What I Would Tell a New Dental School Grad

Find things in your work and your life that bring you joy!

In addition to dentistry, photography is something that brings me joy! I’m not going to recommend a new grad plan a photography trip to Iceland just yet. It took me 10 years from the time I first saw images of Iceland landscapes, for my trip to come together and it was by luck that it actually happened. This is an image of the Reynisdrangar Stacks at Dawn:


View on Smugmug


My friend Dr. Barry Polansky wrote a blog post post with the premise: “I am producing a remake of the classic Dustin Hoffman film, The Graduate. The scene at the pool where Mr. McGuire tells young Ben, “One word, plastics.” It’s a classic line.
What one piece of advice would you give young Ben as he entered into the workforce, as a dentist in 2014. By the way—dental school left him with $375,000 in debt.”

I grew up around the profession of dentistry but I didn’t know the profession. I remember thinking in dental school that when I finished, I’d goto work, find a full schedule of patients(I had no idea where they come from, but just figured they’d show up), do my work(which would be productive and varied work) and then go home without a care in the world.

I have no idea where that fantasy came from!

I can remember coming to work one day early on and the receptionist had filled my schedule with patients I’d never met, to provide treatment on teeth I’d never seen. I hated it! I soon realized that my fantasy was just that, a fantasy. I wasn’t cut out to be a dentist that just showed up, worked and went home. I found out early on that I needed and wanted to part of the treatment planning process. I wanted more than the job of a tooth mechanic.

My advice to the new Dental School Graduate

Test your own pre-conceived ideas(or Fantasies) about the profession.

  • How do you see yourself practicing dentistry?
  • Do you want to show up, do your work and go home?
  • Do you want to show up, find the work(treatment plan, present, “sell”), do your work and go home?
  • Maybe there’s another model of practice that works for you!
  • What activities outside of dentistry bring you joy?
Figure out what brings you joy and excitement and do more of that everyday. Also, once you figure out what brings you joy, don’t let anyone tell you can’t do more of that! There will always be naysayers and excuse makers. Yes, dentistry is harder today than it apparently once was, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to chart your own success path. If you think it’s impossible to chart your own path as a dentist today, imagine trying to chart your own path as a professional photographer! Anyone with a camera can be a pro!
Barry’s looking for more ideas, what would you tell a new graduate?

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  • Lolabees Aug 5, 2014 @ 8:38

    I wholeheartedly agree with that advice. Funny- I thought dentistry would be the same too. Nice post. Thanks for the reminder. I’ve been meaning to send my thoughts over to Barry. And that photo is phenomenal!

    • Doug S Aug 5, 2014 @ 9:30

      Thanks Lolabees! I’m not quite sure where those early ideas of practice come from, but we all seem to have them.