35 Dentist Interview Questions (+ Sample Answers)

Stepping into a dental job interview can be a high-stakes moment where preparation sets the stage for success. The art of predicting questions and fine-tuning responses is crucial, turning the interview from daunting to opportunistic.

  • For Candidates, insight into the sort of inquiries that may arise, coupled with a preparedness to articulate your expertise and experiences, is indispensable.
  • For Interviewers, crafting questions that drill down into the candidates’ capabilities and their alignment with the practice’s ethos is equally vital.
  • For Mentors and Coaches, your guidance is the cornerstone upon which candidates can build the confidence needed to navigate the complexities of dental interviews.

In this article, we distill essential insights and strategies for everyone involved in the dental interview process. We aim to arm you with the knowledge and confidence to excel, whether you’re facing the interviewer or guiding someone who is.

Table of Contents

Skill-Level Determiner Questions

1. Can you walk me through your process for diagnosing a patient with persistent toothache?

This question gauges the candidate’s analytical skills and familiarity with dental conditions and diagnostic procedures.

A good answer should include:

  • Detailed history taking.
  • Clinical examination techniques.
  • Knowledge of differential diagnosis.
Sample Answer: 

"When a patient presents with a toothache, my first step is to conduct a thorough history taking, focusing on the onset, duration, and nature of the pain, and any exacerbating or relieving factors. 

Next, I perform a clinical examination, including percussion, palpation, and thermal tests to assess pulp vitality. Based on these findings, I consider differential diagnoses, such as pulpitis, dental abscess, or possible referred pain, and propose the appropriate investigations like radiographs for a definitive diagnosis."

2. Describe your experience with composite restorations and how you ensure their longevity.

This question assesses the candidate’s practical skills and knowledge in modern restorative techniques and materials.

A good answer should include:

  • Choice of material and techniques for cavity preparation.
  • Steps for bonding and layering the composite.
  • Measures to prevent post-operative sensitivity and ensure the longevity of the restoration.
Sample Answer: 

"I've performed numerous composite restorations and focus on meticulous cavity preparation, ensuring I remove all caries while conserving healthy tooth structure. I choose a high-quality composite material suitable for the specific case and follow strict protocols for isolation, bonding, and layering to minimize shrinkage. 

Additionally, I polish the restoration adequately to prevent plaque accumulation and provide patients with aftercare instructions to avoid premature wear."

3. How do you approach a complex root canal therapy on a molar with multiple canals?

This question tests the candidate’s expertise in endodontic procedures and their problem-solving skills.

A good answer should include:

  • Use of radiographic and clinical assessments to determine canal configuration.
  • Discussing the importance of cleaning, shaping, and obturating canals.
  • Implementing strategies to manage curved canals or other anatomical challenges.
Sample Answer: 

"For complex molar root canal treatment, I start with a thorough radiographic evaluation using both periapical and bite-wing x-rays to better understand the root configuration. Clinically, I use magnification and illumination to aid in detecting all canals. 

During the procedure, I focus on meticulous cleaning and shaping of the canals while preserving tooth structure. Special attention is given to curved canals, employing specific instruments and techniques suited for navigation and obturation. I conclude with a well-sealed coronal restoration to protect the endodontic treatment."

4. Describe how you manage a pediatric patient with dental anxiety during their first filling procedure.

The interviewer is assessing the candidate’s ability to work with children and manage behavior in a clinical setting.

A good answer should include:

  • Techniques for establishing rapport with young patients.
  • Behavioral management strategies.
  • Pain control and comfort measures.
Sample Answer: 

"Managing pediatric patients requires a special approach. I start by creating a friendly and welcoming environment, using non-threatening language and showing them the instruments and explaining their use in a fun way. 

To alleviate anxiety, I employ 'tell-show-do' techniques and provide praise throughout the procedure. I ensure pain control through appropriate anesthesia and distraction techniques, such as audiovisual aids, to maintain their comfort and cooperation."

5. How do you handle complications such as excessive bleeding during a tooth extraction?

This question is aimed at understanding the candidate’s ability to respond to surgical complications calmly and competently.

