Business side of dentistry: The two most overlooked pieces of technology in your office

Editor’s note: This is the eighth article in a series exploring the business aspects of the dental profession, from starting a practice and marketing to hiring staff and finances.

Dr. Deshpande

A lot of us are thinking of buying a CEREC system in our brand-new office, hoping it make things efficient. We also consider getting the fanciest massage chairs for patients to use. You know what most patients really care about? Being attended to in time and being appreciated and cared for by our staff. Read below to read about two technologies that are already in every office but may not be used to their maximum advantage.


Did you know that many phone calls get missed by an average dental office? Did you know the most common time patients call to schedule appointments? Do you know what it costs for you as a practice owner to not know the above numbers?

Many practices spend a lot of money on marketing and getting the “right patient” in the door. Most patients will first check your online presence: your website and read your bio, then they check reviews, and finally, they’ll pick up the phone call and make an appointment. What if nobody picks up the phone on the other side? What if the patient leaves a message and does not even have it returned?

Guess what, by the time you figure out what happened, that patient called up another office and has an appointment on Monday.

What gets tracked, gets done. Consider having a phone tree — to have phones directed to the right person in your office — so the phone isn’t tied. Insurances, emergencies or billing, are three possible categories in a phone tree. Do you know which category will have the longest call?Invest in a software that allows you to record each phone conversation (check if your state allows it first), transcribe VM’s, and that helps you audit your front office member’s personality. It is so important to have someone cheerful and happy answer new patient calls.Make sure there is someone manning the phone at all times. Like most of our patients, I too, frequently make appointments for my chiropractor, personal physician and dentist during my lunch hour — 12-1 pm, on a weekday!Maybe you couldn’t pick up the phone. Fine. Ensure your scheduler reviews all VM’s at the start of the next day and gives everyone a call back. They should do the same for all no shows, or late cancels too.


Ever thought of your perfect day in dentistry? It actually does exist. Every dentist has a different way of doing things, and the great thing about this is that in most scheduling systems you can input your own specifications. I, for example, like to complete root canals, implants or fillings at the beginning of the day, extractions right before lunch, and new patient exams or child prophies at the end of the day. One of my pet peeves is a quadrant filling at the end of the day. Figure out what is your way of doing things and tell your front office how you’d like them to schedule for you. This is your office after all.Many business gurus agree that providers shouldn’t have unnecessary breaks in the day. While I agree with this thinking, it does not have to apply to everyone. Paint your own perfect day and try to make each day amazing.One of the front office managers I used to work with told me that the thing that annoys them the most is inconsistency and lack of instruction from the dentist. “Why don’t they just tell us how they like it? They only complain when it’s not done right.” Every single person in the office wants their dentist to succeed. In order for them to help you, you just need to give them more information.

Can you think of another important aspect of a practice? Team appreciation, bonus structures and outsourcing are other key elements. Join our New Dentist Business Club meetings where we go into detail in all of those. To join, email us at [email protected].

Dr. Sampada Deshpande is a general dentist based in San Francisco. A foreign trained dentist from India, Sampada earned her DDS from the University of Washington in 2018 and is a 2020-2021 UW-LEND fellow. Outside of clinical dentistry, she enjoys teaching at the New Dentist Business Club and improving access to technology in healthcare via her involvement in Samsotech. You can reach her directly at @dr.deshpande on Instagram or visit her website for more information.

Editor’s note: We know that finding the right practice can be overwhelming and time consuming. That’s why the ADA created ADA Practice Transitions (ADAPT), a service that matches you with practices that fit your practice approach and lifestyle. We provide customized resources to ensure you feel confident in your decisions and an ADA Advisor supports you during each step of the journey. Learn more at

Looking for ways to increase access to care? Consider GKAS

The ADA’s Give Kids A Smile program has been my gateway into public health as well as an avenue to leadership within the ADA. Like many others, I first learned about GKAS during dental school, where the event was held annually.

