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How to build a career in dentistryLike many other fields in the medical industry, the dental industry is growing every year, and there are more demands for qualified candidates than ever before. But there are far more opportunities than just working as a dentist. While they earn far less than a dentist, a dental hygienist can make a pretty good salary depending on where they live and the office they work in.

Besides needing to have a solid dental hygienist resume which includes some schooling, the hygienist needs to be certified by passing the National Board Hygiene Examination. Other requirements differ from state to state.

The career of dental assistant is often a good starting place. Those in this position assist the dentist and the hygienist but are not licensed to perform the same functions. In most states a certification is required for this position, and even where it is not, on-the-job training is required.

The dental technician has a different function altogether, manufacturing prosthetics and appliances according to what the dentist asks for, but not providing direct patient care.

Once you have decided which aspect of dentistry you want to go into, you can then work toward building your career.

Land the Job

While the application process for many jobs is now online through career and resume sites, LinkedIn, or by other means, at some point you will have an interview. The shape this interview takes will often depend on the size of the practice and who will be interviewing you. There are some common things you should know and questions you should be prepared for when you head into any job interview:

  • Research the Company/Dentist: Know who you are going to work for and learn something about them. Demonstrate your knowledge and enthusiasm during the interview.
  • Predict the Job Interview Questions and Prepare Answers: While there are some common interview questions, there are others that are unique to the position you will be applying for. If you were interviewing for the front office, you might encounter accounting interview questions, but if you are applying to be a hygienist, you might encounter more questions about people skills, your education, and your training.
  • Dress Suitably: While you might want to wear scrubs, something professional but not too dressy will be more appropriate. Dress like the front office staff and you will be sure to hit the mark.
  • Be Early: Your interview timing tells the employer whether you can show up for work on time.
  • Make a Good First Impression. Be warm and friendly but professional. Carry yourself in a calm and confident manner. Answer questions in a concise and focused manner. Don’t smoke, eat, or drink coffee right before the interview, and bring mints to ensure your breath is fresh.

Follow these steps and you’ll be sure to knock your interview out of the park. At the same time, be yourself. If you are not a good fit for the company or they are not a good fit for you, don’t be afraid to walk away. You want to start a career — not just get a job.

Stick It Out

Let’s say that you do get a job in an office or practice where you discover that you are just not a fit for the organization. Should you quit right away? Probably not. First, you are trying to build a career, and dental practices want to hire for the long term. Yes, you might need to move practices, but dentists tend to share information, and you don’t want to get labeled as a problem employee or, worse, blacklisted in your community.

How do you stick it out though? Well, that part is simple. Use your time at that job to do a few things:

  • Learn as much as you can in your current position.
  • Plan your job search. It will take 3-6 months at worst. Get your resume together.
  • Volunteer and find satisfaction outside of work that builds your resume at the same time.
  • Go to school and advance your opportunities.

The truth is, during the time you are sticking it out at a bad job, things could change at your current employer, or a great opportunity could come from an unexpected direction. To build your reputation as a reliable employee, stick it out for as long as you can.

Move Up, Not Over

If you cannot stick it out long enough, you may have to make a lateral move, but whenever possible to advance your career in dentistry, move up, not over. Look for higher wages, a better opportunity with a larger practice or a position that gives you greater satisfaction. Making several lateral moves can be extremely frustrating and make you feel stymied.

There are many career opportunities in dentistry, so get educated and decide where you want to start, be prepared to land the job, stick it out whenever possible, and when you do move jobs, move up, not just over. You’ll find that before you know it, you will have built a career in a rewarding and growing field.

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