Should you do a residency after dental school?

Should you do a residency after dental school?

Should non-specialists do residencies like an AEGD or a GPR after dental school?

And if you aren’t specializing in an area of dentistry like orthodontics, endodontics, or oral surgery, should you do a residency like an AEGD or AGPR or go straight into private practise?

The answer is, it depends on your goal.

Do you want to build more confidence and do you feel like you need more mentorship and support? And where do you think the best place to get that support will be?

Is there a private practice group setting where you can thrive without a residency? Especially if you have an opportunity to work in a group dental practice and learn from many people, you have a chance to learn something from everyone.

Sometimes you learn what you want to do. Sometimes you learn what you don’t want to do. But seeing the wheels turning can give you a lot of ideas to consider. And seeing different practice settings can really help you see what’s possible as a practice model and gives you ideas to imitate.

That way you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you can check out how the wheels turn in a private practice and use what’s the smoothest for you.

If private practice is your ultimate goal, then finding some solid group practices can help you get started and help you get into that situation.

But on the flip side, if you’re going into a practice that you’re the only dentist, are you going to feel limited in what you can do confidently straight out of dental school without a residency? Being a Locum Tenens to sub as a dentist in different practices may leave you alone without support. Plus you may not be in any single office long enough to really learn how the processes of the office work together.

And even if you do feel confident leaving dental school, you may want to do a residency. If there’s a specific skill you want to learn more about, do you want to gain a specific skill in a residency that might be beyond what your dental school typically offers?

For example, if you’re trying to gain experience placing implants or if you want to learn about sedation, it might be worth the time of doing a one or two year residency and whatever the income loss is that year, it might be worth it in the long run.

But also keep in mind your different influences on your mindset.

The role your dental school plays

Take into account your dental school because it’s interesting the culture, and the differences in cultures, at different dental schools.

At your dental school, what is the culture which becomes heavily influenced by others? Is almost everyone feeling like it’s necessary to do an AEGD or GPR if they don’t specialize?

And why is that? Is it because the school lacks enough procedures to help the student feel prepared?


Or does everyone at your school always go into private practice without doing an AEGD or GPR residency if they’re not specializing? And why is that?

Is it because the school does a superior job preparing the students, or is it partly the mindset the school sets for the students?

Most people aren’t going to know what it’s like to do a residency if they haven’t and vice versa. They’re not going to know what it’s like to have not done a residency if they did. 

So it’s a difficult question to ask, which is better? But if you don’t have a solid private practice opportunity to go into and you want to build confidence, or if you want to get specific skills, then the extra year of time to do a residency may be worth it.

But if you have a strong group practice to go into with some good mentors, maybe a variety of mentors in the group or different locations, including different practices, you can learn a lot.

Regardless, whether you do a residency or not, you should still take lots of continuing education.

The benefit of continued education

Later in life, life gets busier and you’ll have less time. So take that time right from the very beginning to make it a habit of doing, exceeding the minimum of CE that’s required.

And sometimes people think, oh, I need to practice a little bit and then take this CE. But I would say continue the learning directly out of dental school.

Continue taking a good amount of CE: joining an organization like the Academy of General Dentistry can help you track your CE, see which areas you’ve taken CE.

Knowing which areas may be lacking can give you good motivation for learning after dental school.

Useful CEs to consider

The best CE can come from continuums that are multi-month or even multi-year continuums that may often be with the same group of dentists.

You might learn topics like orthodontics, placing implants, doing master tracks through the AGD. The Academy of General Dentistry may have a master track doing participation CE with various topics to learn handson with peers.

All these CEs can be inspiring. And all of these classes can be a good opportunity to be around dentists who are motivated, like-minded, want to share, want to learn, and want to grow.

Doing CE while in private practice

It’s going to be a class that you’re taking with other experienced dentists who are adding to this group of learners and adds to the depth of what you can learn from your peers as well as your instructors and the CEs.

Look for courses that are deeper and longer lengths of time, and also courses that have good follow-up mentorship and good support.

The other advantage of tailoring your CE from while you’re in private practice is that it really helps you tailor your learning towards your likes and interest inside of private practice, whether you did a residency or not.

If you can dive deep into the services that you know that your patients need and that they want based on your practice’s patient demographic. It’s a great idea that you can learn more than you need to know so that if you get in trouble: you’re prepared. For example, an oral surgeon learning a lot about some complex surgeries that they may never utilize and practice, but they may extract wisdom teeth and place implants and never do some of the jaw surgeries they learn in residency.

But I think with CE, you want to learn more than you need to know, but you can really, at least, focus on areas that are going to benefit your patients the most.

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