Seven top tips for young dentists

Seven top tips for young dentists

How can you move forward in your dentistry career? Shiraz Khan shares his best advice for young dentists looking for career progression.

1. Education

Education is really the key to ensuring you are continually progressing your understanding and your competence within your daily practice. We’ve all heard the phrase that you don’t know what you don’t know. Actively challenging yourself within areas of dentistry that you may not have great experience with, or even enjoy, is a great way to diversify your overall understanding within dentistry.

That doesn’t mean that you only go on courses that you don’t enjoy, but rather you have a CPD portfolio of things that you are great at but also that you could have as development points.

2. Mentors

Mentors go hand-in-hand with education and there are a lot of mentoring academies these days. I feel that my greatest learning and understanding has come from personal relationships and being surrounded by individuals who are doing the sort of work that I would one day aspire to do.

Mentoring can take several forms, such as a mentorship pathway that guides you through 10 to 12 months with a specific clinician, but you can also find mentorship through friendships and groups.

Hand on heart, I can honestly say that mentoring is certainly one of the main reasons why I have been able to progress to more complicated aspects of dentistry.

3. Finding balance

Dentistry is a very stressful profession, which in invariably involves long hours. It has high performing individuals working with potentially dangerous instruments within a sensitive place – the oral cavity – and it is a very intense environment between two or three co-workers. Not to mention that the patient journey philosophy psychology is also downloaded onto dental professionals.

This is why establishing a work-life balance is absolutely critical to give yourself the mental capacity and space to be able to reattach yourself to problem-solving or certain issues.

Now, everyone finds balance in different ways, whether that is through physical activity, spending time with the family, socialising with friends, travelling abroad, making enough time for your faith or your beliefs, or a mixture of a few of these areas. All of these aspects should have protected time within your diary, so it allows you to decompress from the stresses of working within a dental practice.

4. Build your profile

Building a profile can take many guises, but for me, the first aspect of this was having published case studies and presentations in dental journals and magazines. Sharing my work in this way led to me being invited to lecture, which tied into my aspiration for profile growth. 

However, it’s very important that there isn’t smoke without fire. We are absolutely pushing ourselves to provide the best and highest quality level of care, but if you are able to demonstrate the workflows that you are doing on the day-to-day practice not only will it allow you to land the ‘job of your dreams’ but it will also help you track your own progress as the years ago by. Recording and following my own development has been one of the greatest helps for me.

5. Social media

Social media is a fabulous place to be able to learn, share and grow. However, it also comes with the equal opposing side and I think it is very important that if you are going to display what you are doing, sharing the cases that you are working on and sharing about yourself, you always try to do so in as professional manner as possible.

It also helps is if you have a mentor who is able to guide you to where this should appear and give you honest feedback about whether it’s something you should share.

With that said, social media is a fabulous tool that provides a platform to be able to demonstrate to a much wider audience what you are doing and where you intend to go… but use it wisely!

6. The right people

Through publication, mentorship, being part of academies and associations, etc, you will slowly find yourself amongst people who are looking for new team members. This is how I have been able to acquire most of my practice jobs.

Working at the right practice for you is the most important aspect of being able to do the dentistry that you want to do. However, it is absolutely not going to happen from day one, so building a portfolio of cases over a long period of time – 12 to 18 months – is critical towards making the step into the next place that you choose to work.

This is also quite important for ensuring you understand how your work will stand the test of time. Documentation itself will be the opportunity to record, reflect, reappraise and refine your processes to provide better patient care.

I will say that I do not think it is wise to change practices on a yearly basis because you will never really get to see how the work that you’ve carried out is surviving; understanding your successes and failures in this way is vital for helping you grow as a practitioner. 

7. Collaborations

If you are demonstrating your work, improving your level, engaging within the industry, and asking for advice, the icing on the cake is to go and meet the scientists who have spent their life creating the technologies that we have in our hands every day to provide our patients with solutions to their dental problems.

Seeing their factories first hand and understanding the importance of the technology that you use on a daily basis not only enhances your understanding and appreciation for the industry you work in, it also cultivates relationships that lead to key opinion leadership opportunities.

I understand this is not for everyone but if you do enjoy sharing your work, speaking and lecturing, it can provide fantastic opportunities to be able to travel to different countries to showcase your protocols and processes. For me, DMG have been absolutely wonderful and instrumental in allowing me to share my work, not only across the UK, but around the world. This has happened from simple engagement with the team that cultivated a mutually beneficial relationship.

While I have broken these down into my top tips, in essence, they are all intertwined to become part of the same journey. Maintaining a work-life balance, sharing your clinical work, using social media effectively and thorough documentation are all aspects that will provide you with the tools to be able to practice the dentistry that you wish to do, in the place that you want to be. I hope my hindsight can help you to propagate your career, to push yourself forward and enable you to grow as a clinician. 

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