THE NEXTDDS Blog

University of Utah Graduate Alex Piedra Discusses His Dental School Experience & Post-Graduation Plans

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 @ 09:07 AM

24058800_1378101282300794_8764131376291630063_nAt this time of the year, dental school graduates are prepping themselves for the professional dental world. One of those students is Alex Piedra, who recently completed his 4th year at the University of Utah School of Dentistry. In this interview with THE NEXTDDS, he discusses his dental school experience, his post graduation plans, and what he plans to contribute to the profession.

THE NEXTDDS: What does the field of dentistry mean to you?

AP: Dentistry is a field where you can really change a life in many ways. One way is helping a patient smile. Also, proper dentistry is a way to fight one of the biggest infections that we have in the mouth, which is dental caries. It’s incredibly important for dentists to combat that infection.

THE NEXTDDS: Explain the difference between “fixing” and “prevention.”

AP: Prevention is key. Upon graduating from dental school, I will be going to a pediatric dental residency. As a pediatric dentist, I want to help kids have a positive dental experience and show them the proper ways to brush their teeth and take care of their mouth so they do not develop caries later in life.

THE NEXTDDS: What did you enjoy the most about dental school?

AP: I simply loved working toward a profession that has the ability to change the lives of others. I also greatly enjoyed developing relationships with my fellow students, as well as with patients and faculty. I realized the world is smaller than we think and that we can really make a change in our patient’s lives.

THE NEXTDDS: Very understandable! What role did social media or educational sites play in your dental education?

AP: I feel that a lot of us were able to visit certain social media platforms to watch procedures, just to see how they were exactly executed. I’ve read online articles and listened to audiobooks to find out about the business aspect of dentistry. The digital aspect of dentistry has helped students in several ways.

THE NEXTDDS: Absolutely! How do you see yourself improving the patient experience?

AP: I would focus on creating an amazing environment for them. If I were to own a private practice, I would make sure my hygienists, assistants, and front desk manager are all motivated to create an environment that’s inviting and friendly. I want my patients to look forward to follow-up visits. I want to make it a special experience for every patient who walks in to my office.

THE NEXTDDS: Great idea! During your tenure as a student, did you take advantage of dental outreach opportunities? 

AP: Of course! I grew up in an environment in Washington where we had a core community and I remember not seeing a dentist or doctor as a child growing up. Our community helped me and my family a great deal during this time. Dental outreach became very important to me and I feel inclined to give back to the community through education or clinical work to those who cannot afford treatment. I plan to continue giving back once I complete my residency.

THE NEXTDDS: That’s very honorable of you. What key challenges did you face as a dental student?

AP: During my first and second years of school, I felt there was a lot of material to learn in a short amount of time, which was very overwhelming. Managing my time adequately and balancing my personal and school life was very challenging. I was in school from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and would study from 6:00 PM until midnight, then wake up at 4:00 AM. It took a while for me to acclimate myself to that routine.

THE NEXTDDS: That’s definitely a challenge! What is your philosophy on how oral health relates to overall health?

AP: Oral health is the gateway to understanding your body’s overall health. There are a lot of research studies that link xerostomia, dental caries, and even cancer to poor oral health. Activity in the mouth in terms of poor oral health may be an early precursor or indicator of what is going on in the rest of the body.

THE NEXTDDS: What are your post-graduation plans?

AP: I plan to do a pediatric dental residency for 2 years. I hope to see a lot of children and give them the proper treatment they need, because they are our future. I’ll be speaking with them and figuring out how I may best serve them and give them the best oral health experience. I want to create an environment in which the kids look forward to returning for appointments and hopefully, they share their experience with others. Watching kids return one by one, over the years until they become adults with no cavities would be awesome!

THE NEXTDDS: It surely would be! What do you think you will contribute to the dentistry profession?

AP: I want to change the way we think about dentistry. Sometimes, I feel that we only focus on the teeth and oral cavity, but we need to remember that there is a person attached to those teeth. My goal is to constantly create a good experience for my patients. Also, I want other dentists to understand that every person in that chair has a life, goals, and aspirations as well, so we need to uplift them. I want every one of my patients, adult or child, to feel inspired when they leave that dental chair. We need to create that positive environment for them so they walk out with a smile.

