Clinic Advice for D3s & D4s

By: Savannah Craig

Starting clinic can come with a lot of conflicting feelings. It is exciting to finally be treating patients, but it can also be a stressful experience. Everyone enters clinic with a different level of confidence, skill, and a unique patient pool.

Treating patients can be a very rewarding experience, but it can also be incredibly frustrating. As someone who was in your shoes not too long ago, I’d like to share some advice.

You know more than you think

While entering clinic can seem like a daunting task, it is important to remember that you have spent the last two years preparing for this moment. You know the dimensions of your crown preps and how to make your hands do the work.

There will still be various challenges that come with treating patients, but you shouldn’t doubt the knowledge you have already gained! Trust that you have the basics you need to be a student dentist and do your best for your patients!

You’re still learning, and that is okay

You know the basics of how to be a dentist, but there will always be challenging cases that require more knowledge and understanding. There is a reason that dental school is four years long, instead of two and that is because you still have so much to learn during your time in clinic!

Take advantage of having experienced faculty members to bounce ideas off and to help you through complex problems. Dental School is the place to learn from your mistakes and experience difficulties while someone is right beside you to walk you through it.

If every case went perfectly in clinic, you wouldn’t gain the knowledge and problem-solving skills necessary to get through tough spots after graduation. It can be easy to focus on the finish line, but make sure you’re taking advantage of this hands-on learning opportunity before it’s gone.

Measure twice and cut once

Treatment planning and sequencing of complex cases is a really tough skill to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask a faculty member to sit down with you and help you write out all of the necessary steps to complete a difficult case. Taking the time to think through a case and work it out on paper can save you and your patient a lot of headaches.

Additionally, it can be helpful to have a plan on paper to show various faculty members. Dentistry can be subjective at times, and I’ve found that faculty members are less likely to change your treatment plan if you can show you have a plan that you’ve discussed with other dentists in your clinic. Having a step-by-step guide of your plan to show your patients can also help in setting expectations and confirming patient understanding.

All in all, taking the time to create and understand all the steps required to get the patient through their treatment plan can benefit you and your relationships with your patients and attendings.

Everyone makes it out in the end

As with any part of dental school, it can be very easy to compare yourself to those around you. Unfortunately, since your clinical experiences require real patients there is always going to be a level of uncertainty at play.

Some of your classmates will have more fixed units in their practice. Others will have patients who are unreliable and miss their appointments. Clinic is not one size fits all and the experience is not standardized.

Do your best to focus on your own experience, your patients, and what is actually within your control. There are times when it feels impossible, that graduation day will never come, but I promise you everyone makes it out one way or another.

Up Next: How To Build Your Reputation as a New Dentist

Photo by Daniel Frank

Savanah Craig

Savanah Craig

Savanah Craig is a graduate of Baldwin Wallace University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. She is currently a 2022 D.D.S. Candidate at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry. She will be pursuing a General Practice Residency in Columbia, SC following graduation. In her free time, Savanah enjoys reading, exploring new restaurants, and traveling.