Tips From Current D.D.S. and Dental Hygiene Students

Five tips for the best dental shadowing experience

Posted by Yesle Kim on July 01, 2014

Most dental schools require some hours shadowing a dentist. Even if it’s not required, shadowing is usually recommended as part of the dental school application process. Shadowing a dentist can give you, the budding dentist, a great preview of what you hope to do. Lindsey talked about how to go about finding a dentist to shadow in Part I of her series.

Here are some tips I’ve picked up from my shadowing experience, in addition to the ones Lindsey talks about in Part II of her series.

1. Set a Clear Schedule

Communicate with your dentist about when you will be at his office for shadowing. This way he will know when to expect you (and think you’re punctual when you show up at one o’clock on the dot!).

2. Dress Professionally and Comfortably

Ask your dentist what you should wear if you are unsure of the dress code. I dressed business casual in dressy tops with pants. Besides feeling wonderfully official, you will actually look the part of a future dentist. I think patients will be more likely to agree to you observing their procedures if you are dressed appropriately.

A side note for women: don’t wear heels! You will probably be standing for hours, and they will not be comfortable.

3. Make Friends with Hygienists, Assistants and Office Staff

You will most likely be looking over the assistants’ shoulders, so get to know them by name. Office staff can also hint when patients will be returning for follow-ups if you are interested in seeing a certain procedure to completion. When your dentist is focusing intensely on a procedure, it will be the dental assistants who can explain why he is using a certain instrument or agent.

4. Ask Your Dentist Some Personal Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist questions! After all, they agreed to let you shadow, so questions are expected. I usually spoke to my dentist at the end of his lunch hour, so we talked about new dental technologies (dental journals and CE classes), his hobbies (golf and good food) and his favorite classes in dental school (management seminars).

Lindsey talked about asking yourself what you hoped to gain from the experience before going in to shadow. I asked the dentist I was shadowing a few questions that were relevant to my situation: does he enjoy his career? Does he regret choosing dentistry over business? Dr. R was generous enough to share his honest thoughts with me. All of this was insightful information for someone like me beginning to embark on this career.

5. Take Notes.

All of this brings me to my last point (I totally agree with Lindsey here!): take notes! A quick note about the office staff: on the first day, jot down names and quick descriptions of the hygienists and assistants in your notebook!

This notebook also becomes a great written diary of your experience for later. You’ll read these later and laugh at how you spelled “incisor”—okay, that might just be me. As you fill in the gaps in your dental knowledge, you’ll remember how amazing and incredible everything seemed when you were a predental student in your dentist’s office.

Good Luck!

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About Yesle Kim:

Yesle Kim Yesle is currently in her second year of dental school at University of Pennsylvania. She writes about her dental school experience on her blog, D is for Dentist. She ran her first half-marathon this April, which she signed up for the night before a biochemistry final. Yesle is spending her summer in Korea eating tons of caries-friendly foods.