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Another question for dentists: would you say that it is an absolute MUST for one to be an extrovert in order to be a dentist?

Hello! My name is Jennifer, and I am a pre-dental student at Virginia Commonwealth University. I was wondering if any dentists out there would say that it is an absolute MUST for one to be an extrovert in order to be a dentist.

A little bit about myself... For the majority of my life, I have been what most would consider extroverted. Most of my friends would tell you that I am a very outgoing, social, and personable individual. I do well in social/group settings because it's easy for me to meet new people and hold conversations. However, as I've grown older, I've learned a lot about myself and realized that the way I like to spend my free time has really changed. Whereas the "younger" me would prefer to meet with large groups of people and talk all day and night, the 23-year-old me prefers to be alone and relax by reading a book or watching television. In other words, socializing can sometimes be exhausting and deplete me of my energy. Being alone has the opposite effect now; I recharge and regain my energy when I am alone. So I guess you could say that I have become more introverted over the years. But having that said, I still thrive in social settings. I just prefer to be alone most of the time.

I am asking this question because as a dentist, you interact with your employees and patients all day, and then when you come home, you interact with your family. To even have these interactions is a blessing because without the support of employees, patients, and family, you wouldn't be able to do what you do! But my concern is that if I know that I am the kind of person that needs my "me" time, is dentistry not the field for me? Or do you somehow make that time for yourself? Will I just end up miserable and tired? Thank you so much for your time. #dentistry #dentist #dental #family-dentistry #dental-practice #cosmetic-dentistry

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Steven’s Answer

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It is absolutely possible to be an introvert and a dentist. As you have found yourself, your assessment of yourself on the intro/extrovert spectrum can change over time. That happened to me.
I was for a while very uncomfortable in my professional skin. I was very young (barely 24 at graduation); most of my patients were older. It took a while to feel secure as a professional, to internalize that I was in fact knowledgeable, competent and caring. But I did get there.
On the other hand, I'd bet very few people don't feel they need some time to themselves. There ARE going to be hard days, like anything else. Things don't always go smoothly. For that matter when I came home after a hard day, I didn't always want the kid, the wife, and the dog to jump on top of me as soon as I walked in the door. But MOST of the time the family was a comfort.
At other times my office is like my man-cave. Here I'm the boss--at home that notion is a fiction.
(I'm assuming here that we are discussing ordinary shyness. If you think you may have more significant relational problems, that takes a different type of professional help. And there's nothing wrong with that either--and I have over the years availed myself of counseling).
Best of luck to you!

Thank you comment icon Mr. Bornfeld, Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions. Your piece of advice on being aware of the kind of practice that is being run will stick with me forever. Also, I am glad to hear that coming home to family brings you more comfort than anything. Family is extremely important to me, and the last thing I would want to happen is for me to get sick of them! ;) Thanks so much again. I really appreciate you helping out aspiring dentists like me! Jennifer Jennifer
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Neil’s Answer

Jennifer,
I am proof that a confirmed introvert can be successful as a dentist. However, you have already described the problems involved. In fact, an introvert colleague and I refer to our daily practice as "showtime". We have to put on our extrovert game face and then interact with the many personalities we deal with in dentistry. It can be challenging to be "on" all day long and then come home and have to switch to a different version of "on" for the family. Still, the benefits of family and career do out weigh the negatives. I have learned to eat lunch by myself, often with a book. I've also learned to take on household chores for which I will be alone. I've learned that the commute time in my car can be very valuable for refreshing my thoughts. My extrovert wife finds it very strange that I simply want to spend time by myself, but she has thankfully been generous in allowing me that time. Make sure whoever you spend your life with understands that this is not a desire on your part, but a genuine need. In order to function properly, you need that time to yourself.
It took me a number of years to come to the realization that you seem to have already achieved. As long as you are able to balance your introvert needs with the necessary extroversion that dentistry requires, you'll do fine. I hope this helps. If it seems that I've been unable to completely address your concerns, please write again.

Thank you comment icon Mr. Pinney, Wow, I cannot thank you enough for responding to both of my questions! I honestly did not expect to hear back from anybody, let alone this quickly. Your answers are extremely insightful and helpful. I am even more confident now that I am on the right career path. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to respond to pre-dental students like me! Jennifer Jennifer
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Jack’s Answer

I will tell you that dentistry has practitioners who run the gamut from very talkative to those who are very quiet. Some of us relate real well with little kids and some do well with adults. I am a general dentist who mainly treats adults and I get along with everyone. As time goes on you will create your own style and your own comfort zone. I would tell you to not worry about this as there are so many other things you will worry about.

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