General Dentist

10 Essential Skills for Dentists at CDP

General Dentist

10 Essential Skills for Dentists at CDP

Dentist working on patient with young child observing.

Here at Community Dental Partners, we are looking to build teams of energetic clinicians with positive attitudes and great technical skills. Most importantly, we are looking for doctors who understand what it takes to be true leaders, both in their immediate practice and in the industry at large. Check out these 10 essential skills for CDP dentists to see if we are a good fit. 

Must-Have Technical Skills for CDP Dentists

There are some must-have skills every dentist needs. Hard skills or technical skills are the things you need to fulfill your role as a dentist. They are what let you function in the day-to-day aspects of practicing. But being a great practitioner means more than just being able to fill a cavity. These are four technical skills we especially value for CDP dentists.

Manual Dexterity

It may seem like this goes without saying, but dentistry depends on dexterity. When you’re working in tight spaces and half a millimeter can mean the difference between a successful filling and root canal therapy, fine motor skills mean everything. Work on your dexterity and keep your fingers nimble. Strengthening with squeeze balls and finger lifts can help with muscular development, but don’t let your hands get stiff! Stretch your wrists and fingers daily and consider warming up before you start work for the day. Some dentists even take up high-precision hobbies like video games, golf, and knitting. 


Dentistry means thinking on your feet and pivoting on a dime when things go wrong. As much as we want everything to go perfectly at all times, reality rarely delivers a completely problem-free day. Every procedure will be different, and a “textbook” doesn’t really exist in practice. That’s why problem-solving is an essential skill for dentists at CDP. Problem-solving hinges largely on mental flexibility, accurate assessment of the challenge, and adaptability when designing your solution. Brain games are a great way to stay sharp. Think about puzzles, word games, and games that require the manipulation of shapes.

Great Communication

Dentist greeting small children at the front desk of a practice.

To keep your days running as smoothly as possible, your team needs to be on the same page, and your patients need to feel informed and involved in the decision-making process. That’s why communication is a priceless skill for great dentists. Remember that good communication is a two-way street. You’ll need to be able to express yourself effectively, but also receive communication gracefully. Your team needs to feel comfortable approaching you with problems, and know they’ll be heard. Likewise, your patients need to trust that you have their back, even when they’re dissatisfied with how a crown feels or how a filling looks. Great communication skills will not only benefit your professional life, but they can also enhance relationships across all aspects of your life!

Time Management

We’ve touched on it before: learning time management is one of the most difficult tasks for new dental professionals. Part of this will come from learning how long each step of a procedure takes so that you can pace yourself throughout an appointment. You’ll also need to learn when you can step out of the operatory for a moment to take care of other items on your checklist. Great time management will help you maximize your productivity and decrease stress. Try to take note of how much time you spend talking to your patient when they sit down for a procedure. How long does it take you to administer an anesthetic? What about your average for a cavity prep? Over time, you’ll get a pretty good sense of when you need to speed up a bit, and when you can take your time. Even then, there will be days you’ll need those problem-solving skills to recover when you just can’t stay on time. It’s okay, though, since your CDP team will be there to have your back!

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Soft Skills for Success at CDP

Beyond the technical skills to do the job, there are a few personal traits that will make a real difference for your patients and for your quality of life.

Confidence Without Arrogance 

Your patients need to trust you. They need to not just believe you know what you’re doing, but also believe deeply that you are the right person for the job. That means conveying a sense of calm confidence. Even when you feel anxious about treating a certain patient (and there will be cases that keep you up at night even after decades of experience), you’ll still need to show confidence. Just don’t overdo it! Coming off as arrogant does little to help your cause, and it can put patients off and compromise trust. Remember that you know what you’re doing, but you always have more to learn. Trust in your skills, but always work with compassion. 


A healthy sense of humility will help you achieve that perfect balance of confidence without arrogance. It will also help you remember who your real boss is: your patient! Humility is defined as “a modest view of one’s own importance.” Sure, you worked hard for many years to earn your position as a dentist. But any experienced dentist worth their salt will tell you they’d be lost without their assistant! Remember that every member of your team is just as important as you, and your patient is most important of all. Humility is a great way to improve relationships and increase trust.

Female dentist comforting a young female patient in the dental chair.


Compassion goes hand in glove with humility. Just as humility means not overestimating your importance, compassion means not underestimating or dismissing the concerns or suffering of others. When your patients trust that you understand their concerns and believe them when they describe their suffering, they will trust you to care for them. True compassion means that you can put yourself in their shoes and work accordingly. This means the world to high anxiety and fearful patients. Compassionate listening is also a cornerstone of good communication. 

True Leadership

Have you ever worked for a boss or learned from a professor who wanted to be in charge but didn’t know how to truly lead? It can be frustrating and awkward to deal with a person in a position of power who just throws their weight around thoughtlessly. As a dentist, you will be in a leadership role, even if you’re not the practice owner. True leadership means taking those communication skills, humility, and compassion, and helping each member of your teamwork their best. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and jump in to help when needed, even if it seems like tightening that screw isn’t really your job. Lead by example instead of just giving instructions.

Focus and Energy

Dentistry can be hard. It can take a toll on your body, and many dentists suffer from neck and back pain, headaches, and stiffness in their wrists and fingers. It can also be mentally taxing, making it difficult to maintain focus. Career longevity in dentistry demands amazing focus and high energy. We don’t see these things as inherent traits you’re either born with or not. You can always strengthen your focus and boost your energy! The key to both is in establishing balance in your life, which is why our 9 Pillars of Culture include Happiness & Fun, and Health & Balance. Without balance, work becomes a drag. An exhausted, miserable doctor cannot provide the highest level of care for their patients, so take time to invest in the rest of your life!

Love of Learning

Two dentist looking at a CEREC Primemill.

Being a great dentist means a lifetime of learning. Not only will you need to complete continuing education courses to maintain your license in good standing, but you’ll also need to adapt to new techniques and technologies as they develop. While you’ll be at the cutting edge of the field when you graduate, methods will continue to change, sometimes faster than you can believe. Love of learning will give you the chance to keep up while also keeping you excited and energized for your work. Nothing fights burnout like the novelty of a new way to do things!

More than anything, we hope your career as a dentist will be fulfilling for you. If you can hone these ten essential dental skills, we believe you will have a great career, whether with us or another practice. Regardless of where you land, honing these skills will always benefit your patients, and at the end of the day, that is the most important thing. Schedule a call with a Recruiting Manager to learn more about beginning your career as a dentist with CDP!

Dr. Craig Copeland
Dr. Craig Copeland Chief Dental Officer Community Dental Partners

A graduate of Brigham Young University’s Business Finance department and the University of Florida’s College of Dentistry, Dr. Craig Copeland, DMD first joined Community Dental Partners in 2010 after Co-Founder, Dr. Chad Evans invited him to an interview.

He instantly fell in love with CDP’s mission to elevate dentistry, make excellent dental care accessible, and provide unique and unforgettable experiences for underserved communities. The organization’s culture aligned with his beliefs, and he knew that CDP would offer him the ideal environment to grow.

Today, Dr. Copeland is the Chief Dental Officer of CDP and focuses on helping CDP’s doctors exceed in their careers through mentorship, training, and strengthening CDP’s support systems.

Dr. Copeland lives in Texas with his family, his wife and four children. He’s an avid sports fan; supporting his children in activities such as basketball, gymnastics, and soccer keeps him busy. He also likes to travel to new places with his family whenever possible.

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You take care of the smiles. We take care of you.

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