Life After Dental School

I recently was asked to share our families prospective, of our journey of life after dental school and how to choose between corporate dentistry, private practice, or ownership/buyout.  I think most soon to be dentists find the glamour of owning their own practice to be the end goal/dream.  As with anything, patience is a virtue and is well given advice for about 90% of those graduating dental school.  However, everyones path will look and feel different.  Let’s dive in.

When my wife was coming out of dentistry school some of the main concerns for her as a dentist was being able to learn first hand how to perform great dentistry.  Most dental schools do an adequate job of preparing you for life after school, but the honest truth is, you do not see enough repetition of simple fillings, crown preps, and root canals (if they don’t get referred to graduate programs first) in the course of your 4 years of dental school to build speed, confidence and efficiency.  This is by popular consensus.

In dentistry, time is money.  Performing procedures quickly, but with high quality takes time.  As a newly minted dentist it takes time and practice to gain that extra speed with your hand pieces.  This is where corporate dentistry and private practice comes in.  If you can find a great mentor/boss in your first job out of school it can set you up for success in later endeavors with your career path.  It even allows you to learn how the office runs and how the business functions from a practitioner that probably has been doing it for years.  It also allows you to identify areas of the business that you could improve or enhance in your own practice.  Gaining that insight and experience to set up your dream practice at a later date is usually under-appreciated.

Coming out of school you are burden with many life transitions. If you are not going to a graduate program which most of those are announced in your 4th year 2nd semester.  Then you have many choices in your time horizon.  First, you have 6 months to decided how you want to repay your student loans.  (Paye, Repaye, PSLF, IBR, Standard).  This decision is made based on how you are structuring your career and current loan balance.  This is where hiring a financial planner can make this cash flow projections easier.  You have to decide on malpractice insurance, disability insurance, life insurance.  How to balance saving and paying down debt.

 If you are starting your own practice you have a multitude of decisions.  Do I rent or buy a building, should I get new or used equipment?   What location should I locate my business.  What Key metrics do I need to be looking at?  How much of a loan do I need to take out?  If you are buying a practice, how much is that practice worth?  How do you transition that other dentist out and ensure a smooth transition?

 If you go with private practice how do you dissect whether your employer can provide enough patients to cover your income need.  Do they have enough operators chairs available.  How will patients be split if you are working the same hours?  How do I get paid (collections, % gross productions)  Is the contract I am signing fair and equitable to both parties?

Corporate dentistry has it perks with healthcare benefits, student loan repayment benefits and usually a higher starting salary/production upside.  However, there are issues with the ethics side of this option.  Sometimes you are selling out for the all mighty dollar.  The big issue is performing procedures that you did not treatment plan.  So, if you run into an issue where you disagree with the diagnosis what would you do?  The corporate side will want you to proceed because at the end of the day they tend to be more ruthless than most private practice owners.  Malpractice insurance that corporate dentistry provides can leave some dentists in a bind after leaving the corporate world to pursue another avenue of dentistry.  If you are going after the most money right away this is the best option financially, but not necessary for long-term career growth.  By the way, you will be working 5 days a week. In private practice you usually work shorter days and have a day off per week.  Trust me your back/neck will thank you for only working 4 days a week.

Everyones path is different.  Making sure you think through the ethical and practical financial considerations is always prudent.  If you are a dental student and looking to get ahead on a lot of these decisions and want to establish a 2-3 year action plan for your last couple years in dental school and transition into life after dental school successfully, my firm is opening up a few spots for current students to enroll in our comprehensive financial planning retainer for $99 per month.  If you have any additional questions or want more information feel free to schedule a 15 min phone call here.  

Disclosure: We do not sell insurance products and we receive no commission or kick backs from any company.  The fee you pay is our only compensation.