It’ll Fall Into Place

I’m looking at the tooth wondering how I got here. The distal interproximal slice feels impossible, with no vision and checking halfway through – I’m off course by a long shot. What a dog’s breakfast! Thankfully I’m using a protector wedge. My heart rate rises and I start to wonder “is the assistant thinking the same thing?” and “will this work out OK?”.

Have you felt the doubt that creeps in during these situations? Good, it’s normal and in my opinion necessary. Without a healthy dose of concern for the final outcome we would become an apathetic uncaring dentist, the worst kind of dentist. The good news is that momentary freak-outs become less frequent. Although you’re responsibly widening your competence then it will happen from time to time – and you need to know how to manage it.

Don’t Stress, It Will Work Out

Time and time again these situations just fall into place. What felt like an unavoidable disaster becomes a prep I’m relatively proud of. I realise now to trust that the initial rough prep will become what it needs to be, even if the distal of the 7 isn’t ideal just yet.

Confidence Is The Key

Trust in your actions and your method whether it’s for a crown or a surgical extraction. As inexperienced as you are, you’ve got to this point because you do in fact know what you’re doing.

Even the most experienced surgeon was once anxious about their first extraction. We all start somewhere and we should all continue to expand our abilities – for our patients as much as ourselves. There are two ways to do this – one is to jump in and try without much planning, understanding or support. The second is with purposeful planning, education and mentorship. Hopefully we all gravitate to the latter, yet even so, we will sometimes find ourselves doubting. It is important to both be confident that you are know your stuff and are following the correct method while still recognising when the situation is has passed beyond your abilities

How I Manage Stress

Stress is both a blessing and a curse. It keeps us alert and functioning. In fact there is a optimal level at which we perform the best. However the feeling of cortisol in your veins doesn’t help steady your hands!

I’ve had my fair share of these situations (and they’ve always worked out). I have a few tools I use to help me control myself and perform when I need to.

  1. Take a deep breath – everyone says it, for good reason. Simply realise you are concerned, take a deep (inconspicuous) breath, and reevaluate the situation with a clear mind. Solve it and move forward.
  2. Check the radiographs – moving away from the situation can help calm and focus your mind. Rethink the problem and take a few moments.
  3. Wash your hands – a tutor in dental school suggested this and I’ve found it a great way to recalibrate.
  4. Slow down – If I’m concerned often I will purposefully slow down my actions. It allows more control, however the main reason is to prevent me letting the world know I’m stressed. Concealment is important – patients don’t want to sense your concern.

Stressful situations will occur. Sure, they’ll be less frequent with experience yet they are never gone for good. Knowing how to manage them is key and will become comfortable with time. Remember, It’ll fall into place, it always does.

David is a recent graduate dentist working in private practice in regional NSW, Australia. Read more at

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