A superior student does not necessarily mean a successful dentist.

Running a successful practice involves far more than excelling in dental school. That may seem like an obvious point, but for many of today’s dental school graduates, the reality of that statement comes as a significant shock upon exiting the predictable confines of the classroom.

As Dr. Michael Rethman sees it, getting into dental school has become so competitive that it is drawing superior students, but not necessarily those who will become superior dentists. He is a board-certified periodontist, dental research scientist, and former director of the U.S. Army Institute of Dental Research, as well as past-president of the American Academy of Periodontology.

Dr. Rethman notes that “Dental schools are attracting students who are very good at setting goals and getting good grades. Many of them have really high IQs, but their EQs (emotional quotient) are often lacking.” In other words, many dental students score well on tests, complete clinical requirements expertly, but have extraordinary difficulty ...