Updated: Aug 19
Now that you're at the office and ready to shadow, you might ask yourself "What am I supposed to be doing?"
It all comes back to this: You are there to observe, learn, and decide if dentistry is the right career path for you. But what specifically should you be looking for to decide?
Observe the Dentist
This might be the most obvious point we make, but you should observe what the dentist is doing. How are they interacting with the patients? What is their schedule like? What do they spend the majority of their time doing? Could you see yourself doing this every day?
Observe the Procedures
In addition to observing how the dentist spends their time, you're there to see what procedures are done. If you've been lucky enough to avoid needing much dental work in your past, you may not know much about different procedures. Soak it all in! Before the dentist goes to see the patient, you could ask what procedure will be done. While they are doing the procedure, do your best to observe, but keep your distance so that you're not in the way. It might be difficult to see (we'll talk more about this later) but do your best. After the procedure, if there is time, you can ask the doctor why that procedure was indicated, what the x-ray looked like, and what alternative treatment could have been done.
Talk with the Front Office Staff
There may come a time when the dentist is busy sending emails, working on his computer, or taking a call. During these lulls, take a few minutes to chat with the front office staff. They will have amazing insights into the ins and outs of the office. Here are a few ideas for questions to get you started:
How do you decide what time to schedule patients? Does it depend on the patient's medical history, the procedure, or both?
How does insurance work? How do you file a claim? What do you do if someone doesn't have insurance?
What do you like most about the dentist here? What do you think makes a great dentist?
Talk with the Hygienists
Another great thing to do when the doctor is busy is to chat with the hygienists if they are not busy. They will be able to teach you tons! Here are questions you can ask them:
How do you teach a patient about periodontal disease or gingivitis?
What do you do to help your patient prevent oral disease?
What procedures are you permitted to do in our state? (Laws vary from state to state and hygienists are allowed to complete different procedures depending on the state).
Talk with the Assistants
Assistants can also give you amazing insights when things get slow. You could ask them about:
What are your responsibilities in the office?
How does sterilization work?
What materials does the dentist use for his procedures?
What do you like most about the dentist here?
What do you think makes a great dentist?
End of the Day
You've made it to the end of your long shadowing day. You're probably exhausted, but we are going to recommend you do a few things before you call it a day.
Track your Hours
It is so important that you don't forget how many hours you shadowed today. You will be asked to report this on your dental school application.
Track the Procedures you Observed
You won't specifically be asked this on your application, but it is very useful. Some interviewers may ask about your shadowing experience and which procedures you got to see. It will be easy to remember them all if you have them written down.
Write down Memorable Experiences or Things you Learned
Again, you will not be asked this on the application, but it comes in handy when you are writing your personal statement and preparing for interviews. While not everyone describes an experience they had while shadowing in their personal statement, you may want to. By having memorable experiences written down, you will find writing your personal statement much easier! You may also be asked during an interview what your favorite experience was while shadowing. Again, if you have a record, it will be easy to review it before interviews.
Learn more about the Procedures you Observed
It is quite likely you won't have a great view of the procedures being performed while you are shadowing, but don't worry! That is why you asked the dentist before going to see the patient what procedure was about to be done. Now that you have gotten home, take a minute to learn more about the procedure. Head to YouTube and watch a video on it. You will be able to see much better and learn so much more this way.
How to Track it All
There are many things we suggest you track after shadowing. That is why we have put together a document for you to easily track everything in one place. When you click the link, it will have you sign into your Google Drive in order to make a copy for you to fill out.
We hope you find it helpful!
What did you learn about shadowing from today's post? What will you do differently as a result? Let us know in the comments below!