Not Sure What To Do With Your Career in Dentistry? So, Now What?

 By: Dr. Bri Torgerson

I’m Dr. Bri Torgerson and I am a General Dentist working in Saint Louis, Missouri. I guess I’ll use the term “working” lightly. The truth is, I’ve been unemployed for the majority of this year, and not necessarily by choice.

I went back and forth about writing this, about slicing my personal life open and putting it out there for everyone to read about, but my blog is about real-life dentistry. I want that to be the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It’s how this blog even came to be, I wanted to share my experiences. The things I had to figure out on my own, the path through thick grass that I had to create for myself, the stumbling, the getting back up, the things I learned along the way; I wanted to share everything to help others and if I’ve helped even one person, I am so happy. 

There are so many ups and downs with any career you choose. I think so often people share their triumphs, their stellar cases, their funny anecdotes about dentistry and their jobs but no one wants to open up about the ugly truth that some may face in this career.

When I speak to others openly, I find they speak openly, too. And suddenly the ugly isn’t as ugly as I made it seem in my mind. The monsters lose their roar in my head and the more I talk about it, the more I realize how small that monster is. And it’s not even a monster at all. I want to help you lose your monster, no matter what it is. 

Don’t Be Ashamed of the Downs in Your Career

Every job, no matter what field you’re in, will have its ups and downs, but no one wants to talk about the downs.

We are ashamed of it so we sweep those moments, feelings, and situations under a rug and take a perfectly executed photograph of our lives, conveniently hiding the pile of dirt we stashed away, to make it seem like we have it all figured out.

A delicate balance of “fake it ‘til you make it” and flat-out lying to ourselves and locking the bad into a part of our memory we only dare to access.

But again, if we realize others also have hard times, we aren’t alone, we shouldn’t sweep or lock away those things, we realize we can learn from these times.

We Can Help Future Dentists Become More Resilient

We realize we can aid future generations of dentists to become mentally resilient by training them to mentally be prepared to make mistakes, to go through hard times.

We can create a field of practice that strives for progress and protection while maintaining a balance of perfectionism and realism.

So, I’m here to share my story, the ugly part, in hopes it can help others realize they’re not alone.

Names will be anonymous and quite frankly, I’m not interested in throwing people under the bus. 

My Downs in My Dental Career

In November of 2022, I was contacted by a friend who owned their own office about joining their team.

Putting In My 30-Day Notice

I had many phone calls and shadowed the office. We were negotiating a contract, going back and forth with our lawyers and I was told a start date of March 1, 2023, so I put my 30-day notice in at my then-current job and it was ugly.

I let my owner know I was offered a job with a friend and it was more in line with where I wanted my niche in dentistry to be. I was so upset to leave my home of a year and a half. Then my owner got so excited and hugged me.

A Reaction I Didn’t See Coming

I thought she was happy for me at first and I quickly realized she was just happy I was leaving. She told me she didn’t think I was emotionally intelligent enough to be a dentist and that it was not too late to change career paths for something more suitable for me.

I was in shock. I’d never gotten a bad review, my patients loved me, and I had a fantastic relationship with specialists and my managers.

Dentistry is my dream, the longest love I’ve had in my life besides my family members. I was confused because I wasn’t leaving dentistry, I was just leaving the office.

She asked, in excitement, if she could tell the whole staff I was leaving. I immediately felt defeated, but ultimately, it had secured in me that I’d made the right decision. I don’t want to work for someone who doesn’t believe in me. Someone who doesn’t want to watch me succeed, or mentor me and cheer me on to my full potential. I felt awful, but hopeful for my future at the new office. 

We were getting closer to an agreement and it was all falling into place nicely. I was even offered to stay at an Airbnb until I could find an apartment since I’d be moving for this job. 

A Let Down I Didn’t See Coming

After my 30-day notice was up, I decided to take a trip between positions. I was sitting in an airplane on my way to Atlanta to visit a friend, when I got a text message from my friend, the owner, stating they could no longer have me work there because of romantic problems this person was having in their personal life. It was February 23rd, my birthday.  

Moving On From the Downs

Ever since then, I’ve been applying to jobs, taking odd jobs here and there not related to dentistry, and picking up shifts at the gym.

I’ve had a few jobs since then that didn’t work out and had abrupt endings. I even moved thousands of miles for a job promising me the world that ended up leaving me high and dry without a reason as to why.

To say this was something I’d planned for would be a lie. To say this is something that hasn’t affected me mentally would be a lie. I wish I could tell you that I even have a full-time job now, 10 months later, and I don’t. I was temping for a while and found out they don’t need me anymore. Another small setback. 

My point of this isn’t to gain pity, it isn’t to play the victim. My point is to show the dirty, ugly side of this career path.

It’s to let others know that, not everyone has it together. Not everyone is working let alone working their dream job. I’ve been knocked down more times this year than I would ever imagine or like to say and when everything first happened, I admit I was absolutely crushed.

Don’t Put YOUR Value in Your Career

But, you can’t give up and you cannot put your value and worth into what you’re doing for a job because then if you lose your job, what are you? I found myself in that position. I didn’t know who I was without my career, I associated my self-worth with my status, which made it difficult when I didn’t have that. I had to find myself again.

If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that you have to get up. No matter how long it takes, no matter how many times, you need to get up. The world will try to knock you down, people will say hurtful things, and you will go through seasons of storms, I used to think that you had to wait for the light at the end of the tunnel until I realized:

I can carry my own light. You don’t need to wait. You can create a life you love during the storm.

Dancing in the rain isn’t just some cliche saying about literally getting outside in the rain, you need to metaphorically dance during the storms of your life. I created sunshine by traveling while I didn’t need to try and take time off. I created sunshine by volunteering at the church. I created sunshine by spending time learning how to bake new things, working out, and being useful around the house for my parents.  

Life is not perfect and if you’re confused by where you are, envious of where others seem to be, and in general feeling down and out, I just want to encourage you to continue to  LIVE during this time.

You deserve to LIVE every moment of your life no matter what it looks like. Storms pass but they may be there for a while and I can tell you, I was much happier and much more content with my life when I refused to let the rain stop me from living, and learned how to be happy even when things weren’t going my way.

If you’re in a storm, I am so sorry and my heart goes out to you. I know how hard it can be when the visibility of your life is negligible and it isn’t easy.

“All I want to say is, you got this. No matter what, you got this, and I truly believe things will get better.”

With the New Year here, brings a sense of rebirth and regenerative spirit. May this year bring many wonderful blessings to you all personally and professionally and don’t forget to dance in the rain.

Keep Reading: Dental School Waitlisted? (Top Tips from Dentists)

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Dr. Bri Torgerson

Dr. Bri Torgerson

Hi! I’m Dr. Bri Torgerson. I’m a General Dentist and I’ve had a long journey to dental school, through dental school, and life after dental school. I graduated from undergrad at Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2014 and dental school at The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC in 2020. I love my Faith, traveling, baking, cooking, volunteering, coffee, and being with my family including my basset hound, Wilbur. My favorite teams are the Minnesota Vikings, the St. Louis Blues, and the St. Louis Cardinals. A career goal I have is to do a mission trip once and year. One of my life goals, outside of my career, is to visit every National Park in the United States.