When I graduated from dental school, I felt I had finally made it. No more school, no more studying, no more EXAMS! I was finally a dentist and had received all the education I needed to start my career. All I needed now was the hours of hands-on dentistry that come with doing it daily.
If I only knew how wrong I was.
It didn’t take long to realize that what I learned in school was just enough to start my career. There was much, much more to learn to become a great dentist.
It was a depressing thought to know that I had spent a small fortune on my initial education that only covered the basics of the job. But recognizing this thought made me realize that investing in myself and taking more courses would be necessary to progress my career.
The schooling system has a natural process and structure that promotes setting goals (tests) and advancement (grades and graduation). This process naturally creates each goal individuals work toward; the next exam, the next presentation, the next grade, etc. It programs students to work, achieve, and succeed to progress through its ranks. When you leave the schooling environment, especially after having been in it for so long (sometimes up to a quarter of your life), it can be both a blessing and a curse to most. I was excited to be off the treadmill of constant pressure and work, but at the same time, I felt like something was missing when the system was gone and didn’t have a “next deadline.” It’s this feeling that caused me to realize that when the school structure is gone, we need to recreate ourselves and be our advocates to learn and improve.
So, at the bottom of my downward spiral, I had to put on my big girl pants and start climbing out. I went back to what I knew: I created a goal. This time, not to pass a test or advance a grade but to learn as much as possible about a clinical topic. One subject at a time.
I started in 2019 with several hands-on biomimetic courses because I had issues in my adhesive dentistry and wanted to learn how to bond better. I joined the Biomimetic Mastership in 2020 because I wanted to know biomimetic dentistry more deeply. Then, I went on to do Mimetika in 2021 to improve my understanding of the details. In 2021, I started taking more occlusion courses, first with Dr. Clayton Chan to learn Gnatho-neuromuscular dentistry, and then began the Kois curriculum in 2022.
With each class I took, I learned how little I knew and how much there was to learn. My journey is a prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias where people overestimate their knowledgeability more than their actual abilities. Dunning and Kruger found in their studies that people “don’t know what they don’t know,” and it causes them to overrate themselves because they cannot recognize the skills of an expert.
Now that I am slowly making the ascent upward, I always remind myself never to fall back into this cognitive bias again. It’s important to stay humble but remain hungry to keep improving. Because once you graduate, you become your teacher and examiner, and there is no one else who will hold you accountable other than yourself.