We’re starting to see a pattern in the common experiences our educators have of dental school. Below, you’ll find out what Dr. Eric Farmer learned about the value of mentors in your career’s early years.

Dr. Farmer's advice to new dental school grads is to find helpful mentors. In this interview with Dr. Farmer, he recounts the key moments that made him into the dentist he is now and how different the experience of dental school seems many years after the fact. He expands on the consistency of fundamentals, work flow changes, mentors, and interacting with patients.

Dental School Impressions Then & Now: Mentors, Luck, and Fundamentals

Q: Where and when did you go to dental school and why did you choose that specific school?

A: I attended the University of Nebraska College of Dentistry in Lincoln, Nebraska from 1987-1991. I was fortunate to have a choice between Nebraska, Oklahoma, and UMKC, but chose Nebraska as they made the process so easy and actually courted/recruited me, which was a welcome change from other schools.

Q: What was the greatest overall takeaway you got from dental school?

A: Looking back, dental school was pretty fun. I made friends that I still have today, but at the time it did not seem fun at all. It was a very stressful time where I learned that life was not always fair and success involved a fair amount of luck sometimes.

Q: What useful advice learned in dental school do you still use in the practice today?

A: I vividly remember asking an instructor how in the world I was supposed to see to restore the distal of tooth 2. His reply still sticks with me: “may the force be with you.”

Q: What did you learn in dental school that you either never used or don’t use anymore?

A: I think I use all the fundamentals I learned in dental school still. My techniques are different and the work flow is different but the fundamentals are the same.

Q: How have you changed as a dentist since dental school?

A: I have become more relaxed and less worried about all the bad things that could happen. I do not take personal responsibility for a patient’s condition as much as I used to, nor is it as hard to tell them bad news. I hated giving people bad news in the early days.

Q: What advice would you give to dentists early on in their career who have recently graduated and are looking to achieve success?

A: Find a mentor, someone you feel safe with and someone who is excited about what they do. Find someone you want to emulate. Then, seek out CE subjects on things you want to improve on or incorporate into your practice. There is a ton of criticism of dental school curriculums. “They did not teach you this or that,” is the common refrain, and I get this, but if we learned everything we needed to learn in dental school, it would be a 7 year program at least.

How have you sought out mentors in your career? We’d love to hear from you in the comments! And don’t miss Dr. Farmer’s take on the unexpected benefits of an empty nest.