What to Look for in Dental Shadowing Opportunities & How to Secure it

what to look for in dental shadowing opportunities & how to secure it

Whether you are an undergraduate student curious about the dental profession or are certain about pursuing a career in dentistry, shadowing a dentist provides critical insight into what this career path entails. Dental shadowing allows you to experience firsthand what a dentist does daily, immersing yourself in the profession and learning behind the scenes in the office. This experience is essential as you develop your passion for pursuing a career in dentistry. Dental shadowing is also an admission requirement for many dental schools.


This post will discuss what makes a shadowing experience beneficial, how to find a dentist to shadow and general tips for contacting a dentist.


What Makes a Beneficial Shadowing Experience?

Dentist showing a x-ray of teeth

You can reach out to many dental offices for a shadowing experience, but how do you choose one that will be the most beneficial for your learning?


The biggest key is finding a dentist with a passion for mentoring. Some dentists are extremely busy with their day-to-day schedule, especially at a larger office, and may not have time to walk you through their day and explain the basics of dentistry. You want to find a dentist that has the time to make it an interactive learning experience for you.


A good dental shadowing experience should break down the entire start to finish of a procedure. Before meeting with a patient, the dentist should outline the necessary protocol when you’re shadowing. Such as explaining treatment planning and options, discussing the dental radiographs that lead to the treatment decision, and pre-procedural guidelines. With the patient in the chair, the dentist will explain the procedure steps and post-treatment guidelines. At the end of the experience, you should have a general understanding of the main dental procedures and indications for the treatment. You may develop knowledge of some dental instruments, such as handpieces, burs, probes, and explorers.


Another benefit of shadowing is getting exposure to the whole office. There are many different roles of people working in a dental office, and it is valuable to get a sense of what goes on behind the scenes. Dental assistants may be able to show you the procedures of taking an x-ray, taking an impression, or setting up a rubber dam. There is also lots of work put into sterilising dental instruments by a sterilisation technician. Obtaining an understanding of the flow of the dental office is valuable to carry through dental school, so you are already familiar with the tasks.


How to Find a Dentist to Shadow

  • Personal dentist. Probably the most straightforward place to find a dentist to shadow. You already have a connection with this dentist, so they may be more willing to let you shadow them and help create an enriching experience for you.

  • Word of mouth. If you cannot shadow your dentist, word of mouth is another good option to find a dentist. If you know a friend that had a good shadowing experience, reach out to them for the contact information of that dentist.

  • Speakers at pre-dental club events. Local speakers at pre-dental club events are another good connection to shadow. Since they have helped out with club events, they may be extra passionate about helping pre-dental students along their path into dentistry.

  • Social media. Social media is a wonderful tool that dentists use to promote their business, connect with their patients, and spread knowledge. You can look for local dental offices on Instagram with a passion for promoting wellness and education or with innovative technology that you are keen on learning about thoroughly.

  • In your neighbourhood. There is a dentist in nearly all neighbourhoods, so it is often convenient to find a dentist close to you. Ideally, look for a smaller office since larger offices might not have the time or staff available for you to shadow.

  • FutureDMD! FutureDMD has a Virtual Dental Shadowing program that utilises the benefits of remote learning to provide a verifiable shadowing experience to teach you about all the dental specialties. See section “How to Get Started TODAY with Virtual Shadowing” below to learn more.


General Tips For Asking a Dentist to Shadow Them

Two women shaking hands

1. Email your resume and cover letter, or bring it with you in person.

  • Sending an email or going in person will allow you to introduce yourself, explain your interest in dentistry, and what you like about that specific office. If you heard about the dentist through word of mouth, mention the name of the individual that referred you.

  • If you hope to shadow your dentist, bring your resume and cover letter to your next appointment.

2. Make a good first impression.

  • Be enthusiastic and willing to learn.

  • Dress business casual when you go to drop off your resume.

3. Explain a bit about what you are hoping to learn from shadowing to set clear expectations for the experience.

  • Some students may be hoping to decide if this is the right career path for them, while students further along in their pre-dental journey may be more interested in learning more in-depth about procedures.

4. If the dentist is willing to let you shadow them, ask what you are expected to wear (i.e. scrubs or business casual).


5. Be understanding if the dentist is not open to shadowing at this time.


6. Thank the dentist for their time.


How to Get Started TODAY with Virtual Shadowing

FutureDMD offers a comprehensive guide to preparing pre-dental students for an enriching in-office dental shadowing experience. This cutting-edge and interactive program allows you to enrich your dental experience and knowledge, helping you determine if dentistry is the right career path for you. Through a deep dive into each dental specialty, you will also learn how to “Think Like a Dentist” to prepare you for further shadowing opportunities or dental school.


Click HERE to get started, or contact us at [email protected] for more information.