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My experience shadowing a Dentist.

Discussion in 'Pre-Dental' started by supraman, 12.23.05.


  1. Thanks to Crack the DAT
  1. supraman

    supraman Boston Celtics

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    I have been observing/shadowing a dentist for quite some time now and the experience you have can truly make or break your aspirations for a future career in the dental field. To begin, I'd like to say that a good office setup is very vital for returning customers due to the feeling of comfort they may need to acquire once they are there. The office I went to was very well set up, instead of rooms, it had sections along the wall, with a small diagonal wall at the entrance of these sections. I thought this design was very nicely thought of because it is easy to go from one section (room) to another. Next, I was very pleased at the level of kindness of the staff. All of them, the dentists, assistants, hygienists were great to the patients and knew them very well (probably the most important thing in the view point of the patient). Now, on to the actual work of the dentist. My father is a Dental Technician and therefore, I know already at a sophomore in college a lot about dentistry. My dentist was very good with the patients, talking to them about 5 minutes about life before going into procedures. My dentist took impressions, did an implant case, crown fitments, resolved tooth aches, denture adjustments and more all in about 2 hours. What can make or break your career working as a professional dentist may relay on two things in my opinion. The first is knowing your patients and knowing HOW to talk to them. The second is actually performing without hesitation. I spoke with a lot of the patients and they were very pleased with the doctor because of her attitude toward her patients. It is important for anyone who wants to be a dentist to actually go and shadow one for quite some time. This has probably been the 10th time I have been at a dental office but never realized that for someone who doesn't have a family member in the dental field may or may not like the responsibility a dentist has. Thanks for reading guys and good luck to you in all your respective future endeavours.
  2. sheikha9

    sheikha9 Member

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    Did you get to talk to the dentist you shadowed a lot and ask him/her questions and stuff? Was that helpful, or was simply watching the most helpful?

    The dentist I shadow is deaf so its hard to ask him questions, but he's great and I'm getting great exposure to the field!

    Also, is it just me, or are all the dental tools names and the procedure names kinda hard to pick up..haha...i get confused allllll the time..lol!
  3. TheBigO

    TheBigO Junior Member

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    Take this for what it's worth.

    Personally, shadowing a dentist was extremely boring for me and somewhat discouraging. I went away wondering if dentistry was a little too slow paced of a profession for me. However, I currently have a job as a dental assistant which, obviously, has been a completely different experience for me, and it has given me a realistic sense of what dentistry is all about. I have seen first hand and participated in: the morning meetings with all the staff present going over every case for the day, to the importance of office communication, to patient contact, to dealing with a new associate doctor joining the practice, to dealing with insurance and accountants, to actual office set up, to how essential it is to have a seamless, I repeat SEAMLESS procedure for EVERYTHING done (It will keep your patients loyal and coming back).

    Long story short: Shadowing is ok and in my opinion, essential for the AADSAS application, so do a little bit of it. But if you want to know what it will be like to be a dentist, working as an assistant will be the closest and best experience there is. period. Shadowing you will graze the surface of the field, whereas being as assistant you will be “behind the scenes” on a long term basis. It has been an extremely valuable experience and I will take with me a lot and apply it to my own practice in the future.

    some things I have learned:
    1. the dental assistants (or hygienists if no DAs present) must be able to deal with patients and be friendly and warm and all that other bull**** because they ABSOLUTELY spend the MOST time with the patient. if you have a ****ty DA or hygienist, you will have a ****ty dental practice.
    2. routine meetings to keep lines of communication open among ALL office staff are necessary. Do it over the noon hour, buy the staff lunch, and go over what they need to know and do--but do not forget about their feelings and how they are liking their job and what works and doesn't work for them. Everyone's input is key.
    3. running a dental practice is essentially running a small business. get a good office manager, bring in a dental practice expert, you must have an extremely good accountant and someone knowledgeable about insurance. And make sure your referring dentists (if you are a specialist) or your specialists you refer to (if you are G.P.) are aware of your appreciation of the good work they do with your mutual patients.

    sorry if this is obvious to some, common sense to others. it may sound like it, but it is completely different once you actually see it in action at a high volume, highly locally regarded dental practice.

    dentistry is a great field and is going to prosper greatly in the next few decades, so be excited about your choice of career. and go get yourself a job as a dental assistant before you start school. you wont regret it.
  4. sheikha9

    sheikha9 Member

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    How did u manage to get hired as a dental assistant, did you take classes or something? I tried but everyone was looking for someone who has experience?
  5. supraman

    supraman Boston Celtics

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    Thanks for the response ThebigO and yes at times it felt boring but I tried to hide it by asking a lot of questions such as, "So what is going on here?" "So what tooth number is that?" "Why do you do this, etc" and yes I agree that it gives you just a small overview of dentistry where as in the point of view of the DA, you are hands on and in a live persons mouth, a lot different from observing. Since like I said before, my dad is a dental tech, I make a lot of teeth and know the feeling, thats why I posted its vital to get to shadowing or more because my dentist told me she know 4 people that once they got into D school, they dropped it.
  6. TheBigO

    TheBigO Junior Member

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    I was hired after shadowing with the dentist. Before I left for the day, asked if I would be interested in working at his office. I said yes. I started the next week.

