Since dentists have a very high rate of career burnout, The Wealthy Dentist conducted a survey asking dentists if knowing what they know now, would they still want to be a dentist if they could do it over again.
“I had no idea of the overhead. I had no idea how unappreciative people are or how short their memory is. I would love to go home early one day just for the hell of it. I would love a paid vacation. I despise staff issues. I wish my job only depended on ME doing a great job. I thought dental insurance would be a blessing for people HA!” replied one North Carolina dentist.
Of the 36% who answered that they would not chose dentistry again as a profession, many dentists sited practice management issues and dealing with dental insurance as the main reasons for their disillusionment with dentistry.
Here’s what the dentist respondents had to say about choosing dentistry as a career a second time —
Better income elsewhere …
“For what you have to put up with the re-numeration is a mere pittance. All the good we do for people and the satisfaction of mastery of this fine art and science is ruined by the peripheral nonsense that we have to endure. I would not do it again!“ (Massachusetts dentist)
“I could make more money doing other things I already do, but cannot devote 100% to them because I am a dentist.” (New York dentist)
“It’s not as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I do wonder if another career (banking) might have fit me better and allowed me to have more early income, less early debt, and more flexibility to move to new locations when the desire to live in new places came about. In dentistry, transitioning to a new location is extremely challenging and costly.” (Colorado dentist)
“There is no money in this profession since the PPO’S have taken over. My 3 brothers make A LOT more money than I do — attorney, accountant and a banker. Guess who works the most? The DDS.” (California dentist)
Costs too much …
“Though I absolutely love the diagnostics, patients, surgical and technical details of dentistry, the return on investment is not there. The public, including our MD colleagues do not understand the number of years of education (very expensive), and that each of our operatories are surgical suites. In the last 15-20 yrs there is less appreciation of our excellent care and an expectation that we provide excellent care for little, nothing or we pay to provide it. Our stethescope is at least one surgical tray and then some. The cost to provide dental care is too prohibitive. Very sad to say.” (Minnesota dentist)
“Too hard to make a living and too many hurdles via insurance and governmental regulations.” (California dentist)
“Can’t practice like you need to to make a living. Insurance sets fees but I can’t even call my colleagues and ask them what they charge for a procedure without being accused of price fixing. Patients gripe about fees and I haven’t raised mine in three years yet my lab, supply, and utilities have gone up. People pay $250 for pet hygiene appointments but gripe when they are told that to have their periodontal condition taken care of it will be this amount.” (Texas dentist)
“Too stressful. I should have been a government employee . I would be collecting a 6 figure pension check here in California after 25 years of service.” (California dentist)
Management side a hassle …
“The stress of school was overwhelming and we were treated like dirt. I love dentistry as an occupation, but I don’t like the business aspect.” (North Dakota dentist)
“Way too much stress with staff issues and constantly worrying about finances. There’s the staff bickering and always wanting more compensation even when practice growth does not allow for it and the isolation you feel intellectually. I get sick of people thinking because I’m a dentist that I’m rich and can do their work for free. You can’t get a loaf of bread without paying for it so why the hell has this mentality been allowed to permeate our profession?” (Georgia dentist)
“The profession is too complex. If I could ONLY do clinical work I would, but unfortunately the business aspect of it is a MUST which I do not particularly enjoy.” (Florida dentist)
“I hate everything about the office management side.“ (General dentist)
Insurance gets in the way …
“Insurance companies have separated the dentist from the patient by dictating treatment and controlling the costs and ways fees are paid. There is not the doctor/patient relationship I have had in the past. Patients leave for the reduced benefit plans to go to someplace where there is no out of pocket expense to them. They then do not moderate what the contract dentist does, so submit to over-treatment. That is the only way a contract dentist can make it pay. I have had many patients return questioning the treatment plan given to them by the “new” person.” (Indiana dentist)
“Insurance sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong and fellow dentists are too wimpy to stand up to them!” (Pennsylvania dentist)
“Being a dentist has been a true disappointment to a life-long dream. I began planning my entire life at an early age. I found that I acquired an extreme amount of debt all to be dictated by insurance companies, insurance driven patients, and a disillusionment that patients would appreciate quality care. I have acquired even more debt honing my skills at leading institutions just to have patients still ask “will my insurance cover it?” I also built a state-of-the-office practice with strong systems. It is exhausting and frankly doesn’t pay enough for the abuse. While my office as grown and by many standards flourished during this current state of the economy, but to be frankly honest I just do not enjoy it!” (Alabama dentist)
Would gladly do it again …
“I love being a dentist. I have been practicing over 40 years and I look forward to going to work every day. Unfortunately I am worried that the corporate chains are trying to take over private practice and ruining dentistry.” (Oklahoma dentist)
“It’s the best profession in the world!” (Kentucky dentist)
“Dentistry is a great profession with marvelous flexibility to choose how and what to practice.” (Washington dentist)
“Hell yes. In a heartbeat. No other occupation compares. While not for everyone (read 80% of you in private practice, or those of you who wrote NO) it is simply a great profession for me. The only change? I would have taken advantage of a GPR rather than go straight from dental school to practicing general dentistry. I would have added more perio and oral surgery to my repertoire and certainly more medicine. It is rare I need an alarm clock to get up everyday at 5:30 to get to work and I work 5 days per week. Phenomenal, phenomenal love of the profession and the people I help every day.” (Colorado orthodontist)
We had an overwhelming amount of comments and responses to this survey and we appreciate all the dentists who participated. Thank you for your candor. I will most likely do a follow-up article on the rest of the responses to this survey and showcase more of the advice from dental professionals.
What are your thoughts about a career in dentistry?