Dr. Smeenge

It was a fun-filled day of free pediatric dentistry, identifying and addressing treatment needs for children who otherwise were not receiving care. As a University of Michigan dental student, it gave me a chance to learn more about pediatrics, while giving back to the community. During my D2, D3, and D4 years, I joined the dental school leadership team to help plan the event. Then as a pediatric resident, I oversaw patient care and enjoyed teaching the dental students.

In 2015, as a D3 student, I had the opportunity to attend the ADA’s GKAS Community Leadership Development Institute. Selected GKAS program coordinators from across the U.S. shared their experiences, learned from each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and ended the program by participating in the St Louis GKAS clinic event — the one that started it all.

Dr. Jeff Dalin and his team are truly inspirational, educating and treating hundreds of children who otherwise would not get dental care due to a variety of health disparities. In 2017, I had the opportunity to join other GKAS Ambassadors in Chicago at the ADA headquarters to once again join forces and find creative solutions to barriers to care and challenges to running a GKAS program.

This led to the opportunity to become the new dentist representative on the ADA’s GKAS National Advisory Committee. Through this position, I am able to share my perspective as a recent graduate and as a pediatric specialist.  We develop promotional campaigns and problem solve at the national level. I am grateful to be part of an amazing group of people, who all share a passion for helping children establish a dental home and for equipping general dentists with the knowledge and resources to comfortably screen and treat children.

Some of you may have experience with leadership positions in undergrad or even in dental school, but once you graduate, it can feel like there is so much on your plate, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Can, or rather, should, you add one more thing?

Being on the ADA’s GKAS National Advisory Committee easily fits into my schedule. It gives me a chance to hear other perspectives across the country, and to make a difference at a national level. As someone just starting my career, I appreciate being able to learn from people who have a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

I highly recommend getting involved at some level, whether that is as a state dental association representative or within one of the many ADA councils or committees. Not only will you be making sure that new voices are being heard, but you will also learn a valuable perspective on how organized dentistry operates. It can feel overwhelming, trying to tackle access to care issues on your own, but organized dentistry allows individuals to come together and make a greater impact.

Most recently, I have been working on Tiny Smiles, a subset of GKAS focused on establishing a dental home for children under age 5. The recommendation for a child’s first dental visit is age 1, due to the increased incidence in caries at a younger age.

However, many dentists may feel ill-equipped to complete a knee-to-knee exam or address active carious lesions on such young patients. We are creating continuing education opportunities to increase comfort levels on this topic. Connecting with your neighborhood pediatricians and getting a child in the door for an exam is the first step. You can then educate parents on hygiene and diet recommendations. If they have treatment needs: refer! Parents who feel comfortable with you for their young child, will recommend you to their friends and family members, it’s a great patient builder!

If you have any questions about GKAS, Tiny Smiles, or getting involved in the ADA at a national level, please don’t hesitate to ask! Information on GKAS and Tiny Smiles can be found on

Dr. Betsey Baumann-Smeenge is a pediatric dentist at a Federally Qualified Health Center in White Cloud, Michigan. She earned her dental degree and her masters in pediatric dentistry from the University of Michigan. She is the “New Dentist” representative on the ADA’s Give Kids A Smile National Advisory Committee and is a GKAS Ambassador. She is passionate about making dental care accessible for all children. Feel free to reach out with any questions or comments: [email protected]

Licensure Reform: The case for eliminating the clinical exam

Some may argue that progress has indeed been made in the administration of the licensure exam over the last 50 years given that regional testing authorities have increased from two in 1971 to the current number of five.

Although undoubtedly there has been improvement in the uniformity, the ease of test-taking, and the administration of the examination, the traditional mode of testing essentially remains the same.

That is, dentists and dental students in 44 States still have to endure the single-episode/performance-based high-stakes clinical exam, whether it be on patients or manikins. It is striking (and embarrassing) that our dental profession remains the only health care profession that subjects its candidates for licensure to this mode of testing i.e. M.D.s don’t need to perform surgery, nurses and EMTs don’t need to demonstrate CPR or start an IV, midwives don’t need to deliver a baby, and osteopaths don’t need to perform various manipulations, etc.

The bottom-line is that it has been far too long for our profession to continue to endure such an outdated and unfair licensing process.

