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A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Ask a Dentist for Shadowing Opportunities

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Are you a pre-dental student looking to gain valuable experience and insights into the world of dentistry? Shadowing a dentist can be a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the field and learn firsthand what it takes to be a successful practitioner.

However, approaching a dentist for shadowing opportunities can be a daunting task. That's where this step-by-step guide comes in. In this article, we will walk you through the process of how to approach a dentist for shadowing opportunities, providing you with valuable tips and strategies to increase your chances of success.

From crafting a compelling email or phone call to showcasing your enthusiasm and dedication, we've got you covered. So, whether you're a high school student exploring career options or a college student preparing for dental school applications, this guide will equip you with the tools you need to make a memorable impression and secure an invaluable shadowing opportunity. Let's dive in and get you on your way to gaining real-world experience in the dental profession!

Why shadowing is important for aspiring dentists

Talking with dentist

Shadowing a dentist is a crucial step in your journey toward becoming a dentist yourself. Here are some key reasons why shadowing is important for aspiring dentists:

  1. Insight into the profession: Shadowing allows you to observe firsthand what it's like to work as a dentist. You'll get a glimpse into the daily tasks, challenges, and rewards of the profession. This experience can help you determine if dentistry is the right career path for you.

  2. Exposure to different specialties: Dentistry offers various specialties, such as orthodontics, oral surgery, and pediatric dentistry. Shadowing different dentists can expose you to the different specialties within the field, helping you gain a better understanding of your areas of interest.

  3. Networking opportunities: Shadowing provides an excellent opportunity to build relationships with practicing dentists. These connections can be invaluable when it comes to seeking mentorship, obtaining recommendation letters for dental school applications, or even exploring job opportunities in the future.

  4. It's required: If nothing else on this list motivates you, know there is a required amount of dental shadowing hours to apply to dental school.

By shadowing dentists, you can gain practical knowledge, develop a deeper understanding of the profession, and build a network of professionals who can support you in your journey toward becoming a dentist.

Finding dentists to shadow

The first step in approaching a dentist for shadowing opportunities is to find dentists who are open to hosting students. There are several ways you can go about this:

  1. Ask your dentist: If you're planning on being a dentist, hopefully, you have a dentist you see regularly. This may be the easiest, and least intimidating way to find a dentist to shadow. However, if you're going away to college, you may need to try some of our other methods.

  2. Ask around: Reach out to friends, family, and acquaintances who may know a dentist or have connections in the dental field. They might be able to introduce you to a dentist who would be willing to offer a shadowing opportunity.

  3. Use Google: Just type in "Dentists near me", and find one close to you.

  4. Use our website: We're always adding more contacts to our website of dentists who allow students to shadow. See if there is one near you!

Remember, it's important to be proactive and reach out to multiple dentists to maximize your chances of finding a suitable shadowing opportunity. Keep in mind that not all dentists may be available or willing to host shadowing students (but most are), so it's important to cast a wide net.

Asking a dentist you already know if you may shadow

If you already know the dentist, you're in luck, it is even easier to ask! It is as simple as giving them a call or asking the next time you see them. We would recommend saying something like this:

  • "Hey, Dr. ________. I'm really interested in learning more about what you do. Would it be ok if I came to your office to shadow?"

Simple, straight to the point, and easy!

Remember, even if you know the dentist personally, it's crucial to approach the conversation professionally and respectfully. Treat it as a formal request, highlighting your enthusiasm and commitment to learning from their expertise.

Asking a dentist to shadow in person

Woman talking with doctor

Another great option is to simply visit a dental office near you and ask in person. This can really show you enthusiasm and can be a valuable chance to make a lasting impression. Of course, don't expect to shadow that day, this is just to set an appointment to return.

Here's how to approach the conversation:

  1. Be prepared: Before meeting the dentist, research their background, achievements, and areas of expertise. This will show your genuine interest and allow you to ask specific questions during the conversation.

  2. Introduce yourself: Approach the front office staff respectfully and introduce yourself confidently. Start by stating your name, educational background, and your interest in pursuing dentistry as a career.

  3. Express your admiration: Share your admiration for the dentist's work and explain why you find them inspiring.

  4. Request a shadowing opportunity: After establishing a rapport, express your interest in shadowing the dentist and briefly explain the benefits you hope to gain from the experience. Emphasize your commitment and willingness to learn.

