Dentistry is an exciting and dynamic field. As members of this diverse profession, we have a unique opportunity to serve the oral health needs of our communities and better the life of every patient in our chair. It’s a great privilege and an essential duty. Like any other profession, dentistry can hand us highs and lows—times when we feel invincible and eager in our roles, and times when we feel lost and discouraged. These tend to have an affect on our mental health, the trajectory of our careers, and our fulfillment in life.
Whether you find yourself on the mountaintop or in the valley of your work life, it’s important to have someone who can walk beside you on your journey. Most of us have family members, a significant other, or a close friend who love and support us, but there’s something even more special about having a dental friend. A dental friend works on the same frontline as you and knows firsthand the unique challenges, stresses, and milestones that come with the job. While your other friends and family may kindheartedly nod and smile as you explain clinical terms and field-specific details, a dental friend truly understands as you describe your work experiences and aspirations.
As wonderful as it sounds to have a professional colleague to share a close friendship, this type of relationship is rare and hard to find. Not every person you professionally connect with is interested in maintaining a genuine friendship with you. So, the question stands—how do you know when you’ve found a true dental friend? Or better yet, what traits embody that special person?
If you work with patients for a living, it’s highly likely you’ve dealt with people who don’t listen to you. We’ll save the stories about the periodontally-involved patients who argue about their “basic cleaning” for another day. The point is that we’ve all experienced communicating with someone who dominates the conversation, leaves little room for you to express your thoughts, and when you do get the chance, you sense they’re working on an immediate response instead of understanding your perspective. A true dental friend is all ears when you have something important to share and will put in the effort to not only let you speak, but also understand where you’re coming from. Since the two of you work in similar l settings, this mutual empathy comes naturally.
They pass no judgement
Let’s face it, we’re all human and we’re all different. We have individual personality traits, strengths, and weaknesses. Nobody is perfect 100% of the time; that’s human nature. Regardless, nothing hurts more than being vulnerable and transparent with someone only to find out they’ve come to a negative conclusion about you, and they question your character. A real dental friend listens to you, assesses the details, and knows that despite whether you’re right or wrong, your intentions are good, and you need their encouragement. They may not always totally agree with you, but they respect your position.
They give you honest input
One of the true markers of a sincere friend is that they’re able to affirm, challenge, or offer suggestions in a supportive way. They listen with an open mind, let you know they understand the situation and how it’s affected you, and offer their perspective. A dental friend can help you see another side to a scenario without making you feel criticized. They might do this by asking questions or sharing their experiences to get you thinking about what’s involved. Bringing and outside perspective creates a great way for you to grow and make a reasonable decision.
They're safe and confidential
Some of us trust people freely until they give us a reason not to, while others trust no one until they prove themselves to be trustworthy. Trust is a pillar of any meaningful relationship. It’s impossible to have a strong bond with someone you cannot trust and unfortunately, many relationships end abruptly due to a breach in the certainty that once protected it. A loyal dental friend will guard and protect the information you share with them and will keep it between the two of you. It doesn’t matter if you share a mutual friend; your dental friend knows that unless you give permission to discuss something with someone else, they will keep it private.
They make you feel like you matter
Have you ever been involved in a one-sided friendship? One friend makes all the effort to keep in contact, arranging get-togethers and creating conversation, while the other friend is emotionally and physically unavailable. They may cancel plans at the last minute or invest their time only if there’s something in it that benefits them. Rest assured that a caring dental friend does none of those things. You will never feel like an inconvenience to your trusted colleague, and the person will regularly make time for you. You can depend on them for physical presence, and they will happily serve as your biggest cheerleader. They see your success is their success and will do whatever they can to see you win and thrive. They speak well of you to others and are proud to be your close friend.
There are many benefits to having a reliable friend who understands the nuances of working in the dental field. The support you receive from a fellow professional is unmatched. Know that you are worthy and deserving of the love, support, and comradery that a faithful dental friend provides. It’s a special connection that every professional should experience and treasure. We all have a need for relationships, and growing them within the dental field is good for the tooth-loving soul. Cheers to great dental friends!
Bethany Montoya, RDH, is a practicing dental hygienist with nearly 10 years of clinical experience. She has advanced knowledge and training in complex cosmetic dentistry, sleep disordered breathing, TMJ disorder, and implant dentistry. She is experienced in productive hygiene and has achieved successes in hygiene diagnosis and acceptance that have far exceeded the industry standard. She has discovered a passion for leadership, building team culture, communication, and accountability. She has devoted her most recent years to focusing on the personal and relationship aspects of dentistry through her latest project, Human RDH. Contact her at [email protected].