Top 10 Paths That A Dental School Graduate Can Take And Should Consider
1. Postdoctoral Training
There are nine specialties and numerous other postgraduate educational opportunities available. The specialties (Endodontics,Pathology, Radiology, Oral Surgery, Orthodontics, Pediatrics,Periodontics, Prosthodontics, and Public Health) generally involve 2-3 year programs, with the notable exception of Oral Surgery which generally is 4-6 years in length. Specialties can require competitive board scores (which may change to GRE scores in the near future) as well as competitive class ranks, and other indicators. There are numerous non-specialty programs out there as well that include GPR's, AEGD's, Implantology, Dental Anasthesiology, Forensics, Preventative Dentistry, and Oral Biology. I tend to advise those graduates that decide to pursue general practice to consider a GPR or AEGD since basic cost-benefit analyses demonstrate that you learn more, and save more time and money in the long run in such programs over your practice lifetime, then you would by taking CE. Essentially, taking CE for what you would have learned in a GPR or AEGD is more costly and more time consuming.
2. Solo Private Practice
75.3% of dentists in the US and Canada are in solo practice, but the trend shows that the large majority of them are older dentists, and not new graduates. Of the 75.3%, only 12.7% are new graduates within the last 10 years. The reason new graduates are shying away from solo practice is because of the financial risk associated with start-up. Buying out an existing practice tends to be the more favored choice for those who choose this path. It is worthwhile noting that in general, incorporated sole proprietors earn more on average ($186,610) than unincorporated sole proprietors in general practice ($167,800).
New dental graduates are more inclined today to become associates then ever before. Established dental practices bring new associates in as salaried employees, without having to have any financial burden. It allows a new graduate to gain skill and confidence, earn and pay off loans, and to begin to establish their own practice. On average, most associates stay with a practice for 2 years, at which point they leave to start off on their own, or come aboard as a partner. For those that decide to leave, a restrictive covanent is generally signed restricting the associate from practicing within a certain distance. Other paths include also buying out a practice at the end of an agreed associateship period. Associates earn on average $131,350 per annum.
4. Solo Group Practice
These practices are essentially a group of solo practitioners working out of the same office space. This arrangement allows a new graduate to start off without a huge committment, and to slowly work their way up. In these types of practices, a new dentist can rent out an operatory or two, and maintain ownership over their own patients, hours of operation, and fee collection. Generally, these practices end up sharing front end and assistant employees, instruments, and office supplies.
This is generally easy for a new graduate only if they are setting up with other new graduates. An established practice would only bring in an experienced partner or someone who offers a new service to their patients, which is an example of why post-graduate training can be valuable. It is important to have the legal framework and contractual boundaries of a partnership set up appropriately. Good contracts that cover all the possibilities are important to maintain a good relationship. Partners on average earn $192,870 unincorporated, while incorporated partners earn more on average ($215,670).
A contractor position is similar to being an associate, but without being an actual employee of the practice. You remain self-employed, and set your own hours, and decide what kind of procedures you perform. This type of a position is helpful if your lifestyle demands flexibility and you have a solid base of practices that offer you the type of work that you are looking for. On the downside, you don't receive employee benefits, and you are responsible for your own insurance. You also are not guaranteed a salary of any sort. Contractors earn on average $101,710.
7. Federal Dental Employers
These positions are generally those that require a committment, but provide sign-on bonuses and loan assistance. Positions include openings with the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the U.S. Public Health Service. In such positions you may be relocated somewhere in the United States or overseas. Benefits include not having to worry about a start-up cost or a patient base, and the oppurtunity to gain more experience or to attend postgraduate training.
Since the likely reader of this post is already in dental school or has graduated, you're likely aware of the positions available at dental schools. Most dental schools, if not all, are looking for faculty, either clinical or didactic at any given time. There is a shortage of dental school faculty throughout the nation. At the current time, the U.S. has 56 dental schools. Note that faculty pursuing tenure usually require additonal postgraduate training in a specific discipline. The downside is that for faculty just beginning their careers, the salary tends to be on the 'low' end.
9. Hospital Dentistry
Dentists hired for these positions generally require some postgraduate training to receive hospital credentials. The position entails treating medically compromised patients who otherwise would have difficulty being seen by private practice dentists. Not all hospitals have dental wards, so be sure to check out which hospitals in your area would be interested in bringing aboard a dentist.
10. The Other Options
Many other private industries hire dentists for clinical, administrative, research, and other reasons. DMHO's hire dentists to provide treatment to their clients, insurance companies hire dentists to verify claims, and associations hire dentists for administrative purposes. Private industries hire dentists for research purposes as well. There is also a
dentist that has been hired by Google to provide dental treatment to Google employees. Although demand in this 'other' sector is low, it is certainly an area that should not be overlooked for a new graduate seeking a non-traditional dental career.
Good luck to all you new graduates out there! Although you shouldn't need it. I just had a lecture at school about how the demand for dentists is significantly increasing, whereas the supply of new graduates is beginning to dwindle.