Stepping up to success and growth in dentistry

stepping up to success and growthJana Denzel explores the five levels that each dental professional must go through to grow and be successful.

There are five levels of growth:

  • Learn
  • Experiment
  • Perform
  • Struggle
  • Thrive.

We’re always at one of these five levels, and if you really want to experience growth and become a great dentist, you should do your best to follow each one chronologically. This article will talk through each level in detail.

Being an entrepreneur as well as a dentist, I have founded a dental marketing company called Denstudio. Here my team does digital marketing for dentists and dental clinics. One common question clients ask is ‘How do I start?’.

Starting something new can often be quite intimidating. It’s easy to allow fear and anxiety to prevent us from taking the next step forward. Sometimes, even if we do have the courage to take the step, we may find ourselves asking questions like ‘Why isn’t this working?’, ‘Why am I not seeing results already?’ or ‘Why is this not going as well as I thought it would?’.

The reality is there is not ‘one thing’ that will change everything. It’s about a series of phases, stages and levels that lead to growth. In an ideal world, it would be great to constantly be thriving. However, growth has different levels. It’s is important to understand what level you’re on to avoid complacency and depression. Growth works best when you are consistent and when the five levels lead from one to the other.


Learning is the first level of growth. It is often the level we all want to try and avoid so we can start taking action immediately. However, without proper research and learning how to do something, it almost inevitably results in failure. Thus, it is a very crucial part of growth.

My favourite way to learn is to speak to people who are already doing what I want to do. That’s what started my ‘Secrets to Success’ series on Dentistry Online. Here I interview dentists who are at the top of their field and ask them to break down how they were able to achieve such success: so I could learn and follow in their footsteps. Knowledge truly is power.

If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you. It can be frustrating seeing colleagues or friends go out and do what you are learning while you may feel you are being inactive, but learning how to do it right is very active indeed.

As dentists, we now live in a world where we can learn in so many different ways. There are plenty of hands-on and online courses that can teach us the fundamentals of what we would like to learn.


Once you’ve done the work to learn about what you want to do, it’s time to put what you’ve learnt to use. For example, let’s say you want to do aesthetic composite veneers, during the learning stage, you learn more about the process by attending courses and learning from experienced dentists. As you explore this in detail, much of the advice you will get is to practise, practise and practise.

While you experiment, you could take in all of the information you have learnt and decide to practise with just composite and teeth models or extracted teeth in putty and commit to learn how to do the most aesthetic composite veneers.

The knowledge you have gathered and put to use will get you closer to your goal.

When you’re at the experimentation level, there is room for error, you can fail as many times as you need – and there will not be any criticism or any guilt of getting it wrong. This is simply for you to find out which techniques work for you and which do not.

This stage takes the pressure off – there are no outside opinions nor judgement. This stage is about trying new things and finding out how to do it right. As it’s new, you will make mistakes but this is key to understanding how to do things properly.


Performance: here you’ve reached a level where you know what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s now time to take that leap and apply yourself to get into a routine and build steady results into what you do.

This is the stage where you can deliver replicable results, consistently. This in turn will bring you confidence and show you and others around you that you know how to do it.

This is a stage we can’t jump into. Without learning and experimenting, performing will not be possible.


Struggle? How can this be the stage after we’ve spent so much time learning and experimenting and now we are performing? I hate to break it to you, but it isn’t smooth sailing onto thriving.

For all levels, there will always be an element of struggle. There will always be some difficulties that we can’t avoid. However, if we can understand it, we can work with it and use it to grow and learn from it without having such downfalls.


Thriving is the stage where all our hours of hard work and labour really pay off. This is the level we have been working towards – being acknowledged, recognised and praised for the work that we do.

The most important thing to remember about thriving is that it’s the result of all the first four levels. We have only got to this stage by going through all the other four levels first.

So, if you want to only live for thriving without putting in the hours and the hard work, you will be disappointed. Yes getting recognised at The Dentistry Awards is great, so are followers and fame, but if you think this comes without putting in hours of labour to your craft you’re wrong.

From Michael Jordan in basketball to Michael Apa in dentistry, both have said that the celebrations only account for a small amount of their time. They are always constantly learning, experimenting performing and struggling – it’s all a part of the journey to success. However, that’s not to say we can’t enjoy the journey.

We can focus on what we are doing on each level and know it’s a process and if we stay consistent and dedicated to our craft we will thrive in it. 

Learn, experiment, perform, struggle, and thrive: it’s a cycle that we will go through in many different areas of life. We will always continue to grow and learn but there will always be excitement at each stage and we can always celebrate our small wins of going from one stage to the next.

This article was commissioned for Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue online here.

Get the most out of your membership by subscribing to Dentistry CPD
  • Access 600+ hours of verified CPD courses
  • Includes all GDC recommended topics
  • Powerful CPD tracking tools included
Register for webinar
Add to calendar