Dr. Jonathan Nash, who served as the American Student Dental Association chair of dental licensure reform in 1971, and the founder and chairman of the National Council for Improvement of Dental Licensure 1969-73, examines the state of dental licensure reform today and makes a case for bolder solutions to achieve meaningful reform.

Read the full editorial in the New Dentist News.

Did you miss our previous article…

Something to be thankful for

As we prepare our hearts, minds, and bellies for the season of giving thanks, I found a symbolic comparison of those English immigrants and refugees to the journey dentists face. The definition of a pilgrim is a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons. In a sense, we are a 21st century pilgrim as we journey for a decade sacrificing our pleasures and time for the opportunity to earn our doctorate in dental medicine. The black robes we wore on graduation day is a legacy of the same cloth worn by clergy in the Middle Ages. The path to medicine is in fact a journey, a pilgrimage. A medical provider/pilgrim, who is entrusted to heal those in their care, is the merger of sacred and science.

Dr. Norlin

Those pilgrims of old could have stayed in their status quo, not rock the boat of the ruling English elite, or move to Holland that allowed the freedom of religion. Instead they wanted more, their hopes and dreams for something better than their present state. We could have gone down so many different paths, avenues, adventures, but for whatever reasons, opportunities, or influences the world of dentistry was the course we set for our sails.

Just like the pilgrims, we though the grass would be greener, life and work balance easier, and our mental/spiritual would blossom. Those that decided to make that journey to the new world were hit with the brutal reality of failing crops, freezing weather, faminous bellies and funerals of love ones. The dreams of dentistry can seem more like a nightmare with debt, saturation, lower insurance rates, competition, damage to your body, shrinking middle class, COVID-19 and ever more angry patients.

As the pilgrims came to fulfill their personal and spiritual beliefs they were also exposed to mental and spiritual trauma. While we might not be dying of the elements, disease, or malnutrition many of our spirits are crushed. Let’s be honest, Americans and especially the young medical and dental professionals are calling for help with burnout, anxiety, depression, and suicide rates that can be four times the rate of the general population and even twice as high as veterans and armed forces members. In August 2020, the ADA Health Policy Institute conducted a survey on the impact of COVID-19 on dentists under the age of 35. Responses showed that 87% reported experiencing anxiety, 76% reported financial problems and 55% reported experiencing depression. If you are hurting please reach out to someone, especially during this holiday season.

I am sure many of those pilgrims questioned and regretted why they left their familiar homes to a new place that they were told was the promise land. Instead they were tormented with destitute, despair, and death. The fulfillment and hope seemed to crumble into fables and lies. I know of some dentists seeking other jobs and careers outside of dentistry. After the sacrifice to get to this doctorate and new dentists want to leave shows the real challenges this profession faces.

In the autumn of 1621 AD, exactly 400 years ago, the first recorded Thanksgiving took place. After months of hardships and trials, that happy moment must have been a somber moment as well. There were family members whose laughs and smiles would never grace an earthly table, and the survivors still carrying the scars of physical and emotion trauma as they hope for the future.

Even in our best work days, holidays and weekends, we probably can remember those hard days as well, time spent away from loved ones with an ever demanding schedule, the pain in the arms and back, stresses of rising costs, and decreasing wages, the worry of a business or no show that constantly tugging at your mind or even just the mundane of trying to keep a tongue out of the MODBL prep on #18.

To earn a chair on the table of the family of dentistry, the pilgrimage is extensive, laborious, and challenging. It has its blessing, it has its curse. Some of us are excited and glad to be on this table, others may have our regrets and can’t wait to leave and others waiver somewhere in between. But take heart we are still pilgrims drawn to a sacred place seeking wellness to our soul, and each day’s a journey you decide to make. That is something to be thankful for.

*if you don’t have any dentist to talk to about the stresses of our profession, life stresses, etc please feel free to email me at [email protected].

Dr. Casey Norlin is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and went to Oregon Health and Science University. He comes from a rural background and lives in Oregon City, Oregon, with his beautiful wife. Casey works in public health, has been a volunteer firefighter/advanced EMT for Colton Rural Fire District, an assistant professor for OHSU SOD, and is an Army dentist for the ORANG 41st Infantry Brigade. As of now he still hasn’t decided what he wants to do when he “grows up.”

