GOING PRO From Student To Professional

Aspen: Aspen Dental

Date:January 3, 2018 

Graduating from dental school is an amazing accomplishment achieved by only an elite few in the healthcare profession. Although graduation day is a milestone in every dental student’s life, it’s also a pivotal decision-making time that opens up a world of opportunities.

Graduating from dental school is an amazing accomplishment achieved by only an elite few in the healthcare profession. Although graduation day is a milestone in every dental student’s life, it’s also a pivotal decision-making time that opens up a world of opportunities. Many dental school graduates choose to pursue their education even further by specializing in an advanced field. Other graduates prefer to get straight to work by accepting an associate opportunity at an existing practice. Still others join a dental group practice to kick start their careers. By asking good questions and taking advantage of every resource and opportunity to learn about the transition from dental school to the dental profession, you will inevitably set yourself up for success.

No matter which pathway to the profession you choose, your ultimate career goals will be similar. During this critical transition period, you will undoubtedly gain experience in procedures that your patients depend upon you to perform. Although you’ve already been providing patient care in the dental school clinic, this may be one of the first times you do so independently. The early career of a dentist is an exciting time to learn about work environments, gain confidence, and decide which career path is right for you. Many dental school graduates pursue postdoctoral education to receive training in a specific field they are passionate about or to get a leg up on the competition. A 2011 American Dental Education Association (ADEA) report indicated about 37% of dental school graduates advanced to specialize in an advanced field. More than 700 different postdoctoral programs are available today.

There are currently nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA), so you may choose from one of these as you consider your future in dentistry:

DENTAL SPECIALTIES RECOGNIZED BY THE AMERICAN DENTAL ASSOCIATION:

  • Dental Public Health
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Periodontics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Prosthodontics

Whether it’s periodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, or prosthodontics, working in a specialized field has its risks and its benefits. More education equates to more student loans and more time spent with professors instead of patients. But upon successful completion of a specialized program, graduates may be qualified to work in exclusive environments and be eligible to earn higher compensation. Since all those fees for transcripts, essays, and interviews add up, it’s helpful to outline your advanced education expenses with an application expense tracking worksheet. If you’re considering postdoctoral education, carefully review application processes on your top schools’ websites so you don’t miss crucial deadlines.

Associateships

According to the ADA, two out of every three dental school graduates pursue associateships after graduation. Associateships are a popular option because they allow graduates to gain experience alongside an experienced dentist while still earning a reliable paycheck. However, not all associateships are created equal. Some associates work in large group practices and others for individual practice owners. Associateships are a great option if you’re not yet in a financial position to take large risks, since they require no initial capital. The downside is a smaller income, restrictions on managerial roles, and limitations on effecting change in the office. THE NEXT DDS offers numerous resources to help you get started on your exploration of this topic and even to help evaluate an associateship opportunity. A good compromise for graduates who choose the associateship path is the “buy in” option. Associates who have practice equity often have the option to make an investment and become a partner in the practice, resulting in higher income and greater responsibility. Dental recruiting agencies like Henry Schein Nationwide Dental Opportunities (www.dentalopportunities.com) can provide placement assistance for graduates seeking associateships.

The Large Group Dental Practice

For dental school graduates beginning their careers, the group practice path is an especially practical one. It is extremely difficult to establish a successful solo dental practice fresh out of school with minimal professional experience and challenging educational debt. Group practices such as a “dental support organization” practice (DSO practice) can provide you with shared management responsibilities, shared patient coverage, and flexible schedules. Nearly one in four dental school graduates will opt to enter the profession by way of the DSO practice, and over 70% of student respondents indicated an interest in this option in recent surveys. It is often beneficial for early career dentists to work in a team environment to learn about different management styles, patient manners, and areas of expertise. To do well in a private practice, you may also need experience managing employees, marketing your practice, negotiating contracts, and managing the cash flow. These tasks can become time consuming and detract from the value of your clinical services. However, a DSO-supported practice often offer comfortable benefit packages like retirement plans, health plans, investment options, and vacation time. Many DSOs like Aspen Dental Management, Inc., Heartland Dental Care, and Pacific Dental Services—each of which has partnered with THE NEXT DDS in supporting your university training—provide associate dentists with immediate benefits and the opportunity to grow into managing clinical directors or even practice owners.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the field of dentistry is rewarding, respected, and offers a work-life balance that is uncommonly refreshing in the medical profession. While these are the most popular career options among dental school graduates today, they aren’t the only ones. Dentistry opens itself up to professional opportunities in a wide variety of work environments, including emergency rooms, research laboratories, international relief organizations, and even the military. Before making a decision, consider where you want to live, how flexible your finances are, and what work style makes you happiest. Take into consideration that people today are living longer and increasingly obsessed with looking younger. Not only are the cosmetic and implant industries booming, more low-income families are gaining access to dental insurance for six-month checkups and regular cleanings. Fortunately for all graduates, the demand for dentistry is high and it's increasing every year.

Tips to Finding your Career

Start Early

The early career of a dentist is an exciting time to learn about work environments, gain confidence, and decide which career path is right for you.

Facts & Stats

A 2011 American Dental Education Association (ADEA) report indicated about 37% of dental school graduates advanced to specialize in an advanced field. More than 700 different postdoctoral programs are available today.

Associateships

According to the ADA, two out of every three dental school graduates pursue associateships after graduation. Associateships are a popular option because they allow graduates to gain experience alongside an experienced dentist while still earning a reliable paycheck.

The Group Practice

Group practices can provide you with shared management responsibilities, shared patient coverage, and flexible schedules. It is often beneficial for early career dentists to work in a team environment to learn about different management styles, patient manners, and areas of expertise.

More Opportunities

Dentistry opens itself up to professional opportunities in a wide variety of work environments, including emergency rooms, research laboratories, international relief organizations, and even the military. Before making a decision, consider where you want to live, how flexible your finances are, and what work style makes you happiest.