A good answer should include:

  • Steps to anticipate and prevent common complications.
  • Techniques for managing acute bleeding.
  • Postoperative instructions to minimize further complications.
Sample Answer: 

"When performing extractions, I always prepare for potential complications. In the event of excessive bleeding, I maintain a calm demeanor, reassuring the patient. Initially, I utilize direct pressure with a sterile gauze. 

If bleeding persists, I may consider additional measures such as re-suturing, using hemostatic agents, or prescribing a tranexamic acid mouthwash. Patients receive clear postoperative instructions to promote healing and avoid dislodging the clot."

6. What is your experience with dental implants, and how do you ensure their success?

This addresses the candidate’s experience with implantology and their approach to patient care for optimal outcomes.

A good answer should include:

  • Assessment of patient suitability for implants.
  • Technique for precise implant placement.
  • Aftercare instructions for promoting osseointegration and implant health.
Sample Answer: 

"Dental implants are a significant part of my practice. I conduct thorough patient evaluations, including medical history and bone density assessments, to ensure they're suitable for implants. I plan the procedure with careful consideration of the implant's positioning, using surgical guides for precision. 

Postoperatively, I provide detailed care instructions and monitor the implant's integration and health through regular follow-ups."

Other Skill-Level Determinant Questions:

  • Explain how you approach creating a treatment plan for a patient with multifaceted dental issues.
  • Describe your proficiency with digital radiography and how you ensure patient safety during radiographic procedures.
  • Can you explain how you would manage a patient with persistent periodontal disease despite previous interventions?
  • Outline your strategies for managing dental emergencies, such as avulsed teeth or lacerations, in the dental office.

Behavioral-Based Questions

1. Tell me about a time when you had to deliver difficult news to a patient regarding their dental health. How did you handle it?

Understanding how a dentist communicates in challenging situations assesses empathy, communication skills, and professionalism.

A good answer should include:

  • Describing a clear situation.
  • The sensitive delivery of bad news.
  • Strategies for supporting the patient and discussing treatment options.
Sample Answer (STAR Method): 

"During my dental career, I faced the tough task of informing a young patient about the need for tooth extraction due to severe decay. With empathy, I chose a private setting to discuss the matter, speaking simply and calmly to ensure he understood the significance of the procedure and the risks of ignoring the decay.

Active listening was key as I addressed his concerns, ensuring he felt valued and supported throughout our conversation. To alleviate his worries and maintain his trust, I introduced the idea of a dental implant as a reliable solution for after the extraction, reinforcing our commitment to his long-term oral health."

2. Describe a time when you disagreed with a colleague over a patient’s treatment plan. How was the disagreement resolved?

This question evaluates the candidate’s ability to handle professional conflict and collaborate with colleagues.

A good answer should include:

  • A specific instance of disagreement.
  • The method used to communicate and resolve the issue.
  • Positive resolution for both the patient and the dental team.
Sample Answer (STAR Method): 

"During an interaction with an orthodontist concerning when a child should start braces, I felt we should wait for more permanent teeth to appear, opposing the orthodontist's initial recommendation. To resolve this, we revisited the patient's dental records, exchanged ideas respectfully, and aligned ourselves with dental care standards and the patient's utmost interest.

Our willingness to work together led us to agree on postponing the treatment, a decision later validated as beneficial for the patient, showcasing the strength of a collaborative, patient-first mindset in our professional practice."

3. Can you provide an example of how you handle multiple tasks simultaneously?

Efficiency and the ability to prioritize are crucial in a busy dental practice, and this question probes those skills.

A good answer should include:

  • Clear description of a busy scenario.
  • Strategies for time management and organization.
  • The successful outcome of managing multiple tasks.
Sample Answer (STAR Method): 

"Facing a demanding day at the clinic with back-to-back procedures, I immediately put my time management abilities to the test, judiciously arranging each patient's slot. I utilized the expertise of my team by delegating preparatory tasks, allowing me to focus on and maintain the quality of dental treatments provided.

Through efficient planning and teamwork, we succeeded in treating all patients on schedule, upholding our commitment to exceptional service without compromise."

4. Share an experience where you had to adapt to a significant change in the workplace.

Adaptability is vital for a dentist adapting to new policies, technologies, or changes in staff roles.