Did you miss our previous article…

Don’t be afraid of big data

During the first years after I graduated from my first dental school in Iraq in 2009, I had never used to deal with practice statistics, surveys, and digital quality measures. As I moved to other countries where I worked or studied in the dental field, I also did not find many data-driven private practices where I worked at.

Dr. Al Sammarraie

However, after getting my second dental degree in California and starting my first job in community health care, which involves multiple practices that serve thousands of patients. My new role as a site dental director opened the door wide for me when it came to big data. I realized collecting and analyzing data can tremendously affect the quality of care we provide.

I believe that dentists today should count on incorporating data-driven goals in improving the quality of dental services. The data collected at various points of dental care can be essential for delivering timely and improved care. Clinics could work smarter to improve the quality of dental services while spurring innovation.

With many dental practices adopting electronic dental records (EDR), collecting data about your dental practice and patients are now easier.

When done right—and with the help of office managers and your dental team—data analysis can result in improved quality of dental services as well as practice workflow.

By collecting and analyzing your mass of data held in the EDR, you could help drive improvements in the following areas of your dental practice. Here are some examples on how big data can help:

Improve Population Health

Data can help you identify patients at a higher risk of developing chronic and severe oral diseases. You can then implore them to make an appointment and prevent the danger to the overall systemic health. This will not only improve their health but also reduce the cost of getting quality healthcare.

Reduce Missed Appointments

The EDR can be used to identify the people who are at the most risk of missing an appointment and the underlying reasons.

This ensures that you can follow up on the group and take other measures to understand their reason for failing to show up. Moreover, it ensures that you can maximize the time with the patients that willingly show up.

Real-Time Prevention of Oral Health Deterioration

Analyzing patient data in real-time alongside historical data allows you to identify potential issues that could otherwise get out of hand if not acted upon with urgency. With data analysis, you can take note of the inconsistencies in oral hygiene and prescribe the requisite remedies.

There is no doubt that big data is already affecting dentistry for the better. Data analysis will be vital in ensuring that you improve customer service delivery by working smarter.

Moreover, integrating new dental information with historical medical information for each patient will result in a better understanding of disease patterns. This ensures better preventive measures and improved quality of dental services.

When I started practicing data management and quality metrics, in the beginning, I thought it was easy to achieve a significant increase in any quality metric shortly if you only add more patients. After a while, I realized that things are not easy as they seem. Improving clinical performance and quality productivity needs a lot of work, chiefly understanding your weaknesses, strengths and working hard to invest everyone’s best towards the ultimate goal: caring for patients.

Data showed me trends in many practices that open my eyes to dig into root causes of wins or losses. For example, our sealant metrics met our quarterly defined goals. Still, when I brought all data together (patient ages, erupted, unerupted, partially erupted, or restored teeth, recall-due visits, schedule utilization, and availability). I found that we could do better and more than what we proposed. Such data-driven speculation was a reason for a pilot practice to modify our workflow. We revisited our results after 90 days. The results were outstanding; our metrics showed an 8% increase compared with last year or other clinics that did not establish the pilot workflow. Because of the data, we learned that we could do better than we thought before.

Other examples include treatment completion and cases like dentures or RCTs. With detailed data reports, we tracked our average starting and delivery days. We reviewed our workflow to find the best practices to ensure that our respective patients are getting the best quality treatment on time. Sometimes, a rapid jump in your metrics or a rapid drop indicates a training issue like wrong documentation, incorrect coding, etc. This will allow the clinicians or managers to identify areas of improvement and training.

Having a data-driven mentality, in my opinion, helps achieve quality and productivity at the same time. It will keep the team focus on our mission and be more engaged with the clinical aspect of dentistry.  For example, it’s important to understand why dentists care about preventive care, a recall system, continuity of care, and the various treatments.

Do not be afraid of numbers. They do not turn people into statistics; statistics turn patients into healthy people.

