5 Ways to Fall Back in Love With Dentistry

Take some time this Valentine’s Day to rediscover your passion for your career.

It’s February, and that means that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Reds and pinks are covering the grocery store, S. Mutans and Lactobacilli are excitedly preparing for chocolate season, and many of us are saying prayers to the scheduling Gods, hoping Feb. 14 is kind enough to us to let us out on time for a small celebration with our honey.

Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to reconnect with each other. To find a way to rediscover your love for each other, to spend time appreciating each other, and perhaps to find new ways to spice things up and keep them exciting.

No, I’m not talking about your relationship with your pumpkin. I’m talking about the love you have for your career and our industry.

As empathetic providers, we proudly say an oath promising that we’ll remain steadfast in our dedication to our industry. Shortly after we hang up our graduation gowns and celebrate our new jobs with a social media post, we step into real life, and as a real life provider, we occasionally experience dentistry blues.

Dentistry blues can bring us somewhere between fatigue and burnout; a symptom of a greater series of stressors ranging from third-party payer challenges, production goals and noncompliant patients.

This article gives a few ways to help you fall back in love with dentistry, all of the beautifully amazing things that we’re able to do within our careers, and the ways we get to honor our patients by providing optimal care.

Take an interesting CE course

Notice how I said “interesting.” I hold several provocative opinions (http://www.katrinasanders.com/thatsok/) about continuing education courses, and one of them is that I believe most of us take CE courses not because we WANT to but because we’re OBLIGATED to.

While I absolutely agree that evolving industries such as the health sciences should require their entities to stay current with latest trends, I also feel that this requirement has pushed dental (and medical) providers into stuffy conference halls to sit and listen to content they have no interest in learning simply because it “meets a requirement.”

It’s no wonder so many professionals are disenchanted with taking CE courses!

I promise: there are several incredible CE courses out there! I have the pleasure of personally knowing (and sharing a few glasses of wine with) several articulate, funny and engaging speaking professionals who truly LOVE their course topics and wish to share their passion and knowledge with the dental community. I also know that continuing education coursework has taken many unique forms, as CE providers are beginning to understand the value in ensuring you have a great time at their course.

In addition, I believe taking course content in new scientific principles, protocols or techniques truly instills a renewed sense of excitement for patient care. I can’t tell you how many times participants from my courses will exclaim, “Now I can’t wait to try this on Monday morning!” There’s something just truly exhilarating about being exposed to new concepts that help you see dentistry in a completely new light! So, take a gander at upcoming courses in your area, or even consider a destination CE experience. Give that beautiful brain some food for thought!

Attend a networking event

One of the most difficult experiences for dental hygiene (and perhaps dental) students is the adjustment from the school setting to private practice. Yes, we have challenges such as time management and hitting production goals, but we’re also adjusting to life without our classmates.

For the past few years, we’ve spent nearly every waking moment with the same group of like-minded, supportive and understanding colleagues. These colleagues walk alongside us and are the only other people who truly understand the stresses and rewards of the work we’re doing. Upon graduation, we leave our sorority (or fraternity) of dental besties behind to become siloed in an operatory. Sometimes we have a next door neighbor or can receive guidance from our local specialist, but for the most part, we independently practice and strive to connect with patients as a consolation.

One of my favorite ways to avoid the dental blues is to attend (or create) a networking event. There are so many widely passionate, driven and supportive dental professionals who share an equally strong yearning for support and connection. They have incredible pearls of wisdom to share, they provide understanding and they’re encouraging.

Our local associations create opportunities for networking and may also be able to provide CE credit for attendance. However, there are also several incredible entrepreneurs within the dental community who are looking to connect with like-minded professionals. Often these events are posted on social media sites or published in local dental magazines. So, keep your eyes peeled and consider attending an event. I promise it will provide you an excellent opportunity to network and connect with people in your “tribe.”

Connect with or become a mentor

As much as I believe it’s important to connect with our network, I also believe it’s imperative to find unique ways to continue to share wisdom among generations of dental professionals.  Dental and dental hygiene programs provide an excellent framework for the dental professional to acquire foundational information on our industry, but the incredible pearls of wisdom within our industry simply aren’t included in textbooks.

