Mentorship in Dentistry

What is Mentorship? 

Every good clinician has had a mentor that has helped them learn and hone their craft, whether in training and/or as their career evolves. Mentorship in dentistry can be the guidance of a less-experienced dental professional by a more experienced dental professional for the purposes of knowledge sharing, professional support and career development. Mentorship within a dental practice may also be provided by a dental professional who is well into their career helping a professional who is early on in their career. It could also be as simple as a dentist to hygienist or hygienist and assistant relationship, each teaching the other the details of the position. Dentistry is often perceived as a solo career where collaboration and mentoring was not commonplace, but that is now changing and adapting. The importance of networking with others happens in person, through social media and in study groups.

What Makes a Good Mentor? 

No matter what stage of your career, if you strive to do more, a mentor may help facilitate the process. When considering who would be a good mentor you should first consider someone who has similar experiences and goals, so they can help guide you down the career path you desire. For example, if you are a dental hygienist who just graduated and want to work in pediatric dentistry, you should find someone who has experience in that area and even consider asking to job shadow for a day. Having an experienced mentor who knows your values and understands your goals is critical during decision making times in your career. Additionally a good mentor should be able to ask you the hard and thought-provoking questions to better help guide you. Some of the best mentors make you think for yourself and this intentionally will result in you finding a faster development of goals and greater satisfaction.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, one mentor may not suit all of your needs. It is fine to work with more than one mentor on your different career interests and goals. Having multiple mentors will create a collaborative team of professionals that will give you a diverse array of perspectives and comprehensive advice as you make career decisions.  Bringing in multiple perspectives and strengths will allow you to utilize options to create a path that is unique to you.

Questions to ask about potential mentors

There are some key questions you should ask yourself when evaluating a professional relationship for potential mentorship:

  1. How does one know if the relationship is working?
  2. Does the mentor encourage the mentee’s goals and aspirations?
  3. Does the mentor provide honest and constructive feedback?
  4. Has the mentor assisted the mentee in developing self-awareness?
  5. Does the mentor present challenges to the mentee to promote growth?
  6. Does the mentor introduce the mentee to movers and shakers within the profession?
  7. Does the mentor motivate the mentee to join professional organizations?
  8. Do the mentor and mentee listen to each other and find it easy to communicate?

Marks of Successful Mentorship

As you begin a mentoring relationship, it is important for you to define and articulate your goals, expectations and needs to the mentor to make sure they are the right fit. Likewise a mentor should be willing to make you think and analyze what it is you want from your career and relationship. As the relationship progresses, you want to make sure that you are building a relationship based on openness, trust and respect. These core values will lead to a deep, intentional and constructive relationship that will help you develop a successful career. 

Mentoring creates a sense of belonging, improved productivity, goal clarity, increased confidence and greater job satisfaction. Mentoring can be a rewarding experience not only for the mentor and mentee but also for an organization and profession, by creating a positive climate and culture. A fruitful and effective mentoring relationship is a win for everyone involved. Dental professionals at all stages of their careers should consider becoming involved in mentoring. Whether as a mentor or mentee, the sharing of knowledge, wisdom and perspectives will provide a meaningful experience.

Teledentistry Assisted Mentorship 

Mentorship can be assisted with teledentistry, especially when you cannot be in the same place at the same time with your mentor or mentee. The ability to communicate with your mentor or mentee through messaging and video calls to facilitate knowledge sharing. Clinically, it can provide the ability to collaborate on patient cases, treatment plans and referrals. Mentorship can be clinical or it can go beyond the operatory to include various aspects of a career. Continual development and constant learning happens for both the mentor and mentee and can be a very rewarding experience.

Related Reading 

(sources used for this blog post)

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