Do you think that EMR can be used to improve quality and productivity in solo practices? I would like to learn from your experience in that at private offices. Please DM me at muhalab.ns@gmail or LinkedIn

Editor’s note: For more information on electronic health records, visit the ADA FAQ Index web page.

Dr. Muhalab Al Sammarraie is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. He grew up in Baghdad before coming to the U.S. as a foreign-trained dentist. He obtained his D.D.S. with honors in 2019 and became a member of the A.D.A., California Dental Association, and the San Diego County Dental Society. While working towards his second degree, He accrued remarkable leadership experience working in public, private, and non-profit sectors. He led many departments and oversaw process improvement in education, social services, and community health. Dr. Al Sammarraie is currently a site dental director at AltaMed Health Services, the nation’s largest FQHC. Outside of dentistry, Dr. Al Sammarraie supports activist groups in Iraq that help war victims and displaced people find educational opportunities and medical care.

Business side of dentistry: Hiring for newbie practice owners

Editor’s note: This is the seventh article in a series exploring the business aspects of the dental profession, from starting a practice and marketing to hiring staff and finances.

Dr. Deshpande

If you live in city like Seattle, you’ve already heard of how difficult it can be to find good team members. I’ve heard these statements repeated so often in our Society meetings, I’ve lost count: “We have a shortage of hygienists here,” “Finding and training a great dental assistant is so hard, this is why our turn-over is so high,” “So and so’s front office manager recently embezzled from them.”

Horror stories are everywhere. As an entrepreneur, it is important to separate fact from fiction and to not get discouraged by the trials and tribulations of running a small business. When you signed up to have your practice one day, you also signed up to spending half your life sharpening your business acumen!

Here are some tips for hiring that might help you stand out as a worthy employer in your market:

The interviewing stage:

Think of interviewing someone as giving them the privilege of being with your family for 8 hours a day, 4 days a week, for the rest of their life. Make it difficult yet rewarding for the new employee. Think acutely about your brand, create in your mind what would be the ideal employee in your practice, and then consider where this person might be located so you can go find them!Look for employees everywhere (not just the Facebook dental community, or on Indeed), particularly the hospitality sector where employees have amazing customer service skills. Well-known restaurateur Danny Meyer describes the “51 percent rule” in his book, Setting the Table — a must read for new practice owners. “When evaluating potential hires, 51 percent of the weighting is given to emotional intelligence, and 49 percent to technical skills. There’s extra percentage points given to the emotional side that can’t be taught.”For every candidate you invite for an in-person interview, complete a thorough background check, look at the candidate’s social media, and call up two of their references. Have them meet the team. Does your team approve of them?Consider also creating a network in your local community, and volunteer in dental assisting and hygiene schools so you can meet new grads quickly!

The on-boarding stage:

Create a robust employee manual that details job responsibilities. Record and create short videos and upload them on a website like Kajabi, so processes can be explained to a newcomer with ease. Your training will soon be online and convenient for everyone to access.Set up days where you would check in with a new employee at 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months. During these audit sessions, check their clinical progress and give them an opportunity to ask you questions.

We discuss all this and more in our bi-weekly meetings at the New Dentist Business Club, a Seattle-based nonprofit. To join, email us at [email protected]

Dr. Sampada Deshpande is a general dentist based in San Francisco. A foreign trained dentist from India, Sampada earned her DDS from the University of Washington in 2018 and is a 2020-2021 UW-LEND fellow. Outside of clinical dentistry, she enjoys teaching at the New Dentist Business Club and improving access to technology in healthcare via her involvement in Samsotech. You can reach her directly at @dr.deshpande on Instagram or visit her website for more information.

Editor’s note: We know that finding the right practice can be overwhelming and time consuming. That’s why the ADA created ADA Practice Transitions (ADAPT), a service that matches you with practices that fit your practice approach and lifestyle. We provide customized resources to ensure you feel confident in your decisions and an ADA Advisor supports you during each step of the journey. Learn more at

Everyone Matters: Seeking leadership diversity in organized dentistry

It has been a long but fulfilling 10 years of hard work in organized dentistry – or “dental-land,” as I like to affectionally call it.