Connecting with a mentor is imperative for dental professionals who are curious about how to improve and grow in the work they do. Moreover, connecting with and mentoring a professional holds immense value for both parties.

I’m grateful to have many mentors. Most of these mentors have been practicing longer than I have, and each one gives me a unique perspective. Some of my mentors are dental celebrities, and I’ve had the pleasure of fan-girling over them while picking their gorgeous brains on the “hows” of their career. Many of my mentors are people I’ve never met but watch from afar with immense admiration.

Most of my mentors, however, are esteemed colleagues and dear friends of mine. These are people I see at dental networking events, connect with on social media, or share a margarita (or three) with during happy hour. They’re men and women who all have incredibly unique talents, passions and perspectives that enrich my career in so many beautiful ways, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

I’m also incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to mentor several newer clinicians and dental hygiene students. While they look at me with a sense of wonderment and inspiration, I look at them with awe and respect. I easily recall my days in dental hygiene school when I had big dreams and an ever-present passion for the career I had chosen, and I see this same sense of joy in my mentees. To have the opportunity to work with them, experience the kinetic energy of their love for dental hygiene, and have a strong influence on the future of dentistry is incredibly humbling and ridiculously rewarding.

I encourage you to consider seeking a mentorship relationship that fuels your soul and empowers you to step into your own as a dental professional.

Spice things up

I do truly believe that it takes a very special person to enter the dental industry. We’re incredibly meticulous, articulate and curious souls who have, for the most part, adapted a Type A personality that fuels an obsessive desire for excellence and achievement. As such, I believe we appreciate unique challenges and opportunities for growth. Imagine then how easy it is to step into the dentistry blues during the stagnant mid-week schedules we experience. It’s no wonder that many of us feel like prophy machines or drill-and-fill dentists when you recognize the commonality of the procedures we routinely perform.

Why not spice things up?

Become certified in a unique area such as orofacial myofunctional therapy or spa dentistry (yes, that is a thing!). Explore new settings on your laser (within the scope of your practice), take a course on advanced techniques within a specialty, or consider updating an aspect of patient care within your office. This may mean updating the medical history form, integrating risk assessment into patient care, updating the patient home care products available, or offering sleep devices in-office.

This may also mean asking to speak on a topic of your passion to your local component meeting, or perhaps writing an article or blog post on an area you truly feel connected to.  There are also countless opportunities to be involved with your local component or association through leadership opportunities, meeting planning, or assisting with lobbying during capitol day.

While we’re certainly highly trained to perform in the operatory, there are absolutely opportunities available to grow outside the operatory, and those opportunities are abundant. Find one that suits your fancy!


I believe I speak for most people when I share that there’s a truly indescribable feeling associated with the giving of time to an underserved population. Not only does it provide a new environment, but it also gives the opportunity to explore specific patient care needs, collaborate with other professionals and recognize the incredible gifts you hold in your skilled hands.

Opportunities to share your time, skills and open heart with an at-risk or at-need population are abundant.

Your state Mission of Mercy program provides an incredibly rewarding experience for patients and providers alike. In addition, national or international dental missions through church groups or independent organizations provide you not only with a unique experience but also a wonderful destination for philanthropic work.

Local county programs for pediatric, at-risk, low income and elderly patients, to name a few, provide paid and unpaid opportunities for the dental professional to serve a specific at-need patient population while improving the oral status of their community. In addition, private practices have the ability to participate in Give Kids a Smile Day and in turn support their pediatric population in attaining oral wellness.

Wherever you decide to dedicate your volunteer efforts, please know that giving of your time, empathy and skills is perhaps one of the most rewarding ways you can spend your time as a dental provider, and I can promise with certainty that it will absolutely help to you fall back in love with dentistry all over again.

No matter how you choose to immerse yourself in renewed love and passion for dentistry, I hope you find something that truly reminds you of why you chose to enter our profession and reignites the flame, sharpens the saw, and revitalizes your joy for the good work you’ve been called and compelled to do.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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