Dental Residency: Cornerstone for Practice Success
Benjamin L. Carrico
For all of us, our dental school journey involves the obvious grind of the first two years as didactic courses, hours in the lab, and endless nights of study dominate our lives. As we progress into the third year we begin to face the challenges of treating actual people, learning not only how to perform dental procedures but also how to manage patients and the many nuances of the clinical instructors standing behind us. Before we know it, the fourth year is upon us. The time period in our academic career that we thought would never arrive has come and being able to place D.M.D. or D.D.S. behind our name is finally a reality. However, deciding what exactly we are going to do after graduation is often trumped by making sure graduation requirements are met, and we successfully complete the clinical portion of the regional board exam.
Progressing through the early portions of the fourth year it is not uncommon that many senior dental students come to the same realizations that I did. I was able to practice dentistry, and I was happy with the education I was receiving, but could I handle every situation I would encounter in private practice? I knew how to do root canals, but was I capable of treating #3 with a curved mesial-buccal root? I had finished my extraction requirement, but was I confident enough to reflect a surgical flap and remove bone to retrieve a distal root that had fractured off below the alveolar sulcus? I completed all of my dentures, but did I truly have a grasp of group function and lingualized occlusion to the point where I could consistently make a good maxillary denture and an acceptable mandibular counterpart?
For me, all of these concerns were quelled by completing a post graduate residency program. A tremendous amount of confidence is afforded by doing as many extractions in two weeks as you did during your entire third and fourth years of dental school. Learning to become proficient in rotary endodontics, getting more comfortable with placing posterior composites, along with being able to effectively communicate to patients their current condition and the best course of treatment are all things that ultimately require additional amounts of training and can subsequently contribute to your business’s bottom line. In fact, there is not a day that goes by in my office where I don’t benefit from something that was taught to me during my residency training. I feel very strongly that dental schools do their absolute best to produce good practitioners, but it is very difficult, in my opinion, for dental education to sufficiently approximate a private practice setting. It is for that reason that residency programs are so valuable; they help prepare you for the in and outs of a typical day. I like to think that dental school provided me my degree, but the residency made me a dentist.