Skip to main content
Right after graduating from dental school, many students want to start practicing right away. But your first year out of dental school may come with some unexpected lessons. Here's expert advice from Dr. Jean-Pierre Bedirian, a successful dental surgeon and owner of Centre Dentaire Pierrefonds.

Graduating dentistry students are well-trained in the fundamentals, but there can be some surprising challenges to face once dental school ends and your professional career begins. From becoming financially savvy to leveraging the knowledge of your peers, Dr. Jean-Pierre Bedirian — a dentist and dental surgeon in Pierrefonds, Quebec — shares some unexpected lessons learned in his first year after dental school.

1. Dentistry is a business, so you must hone your financial skills

While patient care is paramount, new dentists must also surround themselves with business professionals who can guide them along the road to success.

“One of the first lessons I learned was the importance of having a good accountant who specializes in the dental field, because the knowledge they have within our economic model helps them give dentists the proper advice,” says Dr. Bedirian.

That advice can include everything from how to pay for continuing education and save for retirement to longer-term goals like setting up a clinic, making capital investments or financing a building and managing payroll expenditures.

The right accountant can connect young dentists to mortgage specialists, financial planners, and commercial loan officers. Since Dr. Bedirian’s accountant was also a dental practice evaluator, he played an important role when Dr. Bedirian was ready to open his own clinic 10 years after graduation.

“I consider my accountant one of my top three mentors that have led to my success,” says Dr. Bedirian.

2. Your learning has just begun

Soon after graduation, Dr. Bedirian’s accountant suggested he invest heavily … in himself.

“I had attended local continuing education courses, but my accountant suggested going to Phoenix or Florida to learn how to do root canals and gum grafts. Older dentists I had a deep respect for also told me this,” he recalls.

“I learned that my continued training as a dentist would be the biggest investment in myself, one that could give me the best return on my investment — more than stocks, mutual funds and real estate. If you spend your whole life doing dentistry, then invest in dentistry. For every dollar you put into continued education, you will get $10 back.”

Many young dentists finish school carrying student debt, and want to start earning money, but it’s smart to take courses that can fast-track your revenue, he adds. For example, instead of referring gum grafts to specialists, young dentists can learn how to do them and generate significant revenue.

“If the course is $5,000 for a weekend or two, and you can then do one or two simple gum grafts a week at about $1,000 or $1,500 per graft, the course pays for itself quickly; it’s a huge return on your investment,” says Dr. Bedirian.

3. Your soft skills are important too

In addition to mastering dentistry’s technical aspects, young dentists must also perfect their time management and communications skills, says Dr. Bedirian. After all, discussing the course of treatment and presenting options is an important part of a dentist’s day-to-day job.

“My dad was a hairdresser, and my mom was an esthetician, and they had a big hairdressing salon where I worked when I was 14, so I grew up learning about customer service. Being able to listen more than talk and to understand body language is so important,” says Dr. Bedirian.

4. You need to develop and maintain strong relationships with mentors and colleagues

Dental school offers a built-in community of like-minded peers and professors to learn from. However, after graduation, new dentists must continue building a professional community to tap into for advice and support, says Dr. Bedirian.

“Some of my best friends are the ones I went to dental school with. We get together regularly, have a great time, and we also commiserate together. But you also need mentors, like a network of specialists in your life who appreciate you and who are open to teaching you and sharing information so you can succeed. It’s a collaborative mentality,” he explains.

5. Remember to pay it forward and help others

Beyond being “the right thing to do,” Dr. Bedirian says helping others can also help develop your professional network and find talented team members. Trained at McGill University, Dr. Bedirian has mentored several aspiring dentists over the years — including ones working in his practice today.

Dr. Bedirian has made a point to pass on the knowledge he’s gained over the years with younger dentists, and he’s also helped some of the associates in his practice choose courses to perfect their skills.

“I share all the advice I received, including telling them about continuing education and getting a good accountant,” he says.

Related stories: