new dentist career options

Successful dental careers require more than clinical skills

If you’re just coming out of dental school it’s safe to say that you probably have the requisite clinical skills to do your job.

Unfortunately clinical skills are not the only thing you need to have a successful career.

Dentistry is a business. If you don’t treat it like a business, then you are setting a ceiling on your own financial security.
I learned very young one of the most important skills they don’t teach you in dental school is how to choose the proper career path.

Most new dentists graduate with a lot of debt. That means the dream of opening your own practice right away is out of reach for most of us early in our careers.

The reality is that you’ll probably be working as an associate for a few years while you get your own financial house in order.

Depending on where your see your career taking you, you may consider joining an independent practice or one that is connected to a Dental Service Organization or Managed Service Organization.

Deciding on which route you want to take boils down to one question – do you have the entrepreneurial drive to one day own your own practice, or are you content to be an employee?

There is no right answer. However it’s a decision that you will have to make early and it will determine the path of your career going forward.

Whatever path you choose it’s important that you not only burnish your clinical skills, but also pay attention to how the practice is run. In essence you have two jobs – improving your skills and learning the business.

I’ve been a “wet-finger” dentist for over 35 years. When I graduated it was a different environment for dentists. When I started I had the luxury of time to figure things out. I made mistakes and I learned hard lessons. Eventually I was able to put in place processes and procedures that not only worked – but were also easy to replicate.

Today, the commoditization of dentistry has accelerated the learning curve considerably. So if you don’t get everything going right from day one then you will struggle.

I started consulting with new dentists because, through my work at Tufts, I saw that dental schools are very good at clinical, and often ignore the business and career development part of dentistry.

I didn’t see enough emphasis on accounting, legal, sales, marketing and other aspects of the business that can make or break a career.

Getting these skills, along with putting in place the proper processes and procedures that make a practice efficient at every level is the best way to ensure sustained growth and position you to achieve the maximum return on your investment when you eventually go to sell.

If you are a new dentist, or simply struggling with the business part of your dental practice, then I encourage you to book some time with me to talk about your current situation. It’s up to you how you want your career to play out. Talking to someone who knows what they’re doing with a solid track record of success is the best place to start.