didn't quite turn out as planned. Our failures are tremendous learning experiences.
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What advice can you give to help reduce stress and achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Personally, I strive to optimize my physical and mental health. I truly believe in sticking to the basics—getting adequate, quality sleep; eating a nutrient-rich diet; staying active; and setting aside time to spend with family, friends, and dear pets. I love spending time outdoors with Ash (my husband) and Porter (my dog) just having fun.
Many young dentists are a few months away from graduation; what advice would you offer them?
Being clueless and naïve, I chose my first associateship based on comfort. I took the easiest job with the best pay. I felt like I had been gut-punched in school and barely scraped by financially. Pressure was high just to make ends meet, especially with looming student loans. I wanted to up to speed with basic skills and I thought that the high-volume associateship (which turned out to be a "Medicaid mill") would be just the answer. Although I was well taken care of financially, the environment was destroying my spirit. I’d hoped my boss would be a mentor, but he couldn’t care less about learning, improving, and most importantly making a lasting impact in his patients’ lives. I wish someone would have sat me down after dental school and said, "Desiree, think about what you want to learn and who you want to be like and seek out those experiences. Being comfortable and overpaid is overrated." Instead, I had to learn that by living it.
What are some products that you can’t practice without?
My DentalVibe has been one of my cheapest but most valuable practice builders yet. Patients rave about it, and it really helps take away the fear and pain with injections. I’ve had patients think that I don't give shots because they don't see the needle and just feel the vibration from the DentalVibe. I've actually booked new patients because current ones tell them I just vibrate their cheek and get them numb. Of course, I use the regular local anesthesia armamentarium, but along with the DentalVibe many patients are not bothered by it.
My autoclavable DryShield is a another winner. I wouldn’t do posterior restorative without it. It suctions, provides a soft bite block for the patient, and protects their cheek, tongue, and airway. It frees up the assistant to multitask, which is vital with most of us experiencing staff shortages.
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Editor's note: This article appeared in the March 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.