What I wish I knew when I first graduated

Young dentist Janine Sahota looks back at the then gaps in her knowledgeYoung dentist Janine Sahota looks back at the then gaps in her knowledge and what she wished she knew when she first graduated.

Dr Janine Sohota graduated from Birmingham Dental School in 2012. Since then she has worked in private practice between Rugby and London.

Janine has a keen eye for detail and by her own admission is a perfectionist. Dr Sohota has a special interest in cosmetic and aesthetic dentistry and particularly enjoys transforming smiles utilising a minimally invasive, ethical approach. Janine believes in providing patients with exceptional care and the most natural, realistic results possible.

When I first went to University aged 18 I knew that I had to go into dentistry. Well obviously, that’s why I studied dentistry for the next five years. But did I really know why I wanted to be a dentist? And did I know what it would entail to get to a point where I actually found enjoyment in the work I carried out?

The simple answer is no. I suppose when you have come straight from A-levels, you are programmed to do what you do best – pass exams, get to the next stage, pass more exams and on and on it goes.

Studying was all a bit of a blur for me and sometimes for me the pressure of revising and retaining countless facts and model answers often took away the chance to harness the true enjoyment of the craft.

Fantastic career

Working as a dentist is a fantastic career. No day is the same and there is so much satisfaction in restorative treatments. Fine detail, precision and artistry are what it takes to bring your work to life and being able now to provide the most natural and aesthetic results makes it all the more worthwhile and rewarding.

Luckily for new graduates, a fully fledged era of digital dentistry now exists. Treatments are planned with the utmost precision. Advancements in the quality of restorative materials and bonding agents will allow your work to mimic nature and be long lasting.

It’s a very exciting time for dentistry as there is now so much more scope for dentists to provide cosmetic dental treatments rather than just the bog standard drill and fill.

We must all walk before we can run however and for new graduates and young dentists, I learnt such things along the way.

1. Loupes

In America it is compulsory for dental students to use loupes. As an undergraduate I think we had reps come in once or twice but they didn’t really make a big impression on most of us. Plus, very few of our clinical demonstrators were wearing them so I didn’t feel the need.

However, I would recommend working under magnification and light (don’t rely on just the overhead light of your dental chair). You can’t improve what you can’t see, you’ll be amazed at the quality of your work once you start using them.

There are loads of companies about – try a few before you commit. I returned a pair before I found my perfect pair. Now I can’t work without them.

2. SLR camera

Invest in an SLR camera with macro lens and flash. It doesn’t have to be expensive, start second hand if need be. Photographing your work will help you to improve.

You’ll look back at restorations that you thought you did a good job of. Then you’ll spot something that you could improve. A dodgy margin, or poor ridge contour – often you’ve got to see it to believe it.

I used YouTube to learn the basics of photography. My patients love seeing their before and afters. New patients like to see it too as they can see that you take pride in your work.

3. Ask for help

If there is something you’re struggling with or worried about then you must reach out to a colleague. Don’t get stressed, get help before a problem becomes a big deal. I still ask for help and advice. Ultimately you want the best result for the patient, there’s no harm in getting a different perspective sometimes.

4. Invest in postgraduate education

Invest wisely in courses. Early on, I didn’t go on many courses. I just wanted to save my money and wanted to work a while before I decided what to focus on. You never stop learning but it isn’t a race, do what you can when the timing’s right for you.

A lot of dentists spend thousands on courses that they don’t implement – find something you’re actually interested in first.

5. Rubber dam

Use rubber dam. Don’t get into bad habits.

6. Enjoyment

Find what you enjoy. When you find a treatment you enjoy and are good at, do more of it. Make work fun!

7. Negative people

Don’t listen to negative people. Whatever your dream or aspirations, you must strive to succeed. People love telling others what they can’t do, but the truth is there is always an opportunity out there. If you have a vision make it a reality, you’re never too young. Be confident.

This article first appeared in Young Dentist magazine.

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