Woman getting her gum pocket depth

Transitioning from Dental Student to Dentist

Date: July 2022

Author: Mandy Dennis, RDH

Transitioning from school to the real world brings on excitement.  It also brings on nervousness and real challenges.  Being prepared can reduce those fears and can make it a more enjoyable experience. 

Understand Expectations 

Dental school does an amazing job of preparing students to take care of people.  It doesn’t necessarily prepare students for the ins and outs of actually opening a practice or the business of dentistry.  What are the things you should know?  What personal goals do you have for yourself?  Where do you want to open a practice?  How will you facilitate the employees in finding them and training them? Sitting down with someone who can help to navigate the very basics of business is just as important as the dentistry itself.  

What do you really want?

There are so many choices when it comes to practicing dentistry.  Single dental ownership, partnerships and being an associate are all options and should be considered when choosing what is personally right for you.  How do you choose what’s right for you? Evaluating your financial goals and the amount of time you want to be out of the office are both important things to consider.  Buying an existing practice from a previous dentist is an option, however it is important to research the practice and to have good information prior to purchasing.  Companies such as VeloX and Sikka can provide data research to ensure you have all of the information available prior to purchasing.  

Working as an associate has many benefits.  Getting the opportunity to see patients, without the overhead, can be a great transition into professional care.  Many Dental Service  Organizations, or DSOs,  offer opportunities with fewer days to work, which can contribute to a work life balance.  DSOs are typically seen as corporate dental offices.  Also identify the financial differences between ownership and being an associate.  Owning a practice may look like the salary is higher, however so is the stress and expectations. 

Take Time for Yourself

Undergraduate studies and dental school was time consuming and exhausting.   Loving the profession and loving the process of getting there are two very different things.  You dedicated all of your time to become the professional you are transitioning to become, but don’t forget to now reward yourself.  Dentistry is a stressful profession.  Physically and mentally.  It’s important to take time for yourself.  Choosing the type of practice you want to work in is very important, as it will help determine the way you will be available for yourself and your family. 

Take aways

Find a mentor, another local dental business owner, who can assist you in starting a business plan.  Take notes from them on what mistakes they made and how you can learn from them.  

  • Identify your personal goals early.  What do you want now and what do you want in 20 years

  • Examine the difference between ownership and being an associate.  Which of these will work best for you and the life you want.

  • Make time for yourself.  School was tough.  Reward the life you worked for.

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