The new dentist's journey

I am a new dentist . . . at least for another two months. This July will mark 10 years since I graduated from dental school, which is the term limit for what the ADA defines as officially being a "new dentist."

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I am a new dentist . . . at least for another two months. This July will mark 10 years since I graduated from dental school, which is the term limit for what the ADA defines as officially being a "new dentist."

If you are an "old dentist," like I soon will be (I prefer the term "established"), then you can remember that first decade in practice being a tumultuous time. Associateships, starting a family, becoming an owner, integrating with staff, managing staff, perfecting the clinical fundamentals, learning new skills they didn't teach in school, and, of course, entering the world of business. Whew! It's no wonder why new dentists deserve some special attention.

One can guess that the primary obstacle facing new dentists is student debt. There's no doubt that debt hangs like a specter over their heads. Fortunately, much of the doom and gloom being bantered about is merely myth, as Dr. Ryan Ritchie points out in this issue. Our profession should seek to make dental education more affordable, but new dentists can still make their way in the world. We've collected a few of those stories in these pages.

Dr. Emily Ishkanian has learned the subtle nuances of leading a dental team while still serving as an associate. She answers the question, "Can you earn respect when you don't sign the checks?" Dr. Eric Childs has summarized his experiences as an associate, owner, and employee in a group practice. He shares his personal journey between practice models and found the one that was right for him and his young family.

This is the perfect issue to welcome back Dr. Michael DiTolla to Dental Economics. His bi-monthly column, "Confessions of an Average Dentist," will be an honest discussion of the everyday clinical mistakes we make that lead to the familiar headaches, like crowns that won't seat properly. The learning curve for recent graduates is steep, and his candid approach will smooth their transition into private practice. Let's be honest, though, experienced dentists like myself can also benefit from Dr. DiTolla's guidance.

I hope this issue helps orient new dentists as they find their way. I deliberately do not say that they are the future of the profession. My friend, Captain Bradley Harrelson DMD, USAF, once said at an ADA New Dentist Committee meeting, "We are not the future of dentistry. We are the NOW." He's absolutely right. New dentists pay their membership dues just like us. They represent and lead dentistry just like us. As I stand here in limbo between the worlds of new and an established dentist, I have a special appreciation for Dr. Harrelson's sentiment. The new dentist's journey is discovering how they will ultimately serve the public and the profession. But they are full-blooded dentists every step of the way.

Chris Salierno, DDS
CSalierno@PennWell.com

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