A good answer should include:

  • A situation requiring significant adaptation.
  • Steps taken to effectively adapt to the change.
  • Outcomes or lessons learned from the experience.
Sample Answer (STAR Method): 

"Amidst our clinic's switch to a new electronic health record (EHR) system, I knew adaptability would be key. Stepping up, I attended extra training sessions, quickly becoming adept at the new system, which in turn enabled me to assist my peers with the change.

My active support ensured our team's smooth transition, with no detriment to patient care. The experience underscored the value of flexibility and lifelong learning in my dental career."

5. Describe a time when you had to manage a difficult or non-compliant patient.

This question assesses the dentist’s interpersonal skills, patience, and problem-solving abilities in challenging situations.

A good answer should include:

  • Specific situation and task at hand.
  • Actions taken to handle the situation professionally.
  • Positive result or resolution from those actions.
Sample Answer (STAR Method): 

"Confronted with a patient skeptical about a necessary dental procedure, I prioritized educating him about the risks of postponing the treatment, offering clear explanations and additional resources. I suggested seeking a second opinion to affirm my commitment to openness and his health.

This transparent approach cultivated trust, which was apparent when he returned, ready for the procedure and reassured by my advice. This experience highlighted the crucial role of clear communication and educational efforts in building trust and ensuring compliance with dental care recommendations."

Other Behavioral-Based Questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you effectively managed a high-stress situation in your practice.
  • Give an example of how you’ve contributed to a positive work environment or team dynamic.
  • Describe a moment when you received constructive criticism. How did you respond?
  • Can you share a situation where you improved efficiency or patient care through innovation or creativity in your role?

Situational-Based Questions

1. Imagine our clinic adopts a new dental technology that you are unfamiliar with. How would you go about incorporating this into your practice?

This question evaluates a candidate’s adaptability and willingness to learn new skills necessary for the job.

A good answer should include:

  • Proactive approach to learning and training.
  • Intention to practice and gain proficiency with the new technology.
  • Plan to integrate the new technology seamlessly into patient care without disruption.
Sample Answer:

"I would first undertake training for the new technology, whether through online courses or manufacturer workshops. Next, I'd practice on simulations before implementing it in treatments, ensuring a minimal learning curve's impact on patient care."

2. If you have a full schedule and an existing patient calls with a dental emergency, how do you prioritize their treatment?

This question explores the candidate’s decision-making skills in managing and prioritizing patient care.

A good answer should include:

  • Evaluation of the emergency’s severity compared to scheduled treatments.
  • Strategies for accommodating urgent care without neglecting other patients.
  • Ability to communicate and rearrange schedules as needed.
Sample Answer:

"I would assess the emergency's urgency over the phone and decide if immediate treatment is necessary. If so, I would work with my staff to adjust the schedule or extend office hours to provide care without canceling other appointments."

3. A patient is dissatisfied with the outcome of their dental treatment. How do you address their concerns?

This question investigates the dentist’s customer service skills and ability to handle complaints professionally.

A good answer should include:

  • Listening empathetically to the patient’s concerns
  • Offer a thorough examination and explanation of the treatment outcomes
  • Working with the patient to identify a satisfactory solution
Sample Answer:

"I would listen carefully to understand the patient's specific dissatisfaction. I'd review the treatment process and discuss the expected result versus their expectations. If possible, I'd offer to make adjustments to their satisfaction, maintaining a positive relationship."

4. If you notice a clinical assistant consistently failing to follow proper sterilization procedures, what steps would you take?

This question evaluates the candidate’s ability to enforce compliance with critical safety protocols while managing team dynamics.

A good answer should include:

  • The immediate correction of the witnessed behavior to prevent patient risk.
  • Education and retraining on proper sterilization techniques.
  • Implementation of a system of accountability to ensure future compliance.
Sample Answer: 

"If I encountered this, I would immediately rectify the situation at hand, ensuring that proper sterilization is carried out. I would then hold a training session, not just for the individual but for the whole team, to reinforce the importance and procedures of sterilization. 

To ensure future adherence, I'd incorporate random checks and introduce a reporting system where non-compliance can be anonymously communicated."