    Who hooked me up with the shadow? Let's just say the old cliche "it's not what you know, it's who you know" is right on.

    Connections got me the job. I realize my experience is an exception and I probably would not have a job as a dental assistant if I just randomly started looking for DA jobs, it pretty much just fell in to my lap.

    best advice I can give you without sounding too much like your dad or a fraternity recruitment speech: start networking, cause that is what's going to get you where you want to be in life.
  7. howui3

    howui3 1K Member

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    Being a dental assistant in California is a little harder since starting next year, Arnold the Governator passed a law that only those that pass the exam and become RDA (registered dental assistant) can assist the dentist.

    But sometimes you can ask the dentist of ways you can help. I have been shadowing for a few months (a few days a week) and I help with setting the room up and cleaning it up afterwards, this way I am slowly learning the names of the instruments and the drill bits. Also, I help pour the teeth models in the lab.

    Although shadowing can be a bit boring, expecially if it's the lower back tooth and you can't see anything, but make sure not to yawn (not very professional) and ask questions about the procedure, etc. afterwards. If you seem interested, you will get a better letter of req. and the time will go by faster. Just standing there for hours might be very boring.
  8. TheBigO

    TheBigO Junior Member

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    wear a mask and yawn all you want
  9. speedy3816

    speedy3816 reality pwns

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    LOL!!! :sleep: :thumbup:
  10. 92CamaroLS1

    92CamaroLS1

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    I agree with TheBigO. I shadowed at my uncles practice for a high school career internship program, and it was kind of "boring" just in the fact that you really couldnt see much. Luckily my uncle would let me be a little more intrusive when it came to looking at things, and he would tell me what he was doing step by step more or less. I slowly started dental assisting, and it is a big difference from shadowing. You are able to see the entire procedure, and you have to know whats going on to do the job well which I think is good experience. Plus you are able to get involved and get your hands into it. Ive been DA'ing for about 2 years now and I said I wouldnt know 1/10th of the things I know now if I was just shadowing. If you have the opprotunity try to get a job DA'ing, but like TheBigO said, it is sometimes not what you now, but who you know.
  11. La Miraflorina

    La Miraflorina Dental Diva

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    I agree with just about everything you guys have said. I've been working as a DA for about 9 months now and I shadowed for 2 days before getting the job. Shadowing is very very boring and since you can't really see anything, it's hard to get into it and learn a whole lot.

    To the person who mentioned how important it is to have a well-run practice, I agree 200%. The office I work in now is very disorganized. The doctor manages to pull in A LOT of patients and therefore a lot of $$, but not all the patients are happy with the care they receive. And as a DA, with the schedule as full as it gets, I sometimes cannot spend as much time with a patient as I should and I feel I'm not giving the care I should be. In fact, I can tell it pisses the doctor off when I stop to talk to the patients a bit. She and I are just so different... I can't treat the patient like they aren't human. I know most of them are nervous and I just can't rush through the job without spending a little time to get to know them. Imagine... for example... when new patients come in I have to do all their x-rays before the doctor sees them. What she'd like me to do is just say, "have a seat", "open", "breathe through your nose", "stay still", "close" etc... WTF? I just can't do it, but I have to step back and remember it's not my practice. In other words, if I want to keep my job, I have to do what the dentist wants.

    My only concern is that since this is the only practice I will have seen before dental school, I won't know how a well-run office functions. We don't have an office manager... we don't have an accountant... the doctor herself tries to manage the practice in addition to clinical work.

    Do you guys think we'll get good experience in D school in terms of how to set up a practice?!? Does anyone know if Maryland students do externships in private practices?

    I'm thinking of trying to change jobs so I can see how another office is run... but since there is such little time between now and when school starts, I'm not sure anyone will hire me for just 6 months.

    For those of you who work in well-run offices, what are the logistics?

    Just curious...
  12. Hiba Bayoumi

    Hiba Bayoumi

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    Im currently a student n im having a couple of months to decide my future. sadly shadowing dentists is nt very common in my country n i dont have any dentist relatives to ask about the field so i hope u guys help me with ur experience. i have to say tht i get disgusted at the thought of putting my hand in to some one elses mouth:( but people say tht would change once i get used to the site. is that true?
    and is being a dentist an interesting job not just a dull job on a desk doing the same thing every day?
    Dentistry is a rising field with high salary besides med (which is my second option):D

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