  5. Exchange contact information: If the dentist allows students to shadow, exchange contact information and follow up with a thank-you email. This will help solidify the conversation and keep the lines of communication open.

When asking in person, it's important to be confident, respectful, and genuine. Make eye contact, listen actively, and be engaged in the conversation. A personal connection can leave a lasting impression on the dentist and the front staff in addition to increasing your chances of securing a shadowing opportunity.

Asking a dentist to shadow over the phone

Dental Personal Statement Review Ad

If you don't have a personal connection to a dentist, reaching out over the phone can be an effective way to inquire about shadowing opportunities. Here are some tips to help you navigate the phone conversation:

  1. Prepare a script: Before making the call, prepare a script to ensure you convey your message clearly and confidently. Write down key points you want to cover, such as introducing yourself, expressing your interest, and asking about potential shadowing opportunities. That script may look something like this: "Hi, there! My name is _______ and I am a pre-dental student at _________ University. I am wondering if Dr. ___________ allows students to shadow. I would love the opportunity if she does!"

  2. Be polite and professional: When speaking with the dentist or their office staff, remember to be polite, courteous, and professional. Address them by their proper titles, use a respectful tone, and listen actively to their responses.

  3. Follow up with an email: After the call, send a follow-up email thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest in shadowing. This helps to solidify your commitment and keeps the lines of communication open.

Asking over the phone can be nerve-wracking, but with proper preparation and a confident approach, you can make a positive impression and increase your chances of securing a shadowing opportunity.

Asking a dentist to shadow via email

Typing an email

Email is a popular and convenient way to reach out to ask a dentist to shadow, but it is probably the least effective way. If you really would like to ask via email, here are some tips for crafting a professional and compelling email:

  1. Use a clear subject line: A concise and informative subject line will help your email stand out among the dentist's busy inbox. Clearly state your intention, such as "Request for Shadowing Opportunity."

  2. Start with a personalized greeting: Address the dentist by their proper title and last name. A generic opening like "Dear Dr. Smith," is more professional than a casual greeting.

  3. Introduce yourself: Briefly introduce yourself in the opening paragraph, including your name, educational background, and your interest in pursuing dentistry as a career. Keep it concise but engaging.

  4. Express your admiration: Show genuine admiration for the dentist's work and expertise. Highlight specific aspects of their career or practice that resonates with you and explain why you would like to shadow them.

  5. Explain your purpose: Clearly state your intention to shadow the dentist and briefly explain the benefits you hope to gain from the experience. Emphasize your commitment, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn.

  6. Offer flexibility: Dentists have busy schedules, so it's important to offer flexibility in terms of dates and duration. Assure them that you will adapt to their availability and be respectful of their time.

  7. Attach your resume: Include a well-formatted and up-to-date resume that highlights your relevant experiences, coursework, and extracurricular activities. This will provide the dentist with a comprehensive overview of your background.

  8. Follow up: End the email by expressing your gratitude for their consideration and providing your contact information. Politely ask if they require any additional information and express your willingness to provide it.

Remember, your email should be concise, informative, and professional. Avoid using jargon or overly complex language. Keep the focus on your genuine interest in dentistry and your eagerness to learn from the dentist.

Your email may look something like this:

Subject: Request for Shadowing Opportunity

Dear Dr. _______,

My name is ________________ and I am a pre-dental student at ____________ University.

I have heard many great things about you and your dental office. I would love the opportunity to come by your office to shadow you in order to learn even more about dentistry from you. I have attached a copy of my resume below.

My schedule is fairly flexible with my classes. Are there certain days or times that are preferable for you?

I look forward to hearing from you and the potential opportunity to shadow you in the future.




Approaching a dentist for shadowing opportunities may seem intimidating, but with the right approach and preparation, you can increase your chances of success.

Whether you find dentists through personal connections, phone calls, or emails, it's important to showcase your enthusiasm, commitment, and genuine interest in dentistry. Remember to be professional, respectful, and flexible in your interactions.

By following this step-by-step guide, you'll be well on your way to securing a shadowing opportunity and gaining invaluable real-world experience in the dental profession. Good luck on your journey toward becoming a dentist!

Happy shadowing!

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