5. A colleague recommends an expensive procedure that may not be strictly necessary. How would you handle this situation with the patient?

This inquiry probes the candidate’s integrity and how they balance professional obligations with patient advocacy.

A good answer should include:

  • A discussion with the colleague to understand their rationale.
  • An independent evaluation of the patient’s condition and needs.
  • Transparent communication with the patient about all possible treatment options and their implications.
Sample Answer: 

"I would respectfully discuss the case with my colleague to understand their reasoning. After reviewing the patient's situation myself, if I believe a less expensive alternative would be just as effective, I would candidly discuss all options with the patient, including potential risks and benefits, to help them make an informed decision."

Other Situational-Based Questions:

  • A patient calls after hours with intense tooth pain, but you are not on call. How would you handle the situation?
  • You discover a billing inconsistency that may have overcharged patients. What is your response?
  • How would you react if you realized mid-procedure that a better treatment option is available for the patient?

Organizational Fit Questions

1. Explain how you approach maintaining work-life balance and why it’s essential for you in the context of a dental practice.

The question looks for insight into the candidate’s perspective on balance and their potential to sustain productivity and avoid burnout.

A good answer should include:

  • Personal strategies to ensure work-life balance.
  • The importance of balance for professional performance and patient care.
  • Recognition of the practice’s role in supporting balance.
Sample Answer: 

"To maintain my optimal professional performance, I make work-life balance a priority by setting firm boundaries between work and personal time and engaging in regular fitness activities to manage stress. This balance ensures I can provide the best care for my patients, as I'm refreshed and focused. 

Additionally, I believe a dental practice should support this by promoting a culture where everyone respects and values downtime, ultimately benefiting both patients and practitioners."

2. How would you contribute to a positive work culture in our dental clinic?

This question looks at the candidate’s potential to positively influence the workplace and mesh well with the existing team.

A good answer should include:

  • Willingness to collaborate and support colleagues
  • Approach to fostering a respectful and inclusive environment
  • Strategies for maintaining positive communication and team morale
Sample Answer:

"I believe in a collaborative and supportive team dynamic. I contribute to a positive work culture by actively participating in team-building activities, offering assistance to colleagues, and ensuring open lines of communication for a respectful and efficient workplace."

3. What motivates you to stay long-term with a dental practice, and how do you see yourself growing with us?

This question explores the candidate’s long-term goals and aspirations within the practice, indicating the potential for a lasting professional relationship.

A good answer should include:

  • Factors that contribute to job satisfaction and loyalty
  • Personal and professional development goals
  • Envisioned role in the practice’s future
Sample Answer:

"I am motivated by a learning-rich environment and opportunities to expand my clinical skills. I see myself growing with your practice by taking on more complex cases, mentoring junior dentists, and possibly stepping into a leadership role over time."

Other Organizational Fit Questions:

  • How have you handled conflicts in the workplace, and what is your approach to working through disagreements?
  • Describe your ideal work environment and how you adapt if conditions change.
  • How do you handle receiving constructive criticism or feedback on your performance?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to adapt to a significant policy change within a workplace.

Job Interview Tips

  • Be prepared to answer technical questions about common dental procedures, materials, and equipment. Refresh your knowledge on recent advancements in dental technology and evidence-based practice.
  • Research the dental practice you are interviewing with. Understand their patient demographics, values, and the services they offer. This will allow you to tailor your responses and show genuine interest.
  • Dentists must often manage anxious patients. Prepare to talk about your bedside manner and strategies for helping patients feel at ease.
  • Express your commitment to professional growth by discussing any additional courses, certifications, or conferences you have attended. Continuous learning is important in the healthcare industry.

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Brenda Calisaan is a psychology graduate who strongly desires to impact society positively. She aspires to spread awareness and knowledge about mental health, its importance, and its impact on individuals and society.

She also has a passion for working with children and hopes to dedicate her career to positively impacting their lives.

Outside of work, Brenda is an avid traveler and enjoys exploring new experiences. She is also a music enthusiast and loves to listen to a variety of genres. When she's not on the road or working, Brenda can often be found watching interesting YouTube videos, such as Ted-Ed content.