Working as a dentist is a popular medical career path because of the opportunity to help others, competitive pay, and excellent benefits.
Like with any career, several pros and cons exist to becoming a dentist.
Before starting your career in this industry, it is beneficial to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages you could encounter, then use this knowledge to help you decide if this is the ideal career path.
To learn more about becoming a dentist, keep reading!
Pros of Being a Dentist
Dentistry is an excellent profession, with many advantages including:
1. Advancements in Dentistry
Dental technology is continuing to progress with new processes, procedures, and equipment to work more efficiently and effectively.
If you decide to bring innovative technology to your practice that shapes and improves the patient experience, you will be part of the generation of dentists who are changing the entire industry.
That means you will be setting the bar of excellence and customer service, creating a new patient expectation.
2. Be Self-Employed
Around 90% of dentists are self-employed as owners or partial owners of private practices.
At some point, every dentist has an opportunity to run open a practice, which is not possible in every other career type.
Being self-employed offers the benefits of flexibility and setting your schedule while doing what you love.
Many dentists who own a private practice spend 33 hours per week with their patients and 36 hours working each week.
Being your boss allows you to run the business as you see fit without having to answer to anyone.
For many, owning a practice means getting to practice the science they love and even having a specialty focus, which helps the community.
3. Change Lives
Oral health is a critical aspect of overall body health.
As a dentist, you can play a key role in helping patients take care of themselves.
Your advice and touch help prevent and treat diseases and replacing lost or damaged teeth wards off infection and disease.
Additionally, restoring smiles greatly helps improve a patient’s confidence who may otherwise be uncomfortable flashing that smile.
Furthermore, poor oral health is linked to heart disease, which is the leading killer in the U.S.
Therefore, through your treatments, reminders, and routine checkups, you are helping save lives, although it may not seem like it sometimes.
4. Excellent Earning Potential
Since earning a living wage is critical to any career, dentistry allows for that and enough to save for retirement.
The median annual general dentist wage was $159,000 in 2020, which is almost four times higher than the median U.S. salary.
Depending on how well you run the practice and your location, this salary could be much higher.
As part of the discussion of the benefits, dentists have excellent health benefits and a decent work-life balance, which can be rare within the medical community.
Even dentists who decide to work part-time can earn a great wage, higher than the national average.
5. Exercise Creativity
Dentistry is a combination of science and art to create an amazing smile that your patients will be proud of, which is an incredible advantage.
Consider the last patient who walked in hiding their smile and left the office flashing it around town!
It is incredibly satisfying to empower others to live a better life with the functional, beautiful, and new smile that you helped to create.
From dental implants to tooth replacement and simple teeth whitening, dentists have a portfolio of techniques that can restore patients’ smiles.
6. Job Stability
Another excellent benefit of entering the dentistry field is excellent job stability.
The dental field always has a high job demand because patients experience medical conditions that are related to dental health, so all communities need a dentist.
Also, patients will always need their teeth cleaned and have dental issues that must be resolved.
Due to this high dentistry demand, aspiring dentists typically find employment quickly after completing the required training and schooling.
You rarely hear of massive layoffs in the dentistry industry, and if you are laid off, there is a position waiting for you elsewhere!
7. Working With Amazing People
If you have ever been to the dentist (I really hope you have!), then you know that most dental teams are amazing.
Any position within a dental office requires a special individual who wants to be involved with patient’s mouths all day.
As a result, dental teams are usually compassionate and caring individuals who are pleasant to be around.
Additionally, dental teams are generally small and have been working together for many years.
Therefore, you really get to know the personalities of your employees.
This benefit does not just extend to dental teams.
You also get to know your patients well, since there is a high retention rate in this area of medicine.
Many patient relationships can develop into friendships over the years.
Cons of Being a Dentist
Just as there are great advantages to becoming a dentist, several downsides exist that must be considered, including:
1. Can Get Stuck in a Rut
If you enter a dentistry job that does not bring you joy, your career could feel like a job that you start to dread.
This can have an impact on your productivity and effectiveness.
Luckily, this can be changed by moving practices or changing the marketing of your practice to focus on a specific area that you enjoy.
Also, plenty of continuing education opportunities in specialized areas exist, so you could learn new skills to implement with your patients.
2. Extensive Education is Required
One of the greatest drawbacks of becoming a dentist is the time and educational commitment.
Dentists typically spend around seven or eight years of schooling before starting to work in the field.
Four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and another three or four years for a DDM or DDS degree.
Many dentists further their basic education and become involved in post-graduate programs that allow them to learn a specialty.
This can add another one to six years to the seven or eight basic educational requirements.
With all these educational requirements, the amount of debt you accrue can be exorbitant.
3. Must Keep Up with Rapid Changes
As great as dental technologies are, you must also keep up with them or your practice could fall behind the competition.
In addition to the new advancements, you must also complete continuing education credits as required by each state.
If you are incredibly busy, new advancements and continuing education credits may go by the wayside, so it is critical to set aside time for these activities.
4. Must Manage People
Being the boss can be great, but at times, you are responsible for managing your employees.
Growing and mentoring leaders within your practice is critical to the success, growth, and health of the business.
If growing leaders are not prioritized, the business can easily fail.
Unfortunately, not every dentist has the management skills or personality to develop employees, which can be bad for morale and detrimental to the practice.
Also, problematic employees who show up late, are insubordinate, or are difficult to manage must be dealt with accordingly.
5. Physical Demand
Although this is not a drawback most consider, working as a dentist is physically demanding since you are performing repetitive manual tasks that must be precise, which results in shoulder, neck, hand, and wrist strain.
Dentists are also on their feet most of the day, which results in fatigue.
6. Self-Employment Can Be Challenging
Being self-employed is an advantage and a disadvantage.
While you have the flexibility of being the boss, the success of the business is dependent on you drumming up new patients.
A struggling business can place a tremendous amount of stress on you with uncertainty piling on.
If there is some sort of an issue, you are responsible for the practice.
On the other hand, if your practice is busy, then you may struggle to maintain boundaries and work exorbitant hours to ensure all patients are happy.
This eliminates the work-life balance you were trying to achieve.
These are the harsh realities of owning a practice, but you also have the power to make changes that can mitigate issues.
7. Unable to Change Every Life
While you can change many lives, you cannot help everyone.
As you strive for perfection in your career, this type of pressure can be a major mental challenge.
Also, it can be frustrating to know that you are not helping enough patients with oral health every day since time is limited.
It is important to remember that you cannot change everyone’s ideals about oral health and there will be patients who do not follow your instructions.
However, there are a hundred smiles you have impacted with only a few problems.
Pros and Cons of Being a Dentist – Summary Table
|Pros of Being a Dentist||Cons of Being a Dentist|
|1. Advancements in Dentistry||1. Can Get Stuck in a Rut|
|2. Be Self-Employed||2. Extensive Education is Required|
|3. Change Lives||3. Must Keep Up with Rapid Changes|
|4. Excellent Earning Potential||4. Must Manage People|
|5. Exercise Creativity||5. Physical Demand|
|6. Job Stability||6. Self-Employment Can Be Challenging|
|7. Working With Amazing People||7. Unable to Change Every Life|
Should You Become a Dentist?
Deciding on whether to become a dentist can be challenging.
There are many incredible benefits to entering this medical specialty, such as helping others, earning a great wage, and enjoying a decent work-life balance.
However, the drawbacks like managing others, not being able to impact every patient, and having to run a business if you are not entrepreneurial can be challenging.
The decision to enter dentistry is based on what you are looking for in a career and the amount of drive and passion you have for this field of medicine!
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