One of the biggest milestones of any dentist’s life is when they graduate from dental school. They’re ready to hit the ground running and set up a successful practice that will help people and make money.
The problem is that a lot of young dentists come out of school unprepared for the realities of setting up a practice. Schools teach people everything they need to know about treating gum disease, but they don’t teach them the difficulties that come with being a dentist.
Here are five things people need to know before becoming a dentist.
Your Main Competition Is Fear
People tend to associate dentists with times of discomfort or pain. As such, they develop a fear of dentistry over time.
This fear stops people from coming in to get regular check-ups and consultations. The problem is that when they wait until there is a serious problem, the experience won’t be pleasant, thus expounding their fears.
As a new dentist, you need to go all out to help relax prospective patients. Try installing massage chairs in your office for customers to use before and after a procedure. Work on educating visitors about procedures. People tend to fear what they don’t understand, so make sure they know what’s going to happen.
Remind your visitors that dental procedures are safe. Answer every question they have and make sure you let them know that it’s okay to be nervous. They’ll come back and bring others to your practice.
People Need Reassurance
One of the main reasons people don’t like going to the dentist is the fear of judgment. If they have oral problems, they worry that dentists and others will judge them.
It’s important, as a new dentist, to be thoughtful when speaking to patients. You don’t want them to feel ashamed of their mouths.
Phrases such as “yeah, you should have come in sooner” might seem harmless, but a patient might interpret that as you scolding or judging them.
Part of your job as a dentist is reassuring people that they shouldn’t feel shame for needing help. If you sense that someone is hesitant about getting help, get them to focus on the process. If you say “this is going to require some extensive work” follow that up by letting them know that it’s nothing you haven’t done before. This lets them know that they aren’t alone in their struggles and builds trust between you and the patient.
Dentists Are Educators
It will surprise you how many people need help but won’t get it, even if they can afford it, because of the costs of procedures. Most of the time, people don’t realize how much of an impact dental health has on their overall well-being.
As a dentist, half of your job is education. You can’t stop at explaining what client’s need done; you have to tell them why it’s important. Remember, what’s evident to you isn’t clear to the general public. They didn’t pay thousands of dollars for dental school, you did. It’s your responsibility to pass what you’ve learned on to others.
This starts from the moment someone walks in the door. Have pamphlets available explaining how dental hygiene keeps people healthy. Place posters on the wall explaining the connection between dental health and heart disease and other problems.
Use your lobby space for targeted niche clients as well. Have information available for young people about the dangers of sugar. Have pamphlets about the importance of life insurance for seniors over 70. These small things will let people know that you care about them when they leave the office as well.
When you meet the patient, explain the long-term impacts of dental problems. Most people view their smile as a matter of appearance and not health. Convince them otherwise and they’ll give you their business.
Dental Insurance Is A Pain To Deal With
In most cases, the amount that an insurance company pays out is small compared to the cost of procedures. The only way to counter that is by using cheap equipment and labor.
You get what you pay for. Cheap equipment and labor will drive customers away, so it’s not an effective way to cut cost. The only other option is to choose which insurance you accept wisely. While you might turn away some customers, it’s better than lowering the quality of your service.
Being A Dentist Is Harder Than You Think
There’s a reason that the retention rate for dentists is lower than other medical fields. Before going into the field, people assume that being a dentist is easy once you get out of school. Once they finish their first few years, they realize that they can’t handle the stress.
Dentists have to deal with special challenges that aren’t present in other professions. First, there’s the fear of the industry that we talked about earlier. The perception of dentists as bearers of pain cause many to wait until a problem becomes an emergency before visiting your office.
Dentists also have back and neck problems from bending over for long periods of time. You might work on a total mouth reconstruction for hours on end. At some point, that wears on your body.
The work wears on you in an emotional and physical way. You deal with anxious patients all day that expect their insurance to cover everything, and when it doesn’t you get the brunt of the anger.
This isn’t to say that dentistry isn’t a great profession. There’s no better feeling than watching a satisfied client leave your office happy. There are some patients so self-aware of their teeth that they don’t smile. Bringing that simple joy back into someone’s life makes everything else worth the struggle.
There are some people that can’t handle the stress, however, and that’s okay. We, as a profession, need to be honest with other people about the reality of being a dentist. We face long hours, hard work, and a higher than usual suicide rate because of disillusionment. It’s not for everyone.
My advice to every dental student I know is to find hobbies outside of work and talk to practicing dentists. Know what you’re getting into.
The ADA Is Here To Help You Along The Way
Whether you’re an experienced dentist or in the first year of your practice, the ADA has tools you need to succeed. By joining our network, you’ll have access to the best evidence-based research in the industry, discounts, and networking opportunities that can help you thrive.
We’re here to help you with the struggles outlined above. Being a dentist is a serious responsibility; why not take advantage of every tool at your disposal? Sign up today and let us help you succeed!