Advancing Your Education: Good or Bad?
By Dr. Tad S.
In talking with dental students, one of the most common questions I get is whether I pursued an advanced education program after graduation from dental school. Yes, in fact I did an AEGD at West Virginia University. Their next question often is, “Should I?”
In order to answer this question, you must first have a very good handle on your own comfort level prior to graduation. Two questions you might want to ask yourself before you decide on whether or not to apply for a residency program could be:
- Am I confident enough in both my clinical performance and didactic knowledge to be able to competently deliver the highest level of care to my future patients? If the answer is anything but yes, I would recommend applying for a residency. If you don’t get accepted, consider a partnership or group practice where you can hone you skills before setting out on your own.
- Do I want to be a general dentist or do I want to specialize? If you think you would like to pursue a specialty, then I would recommend applying for your desired specialty programs and also applying for residencies as a backup. When you apply to that specialty next year, a completed residency will be an extra feather in your cap that will make your CV look better than recent graduates.
If you have answered these two questions, and consideration of either one of them has led you to believe that a residency would be a good choice, you have to decide whether you want to apply for a General Practice Residency (GPR) or an Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD).
Most of my classmates who completed GPRs felt they were not very beneficial in preparing them for private practice. Much of their work was done in hospitals where they served as “helpers” for the oral surgery residents. They found themselves writing op notes, post op notes and admit notes, among other things. For dentists interested in oral surgery programs, seeking additional training for general anesthesia, or for anyone interested in hospital dentistry, these residencies are phenomenal. Most of these residencies do involve some general dentistry, but the specific amount depends on the program. Before you commit, make sure you talk to people in the residency to find out if the program meets your needs.
These residencies are geared to future private practice dentists who want to hone their clinical skills to prepare them for the real world. Profitable dentistry will not allow you to take four hours to do a crown prep. Most of these residencies have a small didactic component that focuses on advanced techniques in all aspects of general dentistry. My residency averaged 36 hours a week in practice and 4 hours a week in advanced lectures given by respective specialists. Again, talk to current residents to find out if the program suits your needs.
Both residencies generally pay stipends and both will look good on a CV. Determine whether your interest is in private practice or something else and then look for a program that suits. Best of luck to all of you as you begin your dental career!