Dr. Patel

I often talk about losing my community of colleagues and friends once dental school graduation happened, and how my work in the associations has brought me a new community. They are the support system I didn’t realize I needed, the mentors who have worked through countless personal and professional situations with me, and the friends who still stand by me, no matter what.

I am lucky.

My most favorite person, the one who I have always looked up to first (and the most), also happens to be my boss, my father. Through his eyes, with his wisdom, we have treated generations of patients in our hometown, Westchester County. It has, and continues to be, the best journey I have ever taken.

But what of the students, residents, and new dentists, who are our successors? I decided long ago that I was going to work hard to pay these blessings forward however I could. For me, its been my work with the new graduates, the members of the dental education community, and those trying to find their way, that has been the most rewarding.

Women, ethnic minorities, and new dentists (the American Dental Association defines new dentists as anyone who graduated less than 10 years ago from dental school), are flooding into the workforce in ever increasing numbers.

The American Student Dental Association, our counterparts in the dental education system, is full of driven, motivated, bright individuals, who lead their organization with conviction and fairness, and truly represent a diverse and inclusive body, reflective of its members.

What about us? The ADA and its tripartite – the state dental associations, and our local component dental societies, are made up of volunteer dentists who move through the ranks of leadership in various pathways to councils and committees. As the landscape of dentistry changes, are we, too, striving to be diverse and inclusive? Some would say yes.

The ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership teaches valuable leadership skills to a small group each year, culminating in a project that puts these skills to use. I am part of this year’s class. Collaborating with the others in my group, learning and growing, and hearing their insights, have been amongst the most invaluable takeaways for me. It also opened my eyes to the incredible discrimination that we, as younger members of our profession face.

Our House of Delegates is the voting body of our association and is 483 members strong. New dentists make up about 30% of active ADA membership but only occupy 5% of the delegate positions nationally. Yes, some states strive to work at filling the pipeline to leadership with a diverse range of doctors. Many of the most qualified amongst us are former ASDA leaders. However, there is a marked drop-off of former ASDA leaders staying involved in organized dentistry in similar capacities to what they were in dental school.

Why is this?

I can speak from my experience. I have been told I was too young. I have been told I was too inexperienced. I have also been told that new dentists will never be allowed in positions of leadership simply based on age.

For some, this may have put up an unsurmountable barrier. For me, it fueled my desire to fight back against these conscious (and unconscious) biases by working hard and providing real results in the work of the association.

To that end, the New York State Dental Association, my home state organization, passed a resolution in 2019 marking out a new dentist position on every state council. This is in alignment with the council system at the ADA. It was a hard-fought victory, and even on the floor of our House of Delegates, the same concerns were brought up.

After hours of emotionally draining testimony, a colleague of mine stood at the “pro” mic and simply said the following, which brought it home for all of us. Her words were “We are all dentists, aren’t we? We have the same degree. We are all humans.” As she stepped of the floor, there was a stunned silence in her wake. Her words rang true.

There is still much work to be done, together.  The statistics support this. Our leadership is not reflective of the changing landscape of dentistry, and if we are to secure the future of our profession, this must change. Change is hard, and change takes time. But I believe in us. And I believe that we can do better. Because, everyone matters.

Dr. Amrita R. Patel grew up in Chappaqua, New York, and graduated from the New York University College of Dentistry in 2011 before completing a general practice residency at the Nassau University Medical Center. Dr. Patel is a general dentist in private practice with her father, Dr. Rohit Z. Patel, in Westchester County, New York. She chaired the New York State Dental Association New Dentist Committee, is the International College of Dentists – USA Section Fellow Ambassador of Social Media, and currently serves the new dentists on the American Dental Association Council on Dental Benefit Plans for the 2020-21 term. She is also among the recipients of the 2021 ADA 10 Under 10 Awards.

Is residency worth it?

In my senior year of dental school, I was at a crossroad between pursuing a year of general residency and job opportunities.

Dr. Ahmed

The opportunities were attractive positions that promised continuing education and a competitive salary. Despite the heavy recruitment efforts, I decided to forgo another year of income to pursue an advanced education in general dentistry program.

