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Why do I need to Shadow a Dentist?

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Nearly every child is asked this. If you're like most, you probably said a firefighter, a soccer player, or a teacher. Your answer might have even changed every day!

Now that you're "all grown up", it may still be difficult to know exactly what you want to do with your future. We love Dr. Lindsey's metaphor in her similar blog post which you can find here.

Do you remember going to an ice cream shop for the first time and being unsure of what to order? Us too! Luckily, you likely got to sample a few flavors and find one that you loved. Well, that is what dental shadowing allows you to do! Find that flavor (or career) that is right for you!

Why do I need to shadow?

So why is shadowing important?

  1. It lets you decide if dentistry is right for you.

  2. Schools want to know you understand the dental field.

  3. You will have a better understanding of dental procedures before starting dental school.

  4. You'll need a letter of recommendation from a dentist when you apply.

  5. You'll be asked about shadowing during your interviews.

  6. Potential future job opportunities.

  7. It is required for your dental school application.

Is Dentistry right for me?

Now that you're a pre-dental student, how do you really know that you want to be a dentist? Shadowing is the perfect opportunity to find out! It allows you to learn more about the day-to-day activities that a dentist does, who they interact with, and what they accomplish. Going to dental school and deciding halfway through that you don't enjoy it is a very expensive mistake to make. With the rising cost of dental school, that mistake could cost over $100,000 if you realize this in your first year, and even more, the further you get into school.

Schools want you to Demonstrate Understanding

Just as much as you don't want to later find out that you don't love dentistry, schools don't want this to happen to you either. Dental schools take pride in their graduates. They want you to make a difference for your patients and reflect well on their program, They are committed to you and they want you to be committed to the profession. If nothing else, it could be costly for them if you decide to quit paying tuition halfway through because you dropped out.

Understanding Dental Procedures

There are many dental procedures that dentists do every day. It is much more than the simple exams, cleanings, and fillings you may have required up to this point in your life. By seeing a procedure done, asking questions to the dentist after, and then going home and researching it more, you will have a much deeper understanding of those procedures than other pre-dents who put minimal effort into their shadowing.

Letters of Recommendation

When applying to dental school, you will need multiple letters of recommendation and at least one of those will need to be from a dentist. It is in your best interest to form a good relationship with at least one dentist. What better way to do that than being in their office regularly, learning from them, and asking them questions about their profession!

Shadowing and your Interviews

It is very likely that you'll be asked during your dental school interviews what experiences you have with dentistry. This is a golden opportunity to mention the things you loved during your shadowing experiences! You can talk about how the dentist was able to help a patient who was in a ton of pain. Maybe you got to see someone whose life was changed by getting dentures. You may even have seen a cool surgery that you'll never forget. Interview members will love to see the passion in your eyes when you tell them about these experiences. Some interviews have even been known to ask what procedures you saw during shadowing-MAKE SURE YOU REMEMBER!

Potential Job Opportunities

Someday after all your school is finally complete, you will need a job. Remember that dentist you worked so hard to form a good relationship with? They may just have a job opening for someone who is as dedicated to dentistry as you! Maybe they know of another dentist who is looking to hire. Never underestimate the power of relationships.

It is Required

If nothing else shadowing is simply a part of the application process for dental school. But trust us, actively being involved in shadowing is worth the effort!


Dental shadowing is definitely worth your time. We have met many undergraduate students who decided dentistry wasn't right for them while they were shadowing. You want to be sure this career is right for you. Dental shadowing, like most things in life, depends on your effort. The more you put in, the more you will get out!

What great experiences have you had while shadowing? What questions do you have about dental shadowing? Let us know in the comments below!

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