Dentist Skills: Definition and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 11, 2021

Dentists need both specialized and general skills to succeed in their careers. Mastering a variety of soft and hard skills that include good clinical, interpersonal, technical and business practices can help dentists care for their patients and colleagues while growing their businesses. In this article, we discuss what dentist skills are, provide examples, explore how to improve these skills and explain about how to highlight them during the job application process.

Related: Top 8 Jobs in the Dental Field

What are dentist skills?

Dentist skills are the core abilities, characteristics, talents and credentials needed for dentists to perform their job duties.

To succeed in their careers, dentists need to develop both hard and soft skills. Hard skills include technical skills gained through education and training, such as learning to use specific medical equipment or database management software. Soft skills are personal characteristics and habits that determine how you work alone and with others. Examples of soft skills for dentists include communication, leadership, concentration and compassion. Dentists use their soft skills and hard skills to manage their clinical and business ownership responsibilities.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Examples of dentist skills

Dentists need a variety of hard, soft, clinical, and technical skills to excel in their careers. Here are 10 examples of skills dentists should develop:

Communication

Good verbal and non-verbal communication skills are essential for any dentist to master. Dentists should learn to communicate effectively with members of their team and with patients to educate them on preventative care, diagnoses and treatment plans. Communicating technical information such as the results of an X -ray or what to expect from a dental tool to patients is critical for good practice.

Interpersonal

Dentists should be able to work well with others. They work as members of a team that may include other dentists, dental assistants, dental hygienists, laboratory technicians, oral surgeons and orthodontists. Other team members include office staff such as receptionists, medical billers and administrative assistants. Dentists also work directly with patients and should be comfortable working with a variety of different people. Having good interpersonal skills may help dentists relate to patients and team members.

Leadership

Many dentists own their own practices. They should show strong leadership skills by directing support staff like hygienists, assistants and technicians while effectively managing office staff and making good business decisions for the practice.

Related: 21 Soft Skills for Leadership Success

Compassion

As medical professionals, dentists should show care and compassion toward their patients. Depending on the practice, dentists may work with diverse clients including children, people with disabilities or special needs, those with dental anxiety and those who may have complex or advanced oral health needs. Working with these varied groups requires flexibility, understanding and empathy. Dentists should adapt to meet the emotional needs of their patients as a critical skill in their medical practice.

Ability to focus

Dentists sit still and lean over patients for long periods of time to examine the mouth and perform dental procedures. They need focus and concentration to carry out lengthy procedures.

Excellent knowledge base

Dentists need advanced education, clinical training and licensure to practice. Those looking to pursue a career as a dentist will need to earn a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (D.M.D.) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.). These programs teach dental students essential clinical skills in periodontics, anatomy, anesthetics and radiology. Keeping up with new research and medical best practices is important for dentists to maintain their skills and knowledge base.

Practical business skills

Since many dentists operate their own practices, having some practical business skills is important. Dentists should understand the essentials of their practices, such as what their typical business expenses are, how to staff their practice for success, how to gain new patients and how to keep current clients.

Technical skills

Besides clinical skills, dentists need good technical skills. Dentists work with a variety of medical equipment including X-ray machines, magnifiers and sharp tools. Being able to learn, adapt to and operate different medical instruments is essential to performing daily tasks. Dentists may also need to use computer software such as scheduling databases to track patient appointments.

How to improve dentist skills

Dentists looking to develop their skills have many options. Here are several ideas for how dentists can develop their professional skills:

  1. Set goals: Establishing a specific goal helps you target your professional development. Goals should be measurable, realistic and relevant to your work and broader career interests. Start by identifying a specific skill you wish to develop, then develop a plan that includes a timeline and several smaller, achievable goals to meet along the way.

  2. Find a mentor: A professional mentor uses their experience in the field to guide newer members in their career development. Connecting with someone more experienced in your field gives you the opportunity to ask for guidance and advice on your career pathway.

  3. Volunteer: Dentists looking for opportunities to practice their skills outside of their working hours may consider volunteering for a non-profit organization within their community or beyond. Working with underserved populations is a rewarding experience, and it can give you additional opportunities to hone your skills. Dentists may consider volunteering locally or even traveling to volunteer abroad.

  4. Stay up to date: Even for those not enrolled in an educational program, stay up to date on trends in your field. Keep up with the latest research, best practices and technology used in your field.

  5. Specialize: If you are a general practitioner, you may consider expanding your knowledge by pursuing a specialty in your field. Dentists may specialize in a specific practice such as pediatrics, periodontics, orthodontics or oral surgery.

  6. Join a professional association: There are many advantages to joining a professional organization. A professional association can help you build connections with others in your field and enhance your business profile. Including a professional association on your resume shows your commitment to your career and its advancement.

Skills in the workplace

Dentists have many opportunities to apply and advance their skills on the job. Here are some tips to develop your dentistry skills in the workplace:

  • Foster a team-focused environment: Working closely with others and pursuing opportunities to develop connections allows you to practice your interpersonal and communication skills. Getting to know your coworkers and developing good workplace relationships with them may help you identify mutual goals that you can help each other achieve.

  • Seek feedback: Asking for feedback from superiors, coworkers, patients, friends and family can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what skills you can develop helps you set goals. However, it is important to ask for feedback from those you know will give you an honest and constructive review.

  • Ask questions often: Especially if you are new to the field, connect with more experienced members for guidance and advice. Asking questions shows your interest in advancing your knowledge and skills. Approaching coworkers to ask questions can also help you develop good working relationships with others in your workplace.

How to highlight dentist skills

If you are applying for a dentist job at an established practice, you can highlight your relevant skills throughout the application process. Consider these tips to promote your dentistry skills on your resume, cover letter and during your job interview:

Dentist skills for your resume

You may consider prioritizing your education, training and technical skills when writing your dentist resume. It is important to show that you have the education, licensure and technical knowledge needed to perform the essential responsibilities of a dentist. Additionally, explain how you have used your skills to complete related work roles. For example, if you performed any volunteer dental work as a student, describe what skills you used during your volunteer experience.

Dentist skills for your cover letter

Use your cover letter to reference the requirements listed in the job ad and to elaborate on the experiences recorded on your resume. Referencing the job ad shows that you have done your research and taken the time to tailor your cover letter for the specific job listing. Elaborating on your resume allows you to provide more context for your skills. For example, if you mentioned your compassion on your resume, provide a short anecdote with at least one specific example of how this skill helped you on the job.

Related: Dentist Cover Letter Example

Dentist skills for your interview

During your interview, clearly explain your relevant skills to the interviewer. Emphasize the skills you have that match those listed in the job posting and explain how you have successfully used those skills in the past. Also, consider how you can highlight your skills through your attitude and actions during the interview. For example, show active listening skills by being responsive and attentive during the interview. Use your interpersonal skills to connect with your interviewer and other employees you may meet during the interview process.

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