The Importance of Dental Mentorship

By: James Wanamaker

Mentorship is one of the most important ingredients to a successful dental career.

But what is mentorship, really? In my view, mentorship involves any connection which brings your
education or career further than it would have been without.

That can extend to educators, bosses, colleagues — pretty much anyone you meet on your dental journey.

These people can offer a lot of guidance, helping you become a better dentist and hone in on what you’d actually like to do in your career.

What to Look for in a Dental Mentor & Where to Find One

If you’re a young dentist or a student, finding a good mentor is absolutely essential.

But what do you look for in a mentor? And where do you find one?

Career Trajectory

One crucial thing to ponder is the person’s career trajectory. If a person has been in the business for decades running a successful practice and you could imagine yourself being happy where they are one day, that person will definitely have some good advice.

Even if someone took a path you could never see yourself in — cosmetic dentistry if you want to work in pediatrics, for example — there might be a lot of overlap that you can learn from.

Social Media Connections

Remember that it’s becoming easier to reach out to possible mentors every day.

With social media and the advent of remote work, making a connection can take just a matter of minutes.

Organized dentistry, local dental societies, and study clubs are all great places to find like-minded peers who would be happy to provide advice.

Be bold! Even if you just pick their brain for a moment, it can be good to learn from their experience, whether that involves the successes they’ve had or the mistakes they’ve made.

Remember to Offer Mentorship as Well

Another crucial thing to keep in mind is that you have an obligation to continue the traditions of
mentorship in dentistry.

Advice in this field is like a well. Everyone has to take some water from the well so they can learn and move forward, but if no one gives back, the well dries up.

If you’ve received guidance from someone in your dental journey — and pretty much everyone has
— you should, at some point, return the favor to people who need your advice

Luckily, you don’t need to have your own practice or a decades-long career to give good advice; even if
you’re still in school, you can offer some worthwhile guidance to those around you.

Consider Looking for a Dental Mentor

So no matter where you find yourself in your dental journey, consider looking for a mentor.

It’s never been easier to reach out and connect with people whose work you respect — just
remember to be grateful for their time and appreciate the value of what they’re sharing.

You might be surprised at how willing people are to help!

Up Next: How To Find a Dental Mentor

Photo by Mike Jones

James Wanamaker

James Wanamaker

Dr. James Wanamaker earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from SUNY Buffalo School of Dental Medicine in 2016 with a concentration in pediatric dentistry. While at Buffalo, he served in multiple roles in organized dentistry, including the National Chair of the Council on Advocacy for the American Student Dental Association (ASDA). Following dental school, he then completed a General Practice Residency at SUNY Upstate Hospital and the Syracuse VA Hospital. He has completed additional training at the Dawson Academy, Invisalign, and surgical implant placement at the Brighterway Institute. Dr. Wanamaker is a partner in his dream private practice, Smiles of Skaneateles, located outside of Syracuse, NY. Dr. Wanamaker began working with IgniteDDS as a 3rd-year dental student. Since then, he has spoken at dental schools and conferences across the country on interview skills and finding your ideal private practice. He is heavily involved in organized dentistry on a local, state, and national level. Dr. Wanamaker currently serves as the Chair of the New Dentist Committee for the New York State Dental Association. In 2020 Dr. Wanamaker was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Dentists. Fellows have exemplified excellence through outstanding leadership and exceptional contributions to dentistry and society and only 3% of dentists are Fellows. Dr. Wanamaker resides in Upstate New York with his wife, Francesca, their young daughter, and Goldendoodle, Chewbacca.