Smile Source Private Dental Practice Blog

Tips for Young Dentists Looking to Gain Confidence and Skills

An Interview with Smile Source Administrator, Mark Malterud, DDS

Q: How often have you felt and heard, “They never taught me this in dental school?”

Countless times. I can't help but shake my head when I think about how much I could write on that subject alone. When I graduated from dental school at the University of Minnesota, I was equipped to perform basic dental procedures, but I lacked the confidence to tackle complex dentistry, advanced procedures, and many other essential skills. The stress was overwhelming. 

Over time, I found my footing by surrounding myself with positive influences, engaging in self-directed learning, seeking advice from more experienced colleagues, attending continuing education (CE) courses, and trying to implement what I learned. However, it was a challenging journey. 

During the first 10 to 15 years of my practice, I kept discovering various aspects I needed to master, including patient interactions, clinical skills, improving operations, cost management, and enhancing the financial aspects of my practice, among many others.

Q: New dentists are especially overwhelmed but they need to fit in CE. Just how important is continuing education in their lives?

Continuing Education (CE) holds immense significance in the dental profession. New dentists often grapple with overwhelming demands and financial constraints when it comes to pursuing CE. I am part of a group, Smile Source, that provides dentists of all ages affordable CE opportunities that address their clinical and professional skills.

In the initial three years of their dental careers, young dentists are finding their footing and gaining confidence. However, in these early years, CE is an indispensable aspect of their professional journey. Not only is it essential for maintaining their practice license, but it also plays a pivotal role in their personal growth, fostering valuable networking connections, and ultimately sustaining their livelihoods.

  1. Continuing education develops their behavioral and clinical skills, enabling them to collaborate more effectively with patients.

  2. It helps dentists break out of isolation, expanding their horizons and self-discovery, revealing their strengths and weaknesses, and guiding them toward what they are most enthusiastic to learn.

  3. CE can be highly motivating and designed to facilitate the implementation of newfound knowledge. I found this to be particularly true for educational programs aimed at dentists aspiring to practice fee-for-service dentistry, as well as immersive CE programs like those offered at Pankey, Spear, and Dawson.

  4. A significant portion of Smile Source’s CE offerings empowers members to go forward in new directions on their journey to mastery. It allows them to stay updated on the latest advances and trends in dentistry, helping them make informed decisions regarding technology, education, and practice improvements.


Q: What distinguishes Smile Source educational opportunities from other opportunities?

I’ve heard countless times from dentists that their competence in all areas of practice and their happiness and profitability grew at an accelerated rate due to participating in CE with dentists who had similar aspirations.

Smile Source is one of the greatest resources available to dentists to study and discuss all aspects of practice with like-minded dentists and to be mentored by those with experience. 

We’re in this together to share knowledge and encouragement so the private practice model of dentistry will survive. We passionately believe this is the most meaningful way to practice for ourselves, our teams, and our patients.

We focus on the relationship-based model of dental practice. Dental school programs don’t spend a lot of time on the development of "soft skills" related to patient care. They primarily focus on technical knowledge and skill development due to the vast amount of content to cover. 

Lifelong learning is essential for personal growth in the service of others. In my case, conducting comprehensive dentistry for patients who value the highest level of care has become second nature to me, and it's what I love most about my career. I genuinely aspire to be a successful behavioral model and mentor for young dentists, that’s why being a Smile Source administrator is important to me. 

“Smile Source supplies young dentists with success models and mentors. When a new dentist comes to one of our live CE events, they witness firsthand our culture of collegiality and sharing support. Our hands are outstretched to them.”—Dr. Mark Malterud


“Smile Source supplies young dentists with success models and mentors. When a new dentist comes to one of our live CE events, they witness firsthand our culture of collegiality and sharing support. Our hands are outstretched to them.”


Q: There are so many CE opportunities today. How do you decide what’s worth your time?

Given the constant evolution in technology and patient expectations for the latest techniques, staying up to date is crucial. However, the abundance of choices in continuing education can be overwhelming.

Dentists must identify their specific learning needs and objectives, as well as the most effective pathways to achieve them but how can they navigate through the marketing hype and ensure they're on the right path?

As a Smile Source administrator, one of my responsibilities is to facilitate discussions about CE programs tailored to dentists striving for mastery in delivering the highest level of care and achieving third-party independence. Young dentists can benefit from the insights and recommendations of other members who have experienced various CE programs. 

Time is of the essence for dentists, as we're constantly busy. Most of us seek immersive programs that offer more than just large group lectures; we value hands-on workshops and personalized guidance.


Q: From the patient’s perspective, how important is CE accreditation?

For dentists aiming to provide fee-for-service dentistry, it's critical to display their CE and advanced accreditations. Patients seeking the highest quality care, regardless of insurance coverage, are attracted to dentists with impressive credentials.

Your online bio should prominently feature your knowledge, leadership roles in dental societies, study clubs you belong to, presentations you've given, and areas of expertise. All of these elements engage patients and foster trust.


Q: What have been the greatest benefits of Smile Source CE when it comes to your practice?

Formal CE sessions at regional and national meetings are brimming with enthusiasm that spills over into conversations—whether on the vendor floor, during meals, social gatherings, or subsequent online sessions where we support each other in applying the knowledge gained during CE.

Participating in regular online discussions with like-minded dentists who share a similar vision and face similar challenges provides us with highly relevant ideas. More importantly, it keeps us connected within the "We're in this together" culture. As Smile Source members, we encourage one another, hold ourselves accountable, and collaborate to solve real problems.

Finding a “family” that is so connected in common purpose and meets our needs means we recover faster from disappointments, frustrations, and burnout. We have friends, role models, mentors, resource experts--a vast range of relationships. We feel we are never alone, and we are greater together.


Q: Has training provided by Smile Source’s network of vendors been a part of your success?

It’s fascinating to observe how dental technology vendors are dedicated to addressing various challenges within dental practices. They focus on enhancing efficiency and precision in diagnostics and lab work, business analytics, patient financing, collections, clinical techniques, and more. These vendors are driving rapid advancements in the field, transforming the way we interact with patients, the effectiveness of our care, the longevity of our restorations, and the way we manage our practices.

Without these valuable contributions, our current level of knowledge and skills would not be possible. Their continuous efforts are propelling us forward, year after year. 

My vendor relationships with vendor representatives go beyond conventional sales interactions. They understand my goals and unique circumstances, prioritizing long-term support. Their guidance helps me make informed decisions, reduces frustrations, saves time, and ensures I get the maximum value for my investments, whether it is software, equipment, materials, or services. 

They have personally visited my office to assist with setup and training, followed up to ensure we are using our purchases effectively, and helped us streamline our systems for improved efficiency, productivity, and profitability. In situations where team members have been hesitant to embrace new technologies due to their busy schedules, vendors have made the transition enjoyable and even fun. 

Our dedicated vendor representatives consistently provide exceptional, personalized attention to Smile Source members and their teams. When a team member has been reluctant to learn something new because they are already busy, vendors have made the transition enjoyable, even fun. 

These relationships are mutually beneficial; we provide valuable feedback to vendors, enabling them to refine their products to better meet our needs. Our influence over their product development is significant.


Q: You mentioned team member training. Has your team participated in Smile Source “team education” opportunities?

Yes. I make it a point to bring team members with me to the annual Exchange Meeting, where we can explore the latest developments in dentistry and learn together. This experience not only exposes them to cutting-edge advancements but also instills a sense of purpose and excitement in the realm of private practice dentistry, empowering them to collaborate effectively.


Dr. Mark Malterud achieved his DDS degree from the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. He is committed to continuing his postgraduate education and participates in over 250 hours of continuing dental education each year. He also instructs other dentists, nationally and internationally, on minimally invasive aesthetic restorations. In addition to being a member and leader in Smile Source, he is a member of the American Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry, and Minnesota Dental Association. Dr. Malterud is a Board Member of the Academy of General Dentistry and a founding member of the Academy of Biomimetic Dentistry. He is also a member of the World Congress of Minimal Invasive Dentistry, and he consults with various dental manufacturers on their products to continually improve the quality of dental products available to his patients and Smile Source members.