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When you’ve been in the dental industry for a while, it can be hard to look at it with fresh eyes. This makes it important to listen to the new voices entering the industry and hear about their experiences, the challenges they face and perhaps, most importantly, the things the industry needs to address.
When you've been in the dental industry for awhile, it can be hard to look at it with fresh eyes. This makes it important to listen to the new voices entering the industry and hear about their experiences, the challenges they face and perhaps, most importantly, the things the industry needs to address.
In an effort to do just that, Dental Products Report sat down with Dr. Jennifer Sanders, a 2012 graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, to talk about her experience entering the dental world as a young, female dentist. Dr. Sanders owns Frenchtown Dental, in rural Frenchtown, Montana, a one-dentist clinic with six staff members. The general practice offers comprehensive care, and primarily sees patients for routine matters such as cleanings, fillings or crowns.
As a newer dentist, what challenges have you (or your fellow classmates) faced?
One big challenge is trying to find a good place to practice. It seems that some of the older dentists are putting off retirement longer than they had planned, or trying to sell their practices but then changing their minds and going back into practice. It makes it confusing and challenging for new dentists interested in buying practices. There’s also a lot of doom-and-gloom attitude out there about how dentistry used to be so much better pre-recession in 2008. As a new dentist who started dental school in 2008, I find that mentality frustrating. There seems to be a lot of looking back but not a lot of looking forward in the industry.
From a patient standpoint, I think the biggest challenge is managing patient attitudes. It's hard to have patients come in who have had negative dental experiences and say they hate the dentist. It's very challenging to try and give these people the most positive experience possible and try to change their opinions.
What do you wish someone had told you about the industry before you started? Have their been any surprises?
I think going into it, you view it as “I’m going to be a dentist,” and you don’t think about how you also need to be a businessperson. One thing I’ve been surprised by is how many things you can do with a dental degree; there are a lot of different options and career paths you can take these days. It’s not just the stereotypical idea of dentistry where you automatically end up in an office by yourself doing fillings. I’m interested to see in 15 years how many of the people I graduated with are still doing the usual private-practice dentistry.
Continue to page two to read more from Dr. Sanders...
Do you feel you face any particular challenges being a female dentist?
Some people automatically assume I am not the dentist, or that I don’t know what I am talking about because I am younger and female. On the other hand, some people assume I will be gentler because I am female.
As a female, what do you think you notice differently about the dental industry?
Advertising is really geared towards middle-aged males. When I go to a dental meeting, everyone assumes I am a hygienist. I think there are strict gender role expectations. This is something I feel needs to change. In medicine, there are starting to be many more male nurses; I think medicine is ahead of dentistry in evening out these gender gaps.
What would you tell other women about becoming a dentist?
I would encourage anyone who’s thinking about going into dentistry, as it offers a certain flexibility and lifestyle that is very appealing. I think this is particularly trye for women who want a more flexible schedule, and more of a work-life balance. I think it’s worth the time and effort to become a dentist.
What do you think needs to change in the dental industry?
We need to be less separated from our other medical colleagues. The old perception that the mouth is not part of the body is starting to go away, so we’ll need to work more closely with all of our patients’ caregivers to provide the best possible care.
You can read more about Dr. Sanders’ experiences, as well as those of many other female dental professionals, in the September “Top 25 Women in Dentistry” issue of Dental Products Report.