Shadowing is an excellent way to explore the daily life of a dentist and find out if a dental career is the right fit for you. The main point of shadowing a dentist is to observe. By watching how dentists interact with patients, you will learn more about what it actually means to be a dentist.

Dental schools expect that future applicants explore their interests and the profession through firsthand observation. Indiana University School of Dentistry expects that applicants have a minimum of 100 hours of shadowing experience, including shadowing in three different settings. Many other schools have minimum requirements for shadowing. Make sure you research these requirements before you are ready to apply.

Shadowing can help you confirm whether you want to become a dentist and make an informed decision about your future career. As you shadow, consider the following questions. What makes me excited about being a dentist? Am I comfortable having close physical contact with others? Am I willing to work in an environment where I am exposed to disease and infection? Am I comfortable working independently and making decisions without supervision?

We encourage you to ask the dental professional questions about his or her journey to practicing dentistry. Pay attention to procedures, learn terminology and techniques, and observe in different practice environments. These experiences will be important when it comes time to apply to dental school. During your interviews, schools will expect you to be able to discuss your healthcare exposure in detail, and how your experiences have confirmed your decision to become a dentist.

Many students are able to arrange shadowing initially through a family dentist. If you do not have any personal contacts with dentists you may wish to send a letter of introduction to several dentists asking for the opportunity to shadow. For more suggestions, see the shadowing page.