Like many dental students, I felt my dental school provided a good foundation, but it was ill equipped to provide necessary training to meet the demands of our patients. I knew I needed to see and do more to gain the trust of my patients.

I spent hours scouring the internet, searching different forums to determine which programs were the “best” and worth the loss of income. I narrowed it down to programs that were responsive to my emails, provided a descriptive summary on their web page and places I preferred to live. This narrowed my options substantially because frankly I found many of the programs were vague and failed to differentiate themselves.

I made sure that the programs were not an extension of dental school (and I mean the bureaucratic b.s. that sucked the fun out of dentistry) or a year of doing more of the same procedures (which is obtainable through work experience).

I wanted the experience to be impactful via exposure to advanced treatments and comprehensive real-world decision-making.

Several applications and interviews later,  I landed in Phoenix, Arizona.

More than a year later, if I were to ask myself if it was all worth it: the answer would be absolutely YES!!!

I originally struggled with the idea of sacrificing another year of income while debt kept piling. But today, I am glad I invested in my education instead.

My experience was challenging, insightful and full of adrenaline. I did cases that I would never imagine doing as a new graduate. In that year, I discovered a love for implant surgery, found great mentors, and gained appreciation for removable prosthesis. I can confidently say I am able to manage my patients complex needs safely (within a reasonable scope), and that feeling is priceless.

To those in the same crossroad, or are feeling unsure, residency may be just what you need.

Based on my experience, here are a few things to consider when selecting a program. Some of these questions may feel intrusive, but consider how much you are required to share as an applicant while on the contrary you may know very little about your new dental family.

Rather than asking the usual question of “How many of  x, y, z  each resident do?” consider asking:>How are cases distributed among residents?Does the resident treatment plan?Learn about your dental directors.>Do they have teaching experience?Are they paid on production or strictly hired to teach?Will there be time set aside to discuss cases?Find out the long term vision of the clinic.>What is their focus?Will there be other programs or training held at the clinic? For example, my clinic also provided live patient implant training.How does the resident fit into those programs, and is there any conflict of interest?Discuss if there is routine performance evaluation and feedback.>Will there be opportunities to receive and provide feedback? What is the frequency?How are you evaluated?Who is your confidant if you have staff challenges?How many assistants per doctor?

Good luck!

Dr. Nashid Ahmed is a New Dentist News guest blogger. She is general dentist in Phoenix, Arizona. She earned her dental degree from Indiana University in 2019 and completed an AEGD in Phoenix. During her free time, she likes to explore the city of Phoenix and the great outdoors of Arizona. She enjoys hiking, biking and trying new restaurants. She also enjoys reading and blogging about career development and workplace culture.

Did you miss our previous article…

Making the case for the simple case

When I graduated from Tufts University School of Dentistry in 2010, some of the requirements to graduate were, as far as I can remember, doing 25 restorations, 10 crowns, and three arches of dentures.

Dr. Simpson

I met those requirements – right on the nose, no more, and obviously not less.

My first experience in private practice was working one day a week in three different offices.   Each dentist was so different in their background and practice style, but their patient bases were pretty much the same.  My first several months out of school I was so frustrated for a myriad of reasons, one of them being feeling like I wasn’t doing the ever elusive “enough.”

I decided to meet with my mentor just to get some advice and encouragement.  I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went, but I do remember lamenting about wanting to do “bigger cases” and “more work” and complaining about what I thought/assumed my classmates were doing.

She kindly but emphatically shut that down.

My mentor talked to me about five things I should focus on instead:  learning how to treatment plan; getting better at diagnosing periodontal disease;  single crowns; and two more basic, “meat and potatoes” dentistry type of things (that I can’t remember now).

The talk helped make me feel better.

Fast forward nine years later, and to be honest, working in public health, I still do not do the “big cases” that we think of as “big.”  You know:  the cases where someone needs ortho before they can have implants placed but they also need bone grafts and they have to have their bite opened, or the patients who get 20 veneers.  Big cases for me usually end up being full mouth extractions and dentures, and when I say dentures, I don’t mean implant retained over dentures, I mean regular old dentures.  And you know what?  I love it.

Yesterday I repaired tooth 8 for a patient.  A simple MIDFL resin.  I took before and after pictures of it, like I do many of my cases.

When we get dental journals in the mail they are filled with complex cases being broken down into the steps it takes to complete them. Pages are full of advertisements for all types of her equipment and the newest technological developments. Some of the biggest social media dental influencers are dentists who do beautiful esthetic cases of veneers.  You know what?  I will have been practicing nine years in September, and I still haven’t done an implant.  And I don’t feel any less fulfilled for it.

As this blog is directed at the new dentist, I would like to present to you the case for enjoying the simple case. Let your first few years out of school be focused on really perfecting your skills of the meat and potatoes of dentistry.

I worked as an associate for a dentist several years ago, and even though I was a practicing dentist, she would check my preps to make sure I had gotten all the decay out. Initially I was offended, but she explained she had a new associate before me who left so much decay under restorations that she, the owner, ended up having numerous patients that came back for recall and they had recurrent decay – all fillings done by the previous new dentist associate.

The owner had to redo work on all those patients; which she did free of charge.

Full disclosure, she found tiny areas of decay several times the first few times she checked my preps. I learned so much from her and have become a much better dentist for it. As the years have passed, I have had to go behind dentists newer than me and repair work. It is so hard to explain having to redo something to a patient without disparaging the work that was done. I will forever be a proponent of your first years out of school being on developing basic skills – NOT trying to come out and find those big cases to do to show off.

In all aspects of life we compare ourselves to our peers, so it’s natural that we compare ourselves to our colleagues. Don’t be discouraged when you see your former classmates doing “big cases.”

Just like my mentor told me: pick five (maybe even less!) things to focus on your first couple of years out of school: whether it’s single canals of endo, perfecting posterior composites, treatment planning, simple extractions, or oral cancer screenings. Fill your own fillings even if you have expanded assistants just for the practice and to not be dependent on their work. Work on your speed, efficiency and quality. Work on your bedside manner. Learn when a case is beyond your level or expertise at that point. If you do a single crown, let it be the best single crown you have ever done. Take pictures of your simple cases to give them the same level of respect and attention we give those “big cases.”

Learn to enjoy and appreciate those anterior esthetic resins for patients who can’t afford veneers. You don’t know the direction of your career. You may end up in a community where patient’s can’t afford certain types/levels of treatment – or even if they can, they don’t want to get the work done for whatever reason. This may mean unfollowing certain people on social media or even not discussing work with certain people to preserve your peace and confidence.

Patients will come. Technology will continue to change and improve.  You have at least 20 years ahead of you to build and create your career. I can tell you with utmost confidence:  those big cases will be there and you will have time to do them. So for today, learn to appreciate the simple cases.

Dr. Elizabeth Simpson is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. She grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in 2010. Liz is a general dentist working full time for two Federally Qualified Health Centers in Anderson and Elwood, Indiana. She is a member of the American Dental Association Institute for Diversity in Leadership program and has started a toothbrushing program at an elementary school in Indianapolis. When she’s not working she enjoys reading, going to the movies, traveling and spending time with her family and friends.

The ‘big three’ causes of mouth cancer

By knowing the causes of mouth cancer, we can take positive steps to reduce our own level of risk, says a leading health charity.
The Oral Health Foundation is raising awareness about the causes of mouth cancer, following new research that shows far too many people remain unaware of the main risk factors.
The number of people diagnosed with mouth cancer in the UK has doubled in the last 20 years, with tobacco, drinking alcohol to excess and the human papillomavirus, being the considered the most common causes.
However, new data shows that awareness into the three big risk factors is as low as 15%.
With more than half of all mouth cancer cases linked to lifestyle factors, the charity along with Denplan, part of Simplyhealth, are using November’s Mouth Cancer Action Month to shed light on the biggest risks factors associated with the disease.
Smoking tobacco increases your risk of developing mouth cancer by up to ten times.  This includes smoking cigarettes, pipe…
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