Recommendations for Finding and Building a Mentor Relationship

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Sat, Jun 03, 2017 @ 02:00 PM

mentor-mentee.jpgDental students, including some Student Ambassadors for THE NEXTDDS, often describe the importance of finding and a building a relationship with a mentor. For many students seeking this guidance in their early school career, this is easier said than done. Whether it’s a faculty member, a more experienced student, or even shadowing a practicing dentist, how does one create and breed an organic mentor-mentee relationship? If you’ve expressed interest in starting one of these relationships, learn how to begin the process of finding a relevant coach and advisor.

Courtesy of Dr. Cody Mugleston, a recent THE NEXTDDS virtual training event entitled “3 Proven Ways to Find Mentors & Build Leadership Skills” discusses topics such as the importance of mentorship, how to develop leadership skills, building relationships, and pursuing clinical excellence. In his presentation, Dr. Mugleston outlines several recommendations to finding and building a mentor relationship.

How to Begin the Mentor Process

Beginning the mentor relationship is an organic process. Engage with the potential mentor dentist on treatment philosophies and to discover what he or she is most passionate about. What makes your mentor tick? What does he or she strive to do with dentistry? What’s life like outside of work; how is he or she as a person? Make sure to approach him or her first, don’t wait for a mentor to come to you. You can’t just show signs of being coachable, you have to be the catalyst of the relationship.

While you don’t have to come right out and say that you are seeking a mentor, you can instead work your way into their graces, slowly building up that relationship to a point where you are comfortable enough to begin asking those crucial training questions. You can ask questions in order to get help and questions that dig into the personality of your mentor, learning of his or her pathway into dentistry. Some examples:

To solicit help from the mentor:

  • What would you do if you were me in this situation?
  • What should I look to improve on? What do you see as my strengths?
  • What new skills should I learn?
  • How can I communicate more clearly?
  • Who should I go to when following up or to help move my career forward?

To learn more about the mentor:

  • What is an important leadership lesson you learned?
  • How do you embrace failure/setbacks?
  • How do you approach risk-taking?
  • How do you spend your time both inside and outside of the office?
  • How do you best plan for the future?

Once the relationship has been established, start having conversations that will engage the mentor in your development as professional. Ask your mentor to watch you work, and offer you feedback and constructive criticism. Maybe offer a meeting time outside of work to let you pick his or her brain on certain topics? Build your way into the relationship by trusting one another, establishing an open communication, and being assertive in your goals as a mentee with a similar mindset. Be “all in” on the relationship, don’t shut down recommendations from the mentor just because you are not comfortable or have done the approach before. Be a sponge and soak up as much as you can from your mentor, constantly learning to become a better dentist.


In order to grow as a dentist, dental students should seek the advice and guidance of their peers and more experienced professionals. Not only will it be a good safety net for diagnosis and treatment planning or how to best approach certain aspects of running a practice, but it can also be a rewarding exercise in networking and being able to get ahead on your professional career. Start looking for mentors now and you’ll be better prepared to handle the pressures ahead.

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Tags: mentor, mentorship, questions to ask, mentoring

Important Questions to Ask When Considering Practice Opportunities

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 @ 10:45 AM

dentist-and-practitioners.jpgHave you been searching for your associateship? There might seem like several options, and so many things to consider before landing your first position on your way to becoming a practice owner. Before you take that dive into interviews and do your necessary preparations, it’s important to reevaluate what you’re hoping to get out of the experience, and vet the practice to make sure your philosophies and ideals match up with the game plan or mission statement of the owner dentist.

Without asking yourself some important intrapersonal questions, you might wind up feeling like you’re in the wrong practice, and wish you took the time to get a sense of your future. The interview process is set up both as a way for the employer dentist to get a better idea of who you are, but also for you to find out more about the practice, so ask questions! They will help you get a better idea of what the practice owner has in mind for you when you begin, and how he or she is looking to grow with your talents and philosophies.

Courtesy of Dr. Jere Gillan’s recent presentation on the subject, here are some of the most valuable questions to ask for yourself and during the interview when considering becoming a part of a practice:

How many patients does the practice see? Are they new or recurring? What type of patient am I seeing?

The success of a dental practice depends on its recurring patients, as well as its ability to attract new ones. Fewer patients result in diminished production, which translates into less collections and compensation. Practices that are focused on oral hygiene might see hundreds of patients in any given week with three to four dental hygienists on-hand. Keeping a full schedule means marketing the practice to ensure new patients, whether that’s your responsibility (i.e., in a private practice) or the role of the DSO (i.e., in a DSO-supported practice). If you prefer to focus on patient care and allow others to manage the marketing activities, then the DSO practice may be more appropriate for you.

The type of patient you’re seeing has several implications. If you’re not comfortable caring for adolescent patients, a pediatric practice is not your move. If you lack experience or skills in removable prosthodontics, that has a bearing on a practice with an older patient base (which can be very financially rewarding, too). A fee-for-service practice will have a different compensation model from a Medicaid practice, and knowing your projected patient base provides telling information not only about the procedures you’ll provide daily but also your collections and production. Therefore, it is important for future dentists to understand how many of these different patients they’ll be seeing in any given workday.

What does the typical schedule look like for me?

Are you seeing one patient every hour? Three hygiene checks? One or two new patients each day? Getting a good idea of what your day-to-day workload will look like can give you an idea of how much production you’ll be generating in any given day, and how you’ll be compensated as a result. Whether in a private practice, large group practice, or federal dentistry setting, get a grasp on what the daily work life is like.

What types of procedures or care is the practice providing?

You probably won’t be tasked with full-mouth reconstructions as an associate, but maybe you’ll find yourself responsible for single-unit crowns and Class I and II fillings. It’s a start! Being exposed to these procedures (while also building your knowledge through continuing education [CE] courses) can help you develop the necessary experience, improving your skills and confidence as you approach leadership roles within the practice.

What is the opportunity for professional growth or practice ownership?

Your development as a professional is important, and the training and mentorship you receive as an associate dentist are directly related. It's the way you gain exposure to and familiarity with diagnoses, treatment planning, and procedures in which you are not fully versed during your dental school training. Understanding if the practice supports the dentists and staff in these opportunities (including CE) is key, so be sure to ask during the interview process.

Additionally, many dental students dream of one day owning their own practices, so see if this opportunity will present itself. Practice ownership can be achieved through either a traditional private practice model or a dental support organization practice model, and it is healthy to understand if this is an option as you first discuss the associateship role. Both DSO and private practices offer the potential for professional growth, but ownership needs to be negotiated and talked about extensively at certain times before the eventual shift, and both pathways don’t always lead down this road. This is why it’s important to get a sense of the vision the owner dentist has in store for the practice to see where you fit. If ownership is the end goal for you, figure out if it’s available to you.

The best thing you can do for yourself prior to graduating dental school is figuring out what career path is right for you. If you are searching for your first associateship, understand what any given practice is all about and see where you fit within it. Your dental school education will help you establish yourself and your abilities, creating your practice philosophy and your strengths on the way to becoming an established dentist.
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Tags: Interview, questions to ask, practice opportunities

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