The real world

Congratulations, Class of 2018! You made it! Here are some tips to help you continue your success as you enter a new territory – the real world.

1. Invest in yourself.

Why: Dental school gives a broad foundation of all facets of dentistry, but in only four years it’s impossible to learn the nuances. There is an exponential growth potential, and a dentist graduating in 2018 will have access to almost unlimited possibilities. There are better ways to place restorations. There are better techniques for extractions. And there are better ways to speak with patients.

How: Take as much continuing education as you can. Attend the ODA Annual Session. Learn or improve a marketable skill, like Invisalign. The first couple years may just be about getting faster and better at class II composites, and that’s OK! Figure out what you need help with and focus on that. Remember to walk before you run – work on mastering atraumatic extractions before you move onto expensive implant courses.

The Goal: Never stop learning. Don’t shy away from spending time or money on enhancing your skillset.

2. Develop a network.

Why: Being a dentist can be lonely and frightening. In school you had clinical instructors, but in practice you may be the only dentist in the office. There might be an immediate need for help, and you need a group of people willing to walk you through unfamiliar territory.

How: Find out who the specialists are in your practice area and reach out to them. Most are thrilled to meet with new grads and will be happy to discuss cases and give their opinions. Find a mentor – you will be surprised by how many doctors are willing to share information when asked. Sometimes, the issue isn’t the dentistry – it’s how to explain the dentistry to patients. That’s where an experienced dentist can really help.

The Goal: Have at least one specialist in every category that you are close enough with to ask questions and learn from. Have a couple experienced dentists and a lab technician on hand as well.

3. Plan to be debt-free.

Why: Debt is a huge source of stress for new dentists. Compound interest works to balloon the total amount owed and delays overall wealth building.

How: Refinance loans as soon as possible! Go through the process with multiple companies and choose the best rate. ADA members receive an extra 0.25 percent interest rate reduction with Laurel Road (formerly DRB). If it’s not possible to refinance loans yet, sit down and write a personal plan to get out of debt. Maybe it involves the snowball method – paying off the smallest loan first, then the next smallest, etc., or perhaps the debt avalanche method – paying the highest interest rate loan first, then the next highest, etc. Any way you decide, the important thing is that you are taking your financial future into your own hands, and planning to be debt free.

The Goal: Debt reduction.

4. Get involved in organized dentistry.

Why: The American Dental Association sets the standard for our profession. It lobbies on our behalf to protect and support us. By subscribing to the ADA, you become part of your respective state and local dental chapters and have access to all the online resources and events. It is absolutely free the first year out of school.

How: As with everything, you get out what you put in. Reach out to your local chapter, which can be found on the ADA website, and see what events are coming up.

The Goal: Take advantage of the ADA website. Help organized dentistry help you.

Good luck and congratulations!

Dr. Katsman is a general dentist in Cleveland and may be reached at