THE NEXTDDS: What a great way to end this interview! Alex, thank you taking the time to speak with us and a special CONGRATULATIONS from all of us at THE NEXTDDS for completing dental school! We wish you much success in your future endeavors!

 

Tags: new dentists, disease prevention, oral health, patient trust, children's health, pediatric patients, dentistry, children, outreach, graduate, dental caries

Associateships: What Important Traits Should You Look to Improve?

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Aug 23, 2017 @ 11:00 AM

dentist-and-practitioners.jpgAre you still looking for an associateship, searching to align your practice philosophy with an employer dentist who fits your approach perfectly? Or have you instead finally been able to lock in that associateship position and are awaiting your starting date? Wherever you land on the spectrum, there are many ways in which you can improve your personal skills to be a better associate once you join the dental practice.

If you’re apprehensive about this first phase of your career in dentistry, don’t fret! Courtesy of Dr. Bianca Velayo, this recent THE NEXTDDS live training event entitled “7 Simple Strategies for Successful Associateship” highlights several ways that a new associate or future associate can improve their preparedness.

Communicate Effectively

Take a look at your interpersonal skills. Communication is a huge part of any job, and becoming an associate or eventual practice owner means even more connections between your staff and the patients you’re treating. When staff members look to you for leadership, and patients begin to put their trust in you, how are you choosing to best deliver your message? Think about the three basics of communication: body language, tone of voice, and your choice of words. If your communication needs work, focus on each of these fundamentals to build better social skills. In addition, establishing a good rapport with your employer dentist will be key to forming a lasting mentor relationship that will constantly be guiding you to your next steps both personally and professionally.

Build Patient Rapport and Trust

Establishing effective communication skills will translate into your conversations with patients. Make eye contact, have a firm handshake, and keep the patient comfortable. It’s also of importance to listen to their concerns and complaints. Lean in and get the patient to relay as much information to you as possible in order to determine an accurate diagnosis, and further continue the necessary steps into treatment and case acceptance. On your end, make sure to educate the patient on his or her treatment options, rather than advocating one over the other. Each patient is an individual with distinct needs, concerns, and comfort levels. Once you build a patient-centric approach, delivering treatment in an ethical way will become second nature. This will lead to long-term patients, referrals, and consistent production.

dentalcareforelderlyjpg.jpgWhile it might be easy to treat patients like family members, there may be patients that are tougher to manage. It’s important to relay treatment options to them in a relatable way, and believe in your diagnosis so that patients can truly witness your expertise as a dentist. If they reject treatment, be assertive in your approach, and they’ll soon trust that you hold the keys to their health. If a patient has a broken tooth that needs a crown, and the patient instead asks you why he or she can’t opt-in for a filling instead, stand your ground. Patients who try to self-diagnosis may think they can take advantage of your youth or excitable nature to change the treatment plan. If you succumb to their wishes every time, they may lose trust in you. Be an assertive new dentist that stands behind their diagnosis.

Time Management

You might be used to the three-hour block exams and treatment plans in dental school, but those days will soon be over. Patients typically don’t have that kind of time, so you should respect the time they take to come in for an appointment. As an associate, building speed and compliance comes with practice, practice, and more practice! Ask for help when you need it, be open to feedback, and try to become more focused with less breaks to help build this new skillset. Instead of relying on your smartphone, wear a watch to be aware and keep track of your time, and set reasonable goals to try to slowly trim the time it’ll take you to perform a clinical task.

 

An associateship comes with a substantial amount of responsibility, and a learning curve to overcome. Whether it’s becoming familiar with your duties, working alongside your team members, or coming face-to-face with patients that are in need of treatment right away, there’s a lot of different circumstances coming your way. If you make a solid effort to improve upon your personal tools, you’ll have an easier transition as you begin coming into contact with your peers and patients every day. Good luck and success in your associateship!

Watch the "7 Simple Strategies" Webinar

Tags: associateship, personality traits, leadership traits, patient rapport, patient trust, communicating with patients, patient communication, communication

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