Life after Graduation: Excel in Your Clinical Setting

By: Savanah Craig

I graduated from dental school in March 2022 and I’m currently in a general practitioner residency program.

I’m writing to offer some advice for young dentists out there who are about to graduate on how to manage in a clinical setting after graduation.

Tips to Excel in Your Clinical Setting After Graduation

1. Learn from Your Assistants

Dentists are lifelong learners, and I can tell you from experience that your dental assistants have a lot to
teach you.

One time, for instance, I missed some tooth decay on an axial wall that my assistant could clearly see from their position. Rather than call me out in front of the patient, they handed me a mirror at a certain angle so that I could see the decay and reassess.

I was so thankful that they helped me so diplomatically, and it taught me the value of learning from someone with a different angle (literally)!

This is especially true for people like myself whose clinic time was cut short by COVID — we just haven’t had as much patient experience as those in a typical program, and we haven’t had as many opportunities to see the natural variance between patients.

That’s partially why I chose to do a residency, and I’ve heard residency applications had a 50% uptick in the COVID years.

So after graduating, it became more important than ever to develop my skills and gain experience.

2. Have Confidence In Yourself

However, sometimes you need to stand your ground and have confidence in how you run an appointment; after all, you’re the doctor in the room and your license is on the line.

If you do things differently than previous doctors, you might get some pushback from your assistants.

For example, when cementing a crown I prefer to check the margins with a precementation x-ray, whereas the standard practice at my residency was to perform a postcementation x-ray.

When I told my assistants to run a precementation x-ray, she disagreed and asked if I meant a postcementation x-ray. Rather than argue in front of a patient, I asked to speak with her in my
office and explained why I prefer to check margins before cementing a crown.

After clarifying what I’d like to do and why the appointment went well — the experience just reinforced the fact that you need to trust your judgment and remember that you’re qualified to do the job, even if you don’t do things exactly how everyone else has.

Succeeding in Your Clinical Setting After Graduation

Succeeding after graduating is a matter of understanding yourself: your strengths as a doctor, where you know you’re qualified and have to stand up for yourself, and the areas where you need to learn from older doctors and your assistants.

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Photo by Ekrulila

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.