Work-life balance. A great income. The ability to own a business. The desire to work with your hands. The opportunity to change lives. Whatever your inspiration for pursuing dentistry as your career, you find yourself here, in the midst of the professional life you have crafted from your own desires. Perhaps this is the most obvious beauty of the dental profession; whatever it was that drew you to dentistry, your daily practice life can fit the mould you have envisioned.
This mould is created by you. What is desirable for one dentist is not necessarily desirable for others. Personal preferences, family considerations, risk tolerance, financial considerations, and a wide spectrum of business ownership interest influences the trajectory of every dentist’s career differently. Do you desire practice autonomy where you are the decision maker? Your mould may be private practice ownership. Do you desire to focus solely on clinical dentistry? Your mould may be an associateship. Are you an entrepreneur and envision a workday that doesn’t rