I believe these are the three main qualities that you should look for in your dental career, aside from helping people.
Of course, many people pursue dentistry as a career for various reasons, such as fulfillment of their financial aspirations, owning their own business, or to selflessly help people.
We choose dentistry because of the freedom it provides to choose various career pathways. You can work as a researcher, academic or clinician. You can practice in a rural or city location at nonprofit clinics, federally funded clinics or fee-for-service private practice clinic. You can be a lecturer in the continuing education circuit, a consultant for a dental company, a businessman owning numerous offices, and even a motivational speaker.
I enjoy being a prosthodontist every day. To me, it feels more like a fun hobby to do. I don’t think about when I want to go home; rather, I sometimes wish time was a little slower so I could have more fun.
I go to work every day surrounded by people who love what they do and with their number-one priority to help patients. I love being able to talk to patients, to educate them of what they have and what they need and to be able to provide the treatment that is necessary for them. Every case I see is somewhat different from each other and I enjoy the diagnosis and treatment planning. I’m always thinking and finding different ways to deliver treatment. I’m never bored. The priority is the quality of care and patients rather than the monetary gain. It took me about eight months of searching to find this kind of practice.
My advice to graduating dental students and recently graduated dentists is to find a practice that you would love to practice in, one that has similar philosophies of practice and one that has mentors to guide you and to teach you. I think these are invaluable, especially for recent graduates, even for specialists like me.
One thing I learned as I was graduating with my prosthodontics specialty training was that the more I know, the less I know. I know this sounds very counterintuitive, but it is very true. You really don’t know what you don’t know. Yet, I still encourage everyone to step outside of their comfort zone to learn the most and to become the best versions of themselves.
I enjoy my career far more than someone who goes to a routine 8-hour job every day. I’ve also noticed my patients often pick up on whether or not we enjoy doing dentistry and treating our patients. It seems to put my patients at ease to know that what I do is to do something as best as I can while having fun. Maybe it instills trust that I’m not doing it only for the money.
In essence, don’t compromise who you are and what you want to be by thinking that you won’t find a practice that is ideal for you. It may take time, but it will also bring its own reward.
Bright Chang, D.M.D., works as full-time associate prosthodontist in private practice at Prosthodontics Associates, P.A. in Portland, Maine. He graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry in 2019 and obtained his master of science degree in dentistry and certificate in prosthodontics in 2022. He has been awarded numerous awards and grants for his outstanding leadership, scholastic performance and impact on the profession of dentistry. He has served in numerous leadership positions in both organized dentistry and nonprofit health care.