New graduates: Starting out strong

This is an exciting time of year for new dental school graduates. Whether you plan to open your own office or become an associate, you will soon put all the skills and knowledge you have learned into action.

Jade DeSmidt, DDS

This is an exciting time of year for new dental school graduates. Whether you plan to open your own office or become an associate, you will soon put all the skills and knowledge you have learned into action. Are you ready to make the transition from student to dentist? What can you expect starting out in today's industry? Are there specific areas you should be focusing on?

Being a young dentist and practicing in a new office myself, there are a few specific areas I have focused on that have helped advance both my clinical and practice management skills:

Endodontics and extractions: Becoming comfortable with both of these procedures can go a long way for a dentist just starting out. Performing root canals effectively and efficiently plays a big role in doing what's best for patients. If patients are in pain or in need of emergency endodontic care, they want relief now, not in a few days or next week. If you don't have the ability to help them, they will find someone else who can. But if you build up your skills and are able to accommodate their needs, you are doing what's best for them, yourself, and your office. The same can be said of extractions. Patients in need want help immediately. If you're not an experienced endodontist or oral surgeon, you may need to refer some complicated cases. But if you continually advance your knowledge, you can help more and more patients receive the care they need. Not only will you improve the oral health of your community, you will also build up your patient base faster. This is invaluable when opening a new office.

Because I am supported by Heartland Dental, I had access to continuing education in both of these subjects early in my career. Both were featured topics in the Dr. Leadership course series I completed. There are many additional educational opportunities in these subjects out there, with publications, videos, and in-person and online courses.

Communication: Becoming an effective communicator with both patients and team members is as important as clinical knowledge. This may not have been emphasized in dental school, but this has made a huge difference in my transition from the dental school setting. When you effectively communicate with patients, you will instill trust in them. You will build relationships with them and create patients for life. When you effectively communicate with your team, you will instill trust in them as well. You will create an environment built upon confidence and teamwork.

Efficiency: There is a stark contrast between seeing one patient for an entire morning and seeing your own full schedule plus that of two hygienists. Creating and maintaining an efficient workflow right away is essential. As your schedule grows, you must learn to prioritize your time and properly use your dental assistants. This goes back to effective communication. Huddle with your team in the morning, make your expectations clearly known, and ensure everyone is on the same page. This will help you streamline your schedule to help more and more patients each day.

Starting out in today's industry is challenging, but you have many opportunities to positively impact the lives of your patients. You also have many opportunities to advance yourself personally and professionally. Take advantage of continuing education, both in clinical topics as well as leadership and communication. In this ever-changing industry, there is always more to learn.


Jade DeSmidt, DDS, is a Heartland Dental-supported dentist who practices at Valley Park Dental Care in Valley Park, Missouri. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and a member of the American Dental Association and Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. DeSmidt completed Clinical Grand Rounds at the University of Minnesota and the Academy of General Dentistry SMART series.

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