A letter to my younger self – Arnold Gangaidzo

A letter to my younger self – Arnold GangaidzoIn the latest installment of the series, Arnold Gangaidzo opens up about preserving energy, staying humble and the importance of networking.

  1. Enjoy dentistry
  2. Protect yourself from burnout
  3. Connect with others.

Four years ago you graduated from a science degree and now you are graduating as the first dentist in the family. Achievements to be proud of, but the learning has only begun. The next four years will be an exciting journey with experiences you could never have anticipated.

Moving from Zimbabwe and adjusting to a different culture taught you transferable skills which will help you connect and build rapport with your patients. Here are three things to remember as you embark on this new adventure.


Read a few blogs and posts on social media and you may get the impression that you made a mistake getting into dentistry. You went through the stress and financial burden of getting into dental school with the hope that it would all work out once you graduated, but was it all for nothing?

The truth is you get to decide whether you have a positive or negative experience. Dentistry will be a rewarding and enjoyable career if you apply yourself whilst keeping an open mind. Your limited exposure to orthodontics during dental school made you discount it as a potential interest. Now it forms a significant part of your treatments.

You will find yourself gravitating towards orthodontic courses and webinars. Be open enough to try different aspects of dentistry and once you highlight what you enjoy most, pursue more of it.

Dentistry is to be enjoyed and not endured. Surround yourself with mentors and colleagues who inspire you to be better.


Your time and energy is finite. You could spend every day in clinic and still fail to solve every dental issue presenting itself at the clinic. Your patients should receive the best care you can provide and that will mean taking control of your schedule in order to protect yourself from burnout.

Don’t be afraid to take time off work. Your patients will survive a week without you and they will benefit from your rejuvenated presence when you return.

A toxic environment will drain you. Ensure that the staff you work with allow for a positive working experience and also check that you aren’t the problem. Your bad day should not become a punishment for your nurse who has to spend the day in the same room as you.

You have no control over NHS contracts, unreasonable patients or faulty dental equipment. Avoid expending energy on circumstances out of your control and learn to accept that things will go wrong. Focus on responding to setbacks by developing your clinical and communication skills and learning from every negative experience.


Make it a priority to network with other dental care professionals. Your peers are facing similar challenges and it is reassuring to know that you aren’t alone. Make more of an effort to meet colleagues who live local to you. They are going to be a support for you and at times they will bail you out from tricky situations.

Your first associate position will not be at the private practice you had aspired for. In fact, the associate you connected with during your foundation year will pass on your CV to the practice you now work in.

Work faithfully for the principal and in return he will invest in your future with opportunities which are rare for an inexperienced dentist. Keep expanding your network and learning from others. This alone will catapult your progress.

Be humble and seek to learn from more experienced dentists. Some have been in this career longer than you have been alive. Stay positive and continue to believe that the sky is the limit.

Catch previous letters to my younger self:

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