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THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador Blogs

Following in the Footsteps of your Family Business

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Dentistry is often a family business. When I ask my class, nearly a quarter of my classmates have immediate relatives who are dentists. I myself come from a two-dentist household—my mother is a retired orthodontist and my father is a practicing pediatric dentist. Situations like these present wonderful opportunities for up-and-coming young dentists. The relationship is already there to work with a mentor. Parents or relatives can give professional guidance that is personalized to you. The contacts they have forged throughout their careers now become useful to you for externships, residency, or dental school misery tales! With all of this being said, it is important to keep a few things in mind when you are following in the footsteps of a family member.


1) Their life paths are not yours. Let’s say you’re in dental school, and your family has had 3 generations of periodontists in the same office for the last 60 years. Does this mean you have to go into periodontics? Absolutely not. If you’ve come this far and made the decision to become a dentist, do yourself a favor and explore every opportunity your school gives you. Just because a family member might have fallen in love with a certain branch of dentistry, it does not mean it will be your passion as well. What path you choose will be your profession for many years to come, and it would be a shame to chase someone else’s goals instead of your own.


2) Explore other practices. If you do choose to follow the same path as your family member, make sure you do not immediately find yourself in their office. Learning the business of dentistry is something I touched upon in a previous blog post, and while using mentors as invaluable resources is imperative, being exposed to one office is very short-sighted. Every office has its own “personality” and implements successful, and sometimes unsuccessful, ideas. Learning what works and what doesn’t in a variety of offices will ultimately make you a better dentist and a better practice owner.


3) Be humble. Dental school graduation will be one of the most triumphant and gratifying experiences in your life. You will be ready to conquer the world. Unfortunately, while dental school gives you the best of the basics, it will take you some time to work up the skills and acumen of the family members who have guided you. Try and understand that any advice given is only meant to make you a more effective dentist. Like any young person, it is easy to believe we know what is best. However, this is not always the case. Be humble, appreciate the advice given to you, and implement in whatever way you feel is best. To quote the adage: “Do not bite the hand that feeds.”