How and when you should find a clinical mentor
Finding a clinical mentor is an important part of skill development in dentistry. A clinical mentor provides the support and guidance you need to progress safely and effectively. This is true whether you’re a newly qualified or highly experienced dentist moving into different fields.
Guidance at every stage
Manoj Bhatia, a dentist at Rugby Dental Practice, explores why mentoring is so important for dentists at different stages of their careers.
“For newly qualified dentists, transitioning from a protected environment where skills are constantly examined in school to practice can be difficult. You are suddenly expected to fend for yourself, which can be scary. With limited practical experience, you benefit greatly from someone helping you along the way. This might not involve mentoring every day. It might just be about finding someone to call with queries when you reach a certain stage of treatment. Either way, a good clinical mentor is invaluable.
“For more experienced dentists, a clinical mentor can help them develop advanced skills in areas of dentistry that they don’t have experience in. It is particularly useful when moving into dental implants, because this requires a completely new skill set. Dentists are typically comfortable with the prosthodontic and gum management aspects of implantology. However, oral surgery and implant planning are brand new entities that can be challenging. Finding a clinical mentor to help you through your first few cases can help fill any gaps in knowledge or confidence.”
A two-stage mentoring relationship
Manoj mentors many dentists through their MSc implant journey at UCLan and therefore understands what colleagues need in order to succeed. He shares how he provides quality support to his mentees.
“I offer clinical mentorship in two stages. First, I will help the dentist during the planning phase of treatment. Once they have completed the relevant assessment, taken CBCT scans and created the study models, we will discuss the planning of implant position, angle and size. Second comes the surgical mentoring. I will join the dentist for implant placement, providing support or advice during the procedure. I’m there if they come across any complications or have any questions. As such, I can support the mentee from the very beginning of treatment right through to completion.”
How to find a clinical mentor
Having established the importance of a clinical mentor, we asked Manoj how dentists can go about finding the right person for them.
“There are different ways to find a clinical mentor,” he says. “Most university-based courses will offer a mentoring programme during and after their training. It is also possible to find a clinical mentor through professional societies like the Association of Dental Implantology (ADI). In addition, several implant product companies work with highly experienced implantologists who can help to guide new users of the systems through their initial cases.”
Regardless of where you’ve reached in your career, a clinical mentor can be hugely beneficial in helping you to develop new skills. Who you work with and how will depend on several factors.
“Every mentee is different with varying skills and confidence levels,” concludes Manoj. “The clinical mentor should be there as much or as little as the mentee needs. A mentee may also dip in and out for guidance as they grow more confident and then progress onto more complicated cases. Most importantly, a dentist should find a clinical mentor – or group of clinical mentors – who is accessible. They need to be contactable when you need help or the relationship will not be of benefit!”