Young people are the heart of society. They are the leaders and architect of the future in any field and the more important the field they lead, the higher their responsibilities are.
There is no doubt that today’s dentistry does not look the same as it did 50 years ago, and our generation faces more challenges than previous generations did.
Modern dentistry is more sophisticated, challenging, and expensive. Consequently, this places a huge load on the shoulders of young dentists. That’s why we must work together to advocate for our rights, which can be done by taking on vital roles in organized dentistry and politics.
We must build a fruitful future that will strengthen our position in society and the health care system. This will allow us to have a significant impact on the profession and people’s lives.
From education, improving management skills and improving policies, what is the best way to face these obstacles?
The answer: taking on leadership roles as new dentists.
The cost of dental school and clinical training increases every year. Some students also apply for residency programs in order to obtain more hands-on experience, which increases their debts.
Their loans will have a profound influence on their professional path, often leading them to join large dental groups rather than starting independent practices.
Furthermore, some of my friends went to specialty programs because they wanted to master a specific field. They decided to specialize because there was a shortage of clinical training in undergrad schools.
By taking an active leadership role in organized dentistry, new dentists can better advocate on issues facing education and student debt. They could use their voice to oblige dental schools to provide more clinical experience for dental students.
Leading Other Dental Staff Members
I worked in leadership and human resources management after graduating from my first dental school in Baghdad in 2009. I continued in this field after moving to the United States until I was accepted into an international dental program in 2017.
During that time, I had interactions with health care providers and teams that I supported, trained, and learned from. I found that there is a considerable lack of leadership and management training for health care providers, including dentists. This makes it challenging for new dentists to deal with their staff and their systems. Many new dentists struggle for two to three years before their practices start thriving.
There are a few ways to overcome this challenge. First, new dentists should engage in focus groups, which might be in the form of closed social media groups where they can discuss the unique challenges practitioners face and try to find solutions together. This does not replace participating in the ADA or local organizations, but it does provide constant communication for sharing ideas.
Second, mentorship is an excellent way to learn from the experiences of others. I never regretted learning how a successful friend overcame challenges. I used their failures and success to help me change, adjust or improve my plans in order to achieve a goal.
Participating in leadership courses and reading leadership books is another good way to fuel your brain. Reading a book about crucial conversations helped me to successfully manage a meeting with one of my direct reports, who was older than me and had served the organization for many years.
I was the new, young supervisor who was struggling with a toxic work environment and was tasked with improving the department’s performance and production. Without training, reading, and mentorship, I couldn’t have succeeded in that role.
Another challenge facing the dental industry is the ever-increasing regulations by national, state, and local governments. While the rules are intended to be for the greater good, some regulations may not always favor the dentists or the patients.
New dentists can start by reviewing new regulations and offering commentary on their impacts. That means sending feedback, recommending changes to the rules, educating legislators about oral health and the correlation between dental health and overall health, and explaining that providing more dental care to people who cannot afford treatment will help to reduce the overall cost of health care.
Dentists can also join forces with other local dentists to nominate and elect forward-thinking dentists to positions of leadership, enabling them to improve the image of the dental profession. These leaders can then become representatives for their colleagues and the public in congress and local governments.
Another way to improve dental care for both patients and dentists is to take the time to listen to what patients are saying regarding the coverage they receive from the government and insurance companies. This enables dentists to advocate for their patients.
Dentists also need to have a strong presence in the ADA, an organization that is committed to improving the nation’s oral health through public education and legislative advocacy. In order to do this, dentists will need to cultivate their leadership skills, which can be accomplished by attending ADA or local dental associations’ meetings and regularly studying leadership traits and practices.
Based on firsthand experience, I know the importance of leadership. For example, I took the initiative to obtain approval for a new lab project that would provide students with a renovated ergonomic laboratory.
This occurred while I was part of the IDP program. There was a major ergonomic issue in my school simulation lab. After getting support from classmates and teachers, I filed a petition with everyone’s signatures and fought to get an ergonomic lab approved by the university. My efforts were successful, which allowed students to enjoy healthier training conditions.
As another example, I contacted the CDA, asking them to allow dental students in my program to become CDA members. This would give them access to resources that would teach them more about organized dentistry. Within a few months the project was approved, and my classmates were able to sign as members for the first time.
Clearly, these personal examples prove that taking on leadership roles can result in positive changes. If dentists spot areas of the dental system that need improving and then fight to make those improvements, we would have a stronger dental team and a better organized industry.
I believe that our generation needs to do a lot of changes in organized dentistry and the dental business towards more financial security for dentists nationwide.
COVID-19 has shown us that the health care system needs more work and that public health should be taken care of as national security. Dentists should be engaged in future changes so that they can play a major role in those changes.
What other ways can young dentists strengthen dentistry for today and the future? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.
Dr. Mohlab Al Sammarraie is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. He grew up in Baghdad and came to the US as an international dentist with leadership experience. He lived in San Diego since 2013 and worked in management until he received his DDS degree in 2019. Dr. Al Sammarraie is a member of the ADA, California Dental Association and San Diego County Dental Society. He is so enthusiastic about having a strong generation of dental leaders and more energetic, organized dentistry. He is also working on finishing his master of public health that specialized in healthcare management.