10 tips for dental students interested in cosmetic dentistry

November 19, 2021

I have 20 years of experience doing cosmetic dentistry and have become one of the top cosmetic dentists in the United States. My team and I perform veneer procedures daily, and I personally complete over 150 – 200 veneer units each month. 

What many people don’t realize is that, although we make it look easy, it’s actually taken many years to dial in our systems for that to happen. If it looks like we are always doing a large number of cases, it’s because we are, by design, and it takes many orchestrated steps to build that machine. 

I consistently get asked about what advice I would give to dental students. Third and fourth year dental students who are aspiring cosmetic dentists usually ask what steps they should take to get to where we are. Here are some key takeaways and recommendations from those conversations. 

First, let’s review some things that helped me get where I am today. I graduated from the University of Texas Dental School in Houston in 2002. After graduating, I worked at a corporate dental office for about a year. I opened up my first dental office in an area called Lakeway, which is outside of central Austin. I continued to work at the corporate office part time while I was building my new practice. Looking back, I’d maybe have stayed at that corporate office for another year to build up my speed a bit more. This corporate office position was valuable because it allowed me to see a high volume of patients and improve my speed and efficiency. 

A key moment for me in my first year as a dentist was when I took a hands-on advanced aesthetics course (no longer offered) where we did a 10-unit upper smile makeover on a real patient. It was a game changer. From that course, I started to take over 100 hours of Continuing Education each year in all aspects of dentistry. Within my first few years out of dental school, I was taking courses on cosmetic dentistry, sedation dentistry, Invisalign®, implant dentistry, sleep apnea, soft tissue surgery, full arch and full mouth reconstruction, occlusion, and oral surgery. Each year, I’ve consistently invested on the average of $5,000 to $15,000 into taking Continuing Education Courses in the United States and abroad. And even to this day, I continue to take courses and am committed to being a lifelong learner. 

So, here are my 10 tips for dental students interested in cosmetic dentistry:

Clinical confidence

There are 3 main things to gain clinical confidence: Learning about the process, actually performing the process, and how to recover when things don’t go as planned. These are vital for your success and confidence. In order to become a successful cosmetic dentist, you have to put in the hours of doing the procedures you want to get known for—you’ll gain clinical confidence, hone your skills, and build a reputation.

Continuing education

Continuous learning and taking Continuing Education courses will be essential to your growth after dental school.

Treatment planning & diagnostic abilities

Part of the learning process is to see and plan as many cases as you can. If that means joining a corporate office for the first few years out of school, then it could be beneficial to do that. Not all cases are the same, and each patient is unique and individual in their goals, needs, and expectations.

Speed and efficiency

Improving your speed and efficiency are important as well. No one likes to be in the dental chair. You have to put in the hours and time working and practicing to become proficient. There are no shortcuts.

Patient & team communication

Being able to focus on the needs of your patient is so important to your success. Being able to communicate to your patients and team is vital. The most important part of communication is actually being able to listen to your patient and being present for them.

Cosmetic dental lab partnership

I’ve said this before. There is no way to do excellent cosmetic dentistry without using a high end cosmetic dental lab. Pay the higher fees; it will save you headaches and remakes. Start working with a great lab early in your career. I recommend Reliance Dental Designs and Williams Dental Lab.

Progress from single tooth to full mouth

Dental school prepares you for single tooth dentistry, but to become a cosmetic dentist, you have to understand full mouth concepts and be able to perform full mouth treatment plans and comprehensively complete the work needed. A smile makeover can consist of 10 upper teeth. You have to learn the mindset and understand the sequence of steps in order to be efficient with your chair time. Start small by doing 2-unit or 4-unit veneer cases, then move up to 8-unit veneer cases, then 10-unit veneer cases. Get comfortable with each step before moving on to the next.


Showing patients the smiles you’ve transformed and documenting your work is another important concept. Reviewing your own before and afters is like an athlete watching footage and replays of their game. See where you can improve what you’ve done. Use photography as a learning tool for yourself and for your patients. Get comfortable using a high-quality digital camera.

Smile design

Being able to communicate the changes that you can make to a smile is important. Understanding smile design and how the teeth and facial features are related is vital. Also, understanding soft tissue esthetics will enhance your results. You also have to be able to think about the patients end goal and your end goal for completing their treatment and how to deliver predictable results. Knowing how size, shape, and color all affect the outcome is important.

Patient comfort

Doing cosmetic dentistry and working on multiple teeth simultaneously means longer procedures for the patient. Understanding patient comfort is a priority. Local anesthesia principles and sedation dentistry protocols are helpful for smoother appointments. As mentioned above, no one likes being in the dental chair. Learn how to make patients comfortable during longer procedures.

So where should you start?

To be honest, if you’re wanting to learn cosmetic dentistry, veneers, and how we do what we do, I would start with my Veneer Masterclass. I created this course with younger dentists in mind. There is no cosmetic dental training in dental school, yet the demand for quality cosmetic dentistry is at an all-time high.

I’ve taken my 20 years’ experience of doing veneer procedures and all the things I’ve learned over those years and put it into this course. With my Veneer Masterclass, I am now teaching and sharing the same techniques that have helped me complete thousands of smile makeovers. These are the exact and specific steps that I follow with each of my cases. There is not another comprehensive online course on veneers like this taught by a top and trending cosmetic dentist who is doing veneers in today’s environment. 

Visit www.veneertraining.com to learn more about our courses and to start your cosmetic dentistry journey.