Career Advancement

Mentorship in Dentistry is Key

Career Advancement

Mentorship in Dentistry is Key

A dentist listens to her mentor explain how to use the machinery in their dental practice.

A good mentor can make the difference between a successful first year of practice and feeling like you’re floundering. That’s why Community Dental Partners makes mentorships one of the cornerstones of our mission. Through effective mentorship in dentistry, incoming doctors feel supported and less stressed. They also usually end up surprising themselves with how much they can learn in their first years of practice!

Mentorship Can Help You Avoid the First Year Crash

Whether it is your first year of practicing dentistry or the first year after a switch to a new practice, you will likely face a learning curve when adjusting to the routines and protocols of your new working environment. Especially for practitioners new to the field, this learning curve can be steep. You can be worn down when you’re feeling uncertain about your treatment planning, stressed about time management, and insecure about your technique. Many dentists find themselves questioning their career path in their first years of practice.

Effective guidance from a dedicated mentor is an easy way to avoid many of these first- year pitfalls.

A mentor is an experienced practitioner with the drive to help others improve and grow in their own practice. Mentors offer wisdom gained through experience. While your dental school instructors worked hard to educate you in all the essentials, there are some aspects of dentistry you just can’t learn in a classroom setting. That’s where your mentor comes in.

Even better, your mentor will be able to tailor their advice to specific experiences as you encounter them. Most dental clinicians have trouble learning how to juggle multiple cases and stay on schedule. And it’s not just general dentists. Hygienists and assistants also struggle with this. Time management in a dental setting can be one of the most overwhelming things to learn. The good news is, a support system is there to help you identify appropriate moments for task-switching and ways to find flow in your work day.

A dentist observes his mentor dentist as he checks a patient's teeth. Mentorship in dentistry is incredibly important to dentists that are just starting out!

What Makes a Good Mentor?

While mentors should be experienced, not all experienced dentists make good mentors. Mentorship in dentistry takes more than just knowing how to get great margins on a crown prep. CDP mentor and clinician, Dr. Donald Lanning, is a great example of what makes a truly great dental mentor. His passion for helping others grow in their career extends beyond just dentists! “I love getting to mentor and assist not just doctors but the practice staff [too],” he says.

Like we discussed in a previous blog post, communication is key to all aspects of a good dental practice. This is especially true when it comes to mentorship in dentistry.

Effective mentors must be great communicators. They should also be able to adjust their communication style to match their mentee. This can lead to a great mentorship match, meaning the partnership “clicks.” Some people need copious, specific details to feel like they truly understand the concept. Some others do better when information comes with some humor. If you can find a mentor who gels with your preferred communication style, you may find it easier to approach them with questions and be more receptive to their guidance.

A mentor is also not a babysitter. They’re not just there to hold your hand when things get tough. In fact, the best mentors are great at assessing your strengths and setting up constructive challenges to bolster your weaknesses. A mentor should ideally help you feel a little braver about doing intimidating things, which you may otherwise try to avoid. The best moments in mentorship come from the surge of accomplishment you will feel when you overcome a challenge together.

How to Find Your Best Mentorship Match

There are plenty of ways to start looking for your mentor. Here are a few places to start your search:

  • Talk to successful dentists in your area.
  • Contact your local dental society; they might offer formal mentoring programs.
  • Search the ADA website for their directory of dental societies.
  • Ask family and friends if they think you might get along well with their dentist.

When starting your search, remember that a good mentor will have your best interest at heart. Not every dentist will be open to becoming a mentor, so try not to take it personally if they say no! Even if they say yes, remember that they might not be your best match and it’s okay to keep looking.

Community Dental Partners Matches Incoming Dentists with Excellent Mentors

Cultivating excellent dentist mentors is one of the ways Community Dental Partners stands apart from other practices. Each mentee is matched with dentists who have the passion and drive to connect with incoming team members and help enhance their experience and grow their skills.

When you join the CDP team, you will be partnered with a mentor. Your dentist mentor will help acclimate you to the routines and expectations of working in our clinical setting, and help you take on challenges head-on with plenty of support. They will be there to give constructive feedback in areas where you can improve your technique and treatment modalities and deepen your faith in your skills.

Incoming CDP dentists get so much out of their relationship with their mentorship partner. Just look at what Dr. Lindsay Cua has to say about her mentorship experience:

“I have access to a lot of mentors who can help me—especially pediatric treatment planning. I have someone who can give me tips on how to plan a treatment, answer my questions, and push me to try new things. I’m getting more and more comfortable and gaining confidence in my clinical skills and working toward becoming the dentist I want to become.”

A dentist works with his mentor while on a humanitarian trip in Mexico.

How to Get the Most Out of Mentorship in Dentistry

Mentorship in dentistry is a two-way street. Just as there are more or less effective mentors, there are mentees who really get the most out of the partnership, and those who don’t.

Here are 5 tips for successful mentorship:

  1. Be Open to Feedback. A great mentee must be humble and open to the advice of their mentor. That may mean setting your ego aside and making yourself truly open to hear constructive criticism. When it comes down to it, all dentists make mistakes. Even the most experienced dentist will forget a hygiene exam sometimes! Practicing being receptive to feedback will not only help you get the most out of your mentorship, but it will also help you become a more effective team leader. Being open to feedback to your team is essential for a healthy practice!
  2. Set Clear Goals and Share Them with Your Mentor. What do you hope to get out of your relationship with your mentor? They may have other objectives in mind for you. That’s why it’s best practice to have a sit-down early in the process and share your goals with each other. By making sure you’re aligned, you are both more likely to get the most out of it!
  3. Build a Consistent Meeting Schedule. Checking in regularly with your mentor, preferably on a set schedule, will ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Holding regular mentor meetings also prevent topics for discussion from piling up. Consider different communication channels to fit your schedules. Sending a text or audio message, making a quick call, video chatting, or a short meeting can help you feel supported in real time.
  4. Prepare Questions for Your Mentor. When you make those regular check-ins, be sure to come prepared. A lot can happen between meetings with your mentor, so it may be a good idea to jot down some notes in your phone or notebook at the end of each workday. Continuous reflection will become a great source for self-assessment, allow you to identify recurring issues, and prepare for effective talks with your mentor.
  5. Observe and Be Observed. Observation goes both ways! Just as much as shadowing and observing your dentist mentor will enrich your practice, being observed by your mentor is also essential to the process. Fortunately, observation and side-by-side practice are part of the CDP dentist mentoring program. We make your mentorship easy from start to finish!

Wrapping Up

Mentorship in dentistry is a cornerstone of career advancement. Having an experienced guide will open doors and enhance your skills like nothing else. That’s why Community Dental Partners makes mentorship one of the key pillars of our mission. Schedule a call with a recruiting manager today so you can start on a path toward a great career with our team of mentors behind you from the beginning!

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 (CDP) 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 great dental care accessible, and provide unique and amazing experiences for underserved communities. The organization’s culture aligned with his own beliefs and he knew that CDP would offer him the ideal environment in which to grow.

Today, Dr. Copeland is the Chief Dental Officer of Community Dental Partners 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, and supporting his children in their activities, such as basketball, gymnastics, and soccer, keeps him busy. He also likes to travel to new places with his family whenever he can.

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Careers with CDP

Doctor Led.
Team Supported.

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

Learn More