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Earning respect as a new dentist

Dentists share lessons-learned, advice in becoming a leader in their dental practice

May 03, 2021

By Kimber Solana

For many new or young dentists, earning and gaining respect from their dental team and patients can be a persistent thought in their minds.
   
“I think about respect as I have worked hard to develop my talents,” said Daniel Miller, D.D.S., a 2014 graduate from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry. “Although my team never said anything about me being new, that did not reduce my anxiety.”
   
For pediatric dentist Katelyn Brauer, D.D.S., M.S.D., gaining respect and trust as a new dentist is something she and her colleagues have also considered.
   
“Starting residency immediately after dental school provided a transitional platform for me to gain some respect and get my bearings,” said Dr. Brauer, a 2018 graduate of the Indiana University School of Dentistry. “Patients’ parents knew we were residents which gave some flexibility to admit what we didn’t know and were still learning.”
   
Photo of Dr. Brauer
Dr. Brauer
Today, both dentists have the confidence they’ve earned the respect from their team and patients as leaders in their dental practices. Dr. Miller, who practices at Smile Dental Partners, a multispecialty group practice in western Michigan, and Dr. Brauer — private practice owner of Poplar Pediatric Dentistry in Zionsville, Indiana, and adjunct faculty at her alma mater — shared with the New Dentist News their experiences and what they’ve found has been the best ways to gain or earn respect.

NDN: Has there been a time when a member of the dental team or a patient questioned your abilities of how young you seemed to them or because you were a new dentist? How did you ultimately resolve that situation?

Dr. Miller: During patient examinations with a new hygienist, I kept finding failing composites. The hygienist did not say a word, however I decided to address the matter. I told her I recognized the issue and had switched my technique to remedy the situation. She was understanding, and thankfully once I modified my technique, the failures stopped. What I remember most was how surprised she was that I spoke with her. She was not used to a doctor addressing concerns, even unspoken concerns. That conversation built instant trust and respect.

Dr. Brauer: Being a young, new dentist inherently brings about the question of one’s abilities as a dentist, including from my pediatric patients and their parents. For me, I always try to relate to each patient and personalize their experience. If he or she loves “Frozen,” the entire appointment is based around the movie — from Elsa’s frozen fractals (curing light) to the Olaf paint (resin). Taking the time to get to know each patient and his/her parent creates an environment of trust and natural respect.

NDN: From your experience, what has been some of the best ways you’ve gained or earned the respect of your dental team and patients as a new dentist?

Dr. Miller: A simple way to gain the respect of your team is clearly communicating expectations. I encourage new dentists to talk to their team about mutual expectations. Ensuring everyone is on the same page will reduce interpersonal issues and establish trust. New dentists may have anxiety about their new position, but do not forget that the team may be anxious as well. My scenario with the hygienist is a prime example of how clear communication builds respect and trust.

Photo of Dr. Miller
Dr. Miller
Dr. Brauer: Prior to dental school, I worked as an assistant in a dental office. Knowing the ins and outs of that role helps me understand where my team is coming from when an issue arises. I regularly ask for their feedback on how we can improve. I then take those ideas and implement them. I don’t just put them in a drawer. I want my team to know their feedback matters. It’s pretty neat to see how the ideas we’ve generated as a team can positively impact the patient experience.

NDN: Has taking on a leadership role in your dental practice been difficult for you or has it come naturally? Where does respect come into play in this role?

Dr. Miller: Anyone can be a leader as leaders are defined by actions not titles. If you treat your team with respect, they will call you a friend, leader, amazing doctor, great employer. They will not call you a “new dentist.” They will have better words to describe you based on your actions.

Dr. Brauer: Taking on a leadership role in my practice has been exciting yet challenging. A month after starting my own practice, I took a maternity leave. Navigating becoming a new mom and a pediatric dentist has definitely led me to give more grace. Sharing my missteps has allowed everyone to be more open and honest, creating a culture where trust is at the forefront rather perfection.

NDN: Do you have any additional advice or anything else you’d like to share to other new dentists about gaining respect?

Dr. Miller: Check your ego at the door. Never think being a doctor makes you better than anyone including patients and staff. The respect you give your team and patients will be returned to you exponentially. Otherwise, you may always be the new dentist if you cannot gain respect and keep your job.

Dr. Brauer:
Just be kind and compassionate. Your patients will notice. Your confidence will flourish, and respect will be earned naturally.