Two years after I graduated dental hygiene school, I signed up for the local Utah Dental Hygienists’ Association Annual Session. I was so excited to go to a larger meeting to meet hygienists from all over the state, but listen to a few national speakers. I hadn’t been to a large dental convention before, and since I was starting to feel more comfortable with my profession and working with patients, I knew learning new skills and tricks would be amazing for my practice. The day of the convention, I picked a front row seat. I pulled out my notebook and was wide eyed to listen to a national speaker who I’ve looked up to and read about in all the national publications.
The speaker started her lecture. I’m sure the content was amazing (I honestly don’t remember the topic) and I’m sure learned a lot from it. But, the one thing I absolutely remember from the lecture was the feeling after I had about dental hygiene. Unfortunately, the speaker was negative toward the profession and where it was heading. And I’m not going to lie- I was heartbroken! My newbie hygiene heart hurt after that lecture. I was excited to meet and listen to this powerhouse in the dental hygiene world and thought she could be a potential mentor to me. But, instead, I left sad about being picking a career in dentistry.
In contrast, my dad is a dentist. I’ve never worked for or known anyone who loves their job as much as my dad. He was obsessed with learning new techniques and technology, changing his patient’s lives, and finding the best way to treat many oral health and systemic health issues. He would tell me though that dentistry wasn’t always his favorite. When he first started as a dentist, it was hard. Starting a business, working with people, and finding great employees were all very difficult. But, once he had a rhythm and his focus was more on patient treatment instead of starting a business, he loved every second. He loved it so much that he encouraged all his kids to go into the dental field, which 3 out of the 5of us did.
So, what’s the difference between these 2 dental mentors?
First of all, they both had long, amazing careers in dentistry. And they were hard workers in a sometimes difficult career. However, one was positive about the outcome of dentistry and one maybe wasn’t as much. One loved the outcomes and saw the differences in patient’s lives, while one chose to focus on the negative aspects of dentistry. At this point in your career in dentistry, you can choose where you want to focus. Do you want to focus on the hard days, the late patients that just ate Oreos before their patients, or the way dentistry is changing in a way you don’t like? Or do you choose to focus on the positive outcomes of patients, the relationships made during your clinic day and the people’s smiles you helped create? For me, I’m choosing to follow my dad’s footsteps and legacy, and keep a positive outlook on what dentistry has done for me.
Which mentor will you be after your years in dentistry?