Clinical Advice for New D3 and D4 Dentistry Students

Through: Savannah Craig

Starting a clinic can be accompanied by many conflicting feelings. It’s exciting to finally treat patients, but it can also be a stressful experience. Everyone enters the 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 give you some advice.

You know more than you think

While entering the clinic can seem like a daunting task, it’s important to remember that you’ve spent the past two years preparing for this moment. You know the dimensions of your crown preparations and how to let your hands do the work.

There will still be several challenges in treating patients, but you should not doubt the knowledge you have already gained! Trust that you have the basics of being a student dentist and doing your best for your patients!

You’re still learning, and that’s 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’s a reason dental school takes four years instead of two and it’s because you still have so much to learn during your time in the clinic!

Take advantage of experienced teachers to exchange ideas and help you with complex problems. Dental School is the place to learn from your mistakes and experience difficulties, with someone standing next to you to guide you through them.

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

Measure twice and cut once

Treatment planning and sequencing of complex cases is a very difficult skill to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask a faculty member to sit down with you and help you write out all the steps necessary 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.

In addition, it can be helpful to have a plan on paper to show to different teachers. Dentistry can be subjective at times, and I’ve found that teachers are less likely to change your treatment plan if you can demonstrate that you have a plan that you’ve discussed with other dentists at your clinic. Having a step-by-step guide to your plan to show your patients can also help set expectations and confirm patient understanding.

Overall, it can benefit you and your relationships with your patients and practitioners if you take the time to take and understand all the steps necessary to guide the patient through their treatment plan.

Everyone will come out eventually

As with any part of dental education, it can be very easy to compare yourself to those around you. Unfortunately, since your clinical experiences require real patients, there will always be a degree of uncertainty involved.

Some of your classmates have more permanent units in their practice. Others 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 you really control. There are times when it seems impossible, that graduation day will never come, but I promise everyone will make it one way or another.

Next one: How to build your reputation as a new dentist

photo by Daniel Frank

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