Everything to Know about Dental Shadowing

Currently, prospective dental students with starry American dreams are apprehensive about this whole concept of dental shadowing. We have numerous DMs and queries on our telegram forum and other social media. 

Dental schools across the United States recommend their applicants to have undergone dental shadowing. Shadowing is expected within the U.S. Some schools even make it a mandatory criterion. Now, what is dental shadowing? What makes it necessary? How does it add to your credentials? Read through to know further

What is Dental Shadowing?

Dental shadowing is a collective term for a series of activities that any foreign dentist observes under the guidance of a dental specialist. It includes dental procedures, techniques, dental office administration, and much more. Interaction with the patients, the protocols, and being acquainted with the US dental practice across all aspects are other highlights of dental shadowing. Dental shadowing may be done in a dentist’s office or any Dental school.

Duration for Dental Shadowing

There is no mandate on the number of dental shadowing hours. However, it is recommended that you shadow for a minimum of fifty-plus hours. Some schools may demand more periods of shadowing.

Importance of Dental Shadowing 

Shadowing a doctor in a dental office or school can help you to get acquainted with various aspects of dentistry.  It also guides you in the overall management of a dental office. It gives you immense exposure to the prevailing treatment modalities., innovative techniques, etc. Moreover, shadowing teaches you the roles and responsibilities of dental assistants and hygienists across patient care and services.

I Can’t Even Touch the Patients! Then Why Bother Shadow?

Dental Shadowing provides an in-depth approach to the clinical aspects of practice. It comprises the doctor-patient interactions, the coordination between dentists and staff as teamwork, and the relationship between teammates. It imparts valuable knowledge to tackle different ordeals in unprecedented situations. Let us evaluate further the prime benefits of dental shadowing.

The Front-office Administration and Management

It is to be noted that dental practice is not confined to clinical skills. You may be one of those who walk straight into practice after dental school. However, this has various drawbacks which may impact you in establishing a successful career in the long run. 

Firstly you have no prior exposure to the clinical administration of dentistry. The paper and paperless documentation, patient files, health history, consent forms, and treatment plans fall under this front office administration. Management of dental insurance and patient codes is another entailing aspect. 

Scheduling patient appointments, reviewing visits, receiving and seating patients, billing insurance claim forms, and ordering lab materials are other tasks included in the desk job. In addition, knowledge of protecting patients and privacy is of utmost importance.

Though it sounds cumbersome and multi-tasking, they form the essentialities in the effective functioning of a dental office.

Maintaining the Protocols  

It is crucial to maintain the standard guidelines and universal protocols for sterilization and disinfection. You also need to strictly adhere to the laws for safety across every aspect of the practice. These include patient safety, equipment sterilization, disinfection, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

For instance, your dental shadowing facility promotes multiple disposable or single-use supplies for enhanced infection control. These are intended to curtail the contamination and spread of infection. Thereby protecting both the dentists and patients. This back-office exposure imparts the knowledge that teaches you about the guidelines and use of certain materials to promote office safety.

Chairside Mechanisms  

Four-handed dentistry is the preferred choice for most clinical procedures. The efficiency of a procedure largely depends on the collaborative efforts between the assistant and the dentist. In fact, the assistant has to be a step ahead.  Their presence of mind matters significantly. Coordination of the eyes, fingers, and hand ensures accuracy and speed. For instance, when the dentist performs a restoration, you can hold a suction or pass instruments. These educate the necessity of timely action.

Provides Deeper Insight into Dental Specializations

If you are shadowing any specialists, it guides you through the intricacies of specializations. Moreover, pursuing them in the future may be an added advantage. Endodontics, pedodontics, and oral and maxillofacial surgery are specializations that treat complex oral diseases. The treatment mostly involves a combined and close association with the specialists to cater to the best treatment. 

The behavioral guidance pedodontists implement in pediatric patients helps judge the mentality of a young patient. It facilitates a better approach and treats them effectively. Specialists have precise insight, especially for sensitive procedures. Observing them closely during the shadowing boosts your skills in delivering the best care. 

Outreach Programs 

Shadowing a doctor in outreach programs widens your expanse of interaction with a diversified population. It enables you to know more about the local oral health issues, habits, and requirements. The role and responsibilities of community clinics in developing awareness of oral health. Outreach programs include organizing free screenings, offering oral health education, and awareness programs. Shadowing in such events helps you with one-on-one interaction with people. 

Strengthens your Professional Network

Dental shadowing can help you establish a better professional network. Creating new connections with your counterparts, dental students, and dentists. It can certainly help you get through dental school easily. Be it through the application process or feedback and likewise.

This experience gives better clarity on the approach of the admissions committee. Their expectations and obstacles you may encounter candidates also informed me of hurdles in dental school.


Associating with dentists and colleagues in the dental facility helps refine your skills. They can mentor you in various aspects. Their suggestions and guidance can be schooling for a better journey-be professional or personal. It also broadens your perspective on being a seasoned dentist.  

Why is Dental shadowing criteria for foreign Dentists?

Dental schools look highly upon shadowing as it shows commitment to dentistry extensively. It also walks you through the world of dentistry. Apart from these, shadowing lets students witness the vital role of comprehending the patient’s concern at every phase.

How to find a dentist to shadow?

Finding a dentist to shadow is not a tough task. You can reach out to them with a personal appointment which is ideal. However, you can contact the dentists through emails or calls. Here are a few easy-to-approach tips for finding a dentist.

Personal, Family Connections

A good segment opts for dental shadowing with their personal dentist for various reasons. They are known to you personally and can provide a comfort zone and the hours you need. Another option is to shadow a dentist who is a personal acquaintance or family member.

Dentist Directories

In the absence of above-said contacts, you may check for dentists in your locality. It’s easy to find online. Dental directories like Find a Dentist and DentaQuest are other options.

Dental Clubs

A dental club can help you connect with lots of like-minded people. It may be professors or dentists who can mentor you. They also help you avail opportunities for shadowing. Such clubs also offer training opportunities to prepare for dental school. These potential relations can instill a long-term career resource.


Dental Shadowing is absolutely a valuable experience. It helps you strengthen your academic and clinical skills and foster new relationships. In addition, it helps you comprehend the advanced techniques and procedures in dentistry. Shadowing may also reward you with a life mentor who can guide you throughout your career and beyond. Irrespective of where you shadow, what you gain from shadowing is crucial. It is indeed a pathway to mold you as a better clinician and a professional.

Have you found any dentist to shadow? What did you learn from it?