Five pearls of dental wisdom: What I’ve learned from 2020

Hello, my fellow dental colleagues! I hope you all had a few wonderful months and are all doing well! During these times of uncharted territories, we have seen so much perseverance and resilience within our dental world, while learning to adapt and continue caring for our patients!

Photo of Dr. Nguyen
Dr. Nguyen

I wanted to share with you all what I have learned these past few months as we welcome 2021:

We all have our good and bad days: It’s how we react to our situation that matters

I have had days where things did not go as planned, such as a procedure going overtime. Challenges do happen, but I continue to take these days as a learning experience. It was difficult for me at first, since I dwelled on the situation. But the most important lessons were: “Learn from the situation to become more efficient and that each experience will make you a better dentist and help you become stronger,” and “We are compassionate and talented dentists, but we cannot make everyone happy. Do not take things personally, as long as you do your best that’s what matters most.”

The good days: patients are getting the care they need and the team is happy with how smoothly the day went – I then think about how I can continue to make this happen and I smile knowing that I made a difference in someone’s day – the reason I got into dentistry. This was key to me. I make sure that I don’t dwell on the bad days for too long, so that I don’t forget about the patients where I did make an impact on their day. Not doing this can be physically taxing and emotionally toxic. If this happens, make sure you have someone that you can talk to and share your day with! Know that you are not alone.

Be kind to you: Treat yourself

I have been working hard to being a leader, focusing on making patients happy, while overthinking and critically evaluating myself. The key to this is changing my thoughts and perspective. So listen to your body, mind, and spirit. If there is a need that is not being fulfilled, it will take a toll on your body and with that you aren’t able to perform your best. I focus on letting my mind rest and treating myself to whatever activity it is that makes me at peace. For me, it’s singing along to music.

Is your glass half-full? Celebrate every small victory

Take the time to think about all of the positives and thank your team members each day. I am truly grateful to be working with a dental team that gives nothing but their best each day. My team has been nothing but encouraging, positive, and supportive. It makes me happy when you come to work and see how positive and hardworking the team is, it is so humbling, and for that reason, I thank you all for those that have supported me.

Keeping up with this mindset helps you continue to stay positive and that in turn, affects your team, and patients in the long-run. Patients want to come into a practice that welcomes them and shares that positivity, so continue to represent your clinic by how you treat and care for them. Our team shows this love, compassionate every day, and that makes me continue to become a more empathetic dentist.

Work-life balance: Have other interests besides dentistry

Yes, you are definitely there for the patient, but without the balance, you can experience burnout. Know that your family and friends — your social support — makes you who you are today. Each person that made an impact in your life reflects how you treat patients, just like how they are your family. So, continue to do those fun exciting things (while social distancing, of course) that way you also connect with patients and have more things to talk about other than teeth.

Be confident and trust in your skills

Over time, the experience will come, but we must be patient, understanding and even forgiving to ourselves. We are perfectionists, so we must know and understand when function is important even when we want to create the anatomical oblique ridge on tooth #14, know when enough is enough.

I have heard multiple times that when new dentists graduate this was how they felt: “I am apprehensive to do this procedure and it makes my heart race.” Others say, “I am nervous and my clinical/dental skills make me not as confident.” Or “I don’t trust in my diagnosing and treatment planning skills,” “I can’t manage this patient,” etc. There are so many feelings of a new dental graduate, and it’s all normal. Acknowledge that these feelings and thoughts are present, but know that you are not defined by a procedure. You are human, it’s about patient education, and trust that you can do this. Think of the most experienced dentist you know. It definitely took them time to master these skills, so be patient and kind to yourself.

As we have taken an oath to be lifelong learners, be eager and continue to learn. Know your limitations, but don’t be afraid going out of your comfort zone. When you do and achieve that skill, it is so much more fulfilling knowing that you did it.

Keep learning and being patient with yourself. Until next time!

Dr. Jessica Nguyen is a recent dental graduate from the University of Minnesota-School of Dentistry. Dr. Nguyen will be working as an associate general dentist in Forest Lake, Minnesota. She enjoys spending time with her family, singing, trying new foods with her friends, and playing sports. Dr. Nguyen connects with others by learning from their stories because she believes each person has a life lesson that one can learn from. She is passionate about volunteering and helping others by giving advice to pre-dental students, dental students, and sharing positive, uplifting, inspirational stories to guide others to become successful, achieve their dreams, and live life to the fullest. Any questions/comments and please reach her at: [email protected]

 

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