Still the new dentist – usdentistsdirectory

In general dentistry I have learned something about myself and this profession every year. As I prepare to join a year-long special care residency program in June, I look back on everything I’ve learned over the past four years as a general dentist.

Photo of dr.  Deshpande

dr. Deshpande

First year of dentistry taught me about treatment planning…that I could no longer schedule patients in the practice like I did in school. We learn how to manage patients’ condition on a comprehensive level in school, systematically moving them from the hygiene ward to the recovery ward and finally to the pro ward.

I found that many patients in private practice are not looking for that kind of care, some are just looking for immediate pain relief. I still remember an elderly patient who came to see me to replace a broken #8. The tooth was broken to the gumline and the quick fix would have been an extraction and bridge #7-9. She could have walked away in two hours with a temporary bridge and come back in two weeks for a permanent one. However, that was only a month into my first collaboration. When I saw the rest of her mouth, I saw a complete state of neglect. I saw the need for coarse debridement and scaling/rootplaning. I saw several other chipped teeth. I put on my student dental hat and the treatment was extensively planned. I decided to educate my patient and her daughter, who accompanied the patient to the appointment. I sent them home with a five-figure treatment plan.

I met my owner doctor in a few days and realized my mistake. In my excitement and innocence, I had not seen my patients’ steady monthly income and her limited ability to pay for the procedures I described. I never saw that patient again because, in the words of my owner, the doctor said, “She probably walked across the street and found another dentist to attend to her immediate need.”

I want to emphasize here that the way I planned the treatment for her was not wrong. I focus on the exact phasing of it. We could have fixed her front tooth first and taught her the importance of hygiene. She could have used a payment plan or used health care credit to pay for the upkeep and maintenance. She would have had the remaining root stumps removed when she was mentally and financially ready.

My second year of general dentistry taught me about speed. I was in a large practice where all the employees seemed to play against each other during production. We would get a daily ranking of who was the highest. It sounds like the hunger games and in a way it was. I realized in this collaboration that the more patients I see, the more I would earn, but also the more I would get burned out and disillusioned with my job. I should also mention here that most days this collaboration got me home upset. It was the reason for many fights between my husband and me. He was so happy when I finally decided to quit that job!

I spent exactly one year in that collaboration. I gave my notice on March 1, 2020, not knowing that due to the pandemic I would be unemployed for two months. I used those two months to relax, unwind, and find another collaboration that was on the opposite spectrum from a production-heavy atmosphere. I realized I didn’t need to see 30 patients a day to bring home a decent income. I could work in a practice that is paid or has fewer insurance plans so I could see fewer patients and not be as tired or burned out.

My third year of dentistry taught me my clinical limits. I saw an implant fail, a file break while doing a root canal and my team members, many of them in dentistry for longer than I was alive, lose faith in me because of those clinical failures. Because of this, I started to lose faith in my own abilities.

I started comparing myself to more experienced dentists and wondered if I would ever become like them, and why I wasn’t as good as them. Luckily I had an owner doctor who believed in me more than in myself. She took the time to teach me good anesthesia technique, which I use to this day. She allowed me to come to work on my days off and practice root canal treatments on extracted teeth. She taught me to make implant crowns with CEREC. Most importantly, she told me, “You’re just like me when I just got out of school. Don’t give up, keep practicing, you will be a great dentist.” With some encouragement, I started writing more and sharing my experiences with my friends and colleagues. This made me feel less lonely in this profession.

This past year in dentistry has been my favorite so far. It taught me my emotional limits. I’ve learned not to let what happens in the office get stuck in my head. This important rule arose when I had a particularly challenging experience with a patient who was very concerned about treatment. I let her fear get into my own head and mess with my confidence. The experience almost took me away from dentistry and I began to wonder why I should still be in clinical practice. Couldn’t I own a practice and hire an associate to do clinical dentistry instead? Fortunately, mentors from my mastermind, the Creative Collective, came to my rescue.

The Creative Collective is a group of female practitioners, including dentists, chiropractors, doctors and others, who meet monthly to share struggles and victories, and provide opportunities to lean on each other for support. It is a diverse community of professionals interested in advancing their leadership and career growth. After sharing my experience with colleagues, senior dentists chimed in and shared strategies on how to protect your inner peace and mental health in this profession.

One of my role models, Dr. Laura Mach, described how to create an imaginary bubble around your own energy in your mind and how to harness the energy of the universe to help a person who is suffering before your very eyes. “It’s about protecting our own energy so we can take good care of the person taking care of us,” says Laura, who learned this from her aunt, a Reiki practitioner. I’ve since started implementing this and it’s been a game changer.

I hope this post helps anyone going through their early years of working together and encountering what I now know, “beginner’s pains” or the “dark days of dentistry” as a close friend, had Dr. Joe Vaughn quoted in an earlier very popular post on this forum. What makes dentistry unique is that no day is the same and every experience teaches you modesty

If you would like to learn more about the Creative Collective, please contact Dr. Shivani Kamodia Barto at, the organizer and facilitator.

dr. Sampada Deshpande, author of Persevering- A Complete Guide to Applications, Schools and Work Opportunities for Foreign-Educated Dentists in the United States, is based in San Francisco. Sampada, a foreign-trained dentist from Dubai, obtained a DDS from the University of Washington in 2018, where she also completed a LEND scholarship in 2021. She received the ADA 10 under 10 Award, AGD 10 to Watch honor and Howard Memorial Award. Outside of clinical dentistry, she enjoys hosting the New Dentist Business Club, cycling the city’s rolling hills and advocating innovation in technology through her work at Samsotech. You can reach her for speaking engagements by visiting her website

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.