Words From Your Peers

Predent Perspective: Start Thinking Now About Shadowing in Dentistry

Posted by Omer Siddiqui on August 26, 2020

Shadowing a dentist is perhaps the single most important and defining step to take when considering a career in dentistry. There is no experience that is more beneficial than personally seeing and, in some cases, even participating in the day-to-day work of a dental practitioner to help inform your decision regarding whether dentistry is the right career path for you. This is why I recommend to any student interested in dentistry to first secure a shadowing opportunity to gain exposure to the field before spending so much time, effort and money only to realize that dentistry isn’t right for them.

Some predental students are fortunate enough to know someone close to them or even have family members in the dental profession. For students like me, however, who have entered this profession with no contacts or mentors, it can be intimidating and challenging to get your foot in the door and start racking up shadowing experience.

So, what then is an effective way of approaching a dentist to shadow them and where do I even start?” you might ask.

My advice would be to reach out to your primary dentist, first and foremost. Your personal dentist already has a face-to-face relationship established with you and, in my experience, they might give preference to one of their patients over a predental student they are not familiar with. However, some dentists may not be comfortable with students shadowing or may simply not be allowed to let them shadow due to company policies. In that case, contacting other local dentists is the next best option. You can even target your search and look for dentists in your area who graduated from programs you are interested in through resources such as LinkedIn. In doing so and expressing interest in these dentists’ alma maters, you also create a great entry point into the conversation.

Sending an email or calling an office to try to gain a shadowing opportunity may sometimes work, but I have found that it is more effective to visit in person, especially with dentists that you don’t know. Better yet, sending an email or calling the office to set up a quick five- to 10-minute meeting with the dentist in between appointments or whenever their schedule is clear is even more professional. I personally like to dress nicely and bring a copy of my resume just to leave a positive impression and to give the dentist more information on your background.

Some things you might want to talk about when meeting with a dentist to discuss shadowing include dress code (professional vs. scrubs), how many hours per day/days per week they are comfortable letting you in the office, and their own personal experience and journey to becoming a dentist. There is so much diversity in this profession and each person has their own story. Networking, gaining insights and learning new perspectives from different people are essential to forming your own personal experience. With that being said, my final advice to my fellow predental students is to shadow multiple dentists in multiple specialties within dentistry, if possible. Broaden your horizons by exposing yourself to different disciplines and network with as many dentists as possible.

During this unprecedented year, in-person shadowing has obviously become less of an option for us predental students, especially in certain areas of the country. Fortunately, based on my conversations with multiple admissions offices, colleges seem to understand that there will be little to no shadowing being done during the COVID-19 pandemic. At some point though, when dental offices do reopen fully, it will be our responsibility to make up for lost time.

Best of luck to you all and I hope you all are staying safe!

About Omer Siddiqui :

Omer Siddiqui_headshot

Omer Siddiqui

Predental Student

University of California, Riverside, Class of 2019

Omer Siddiqui completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), in the summer of 2019. He was the founder and president of UCR's student chapter of Doctors Without Borders, and he is actively involved in many local nonprofit organizations, free/low-cost dental clinics, homeless shelters and food pantries in his hometown community in Southern California. He plans to apply to schools during the upcoming cycle for Fall 2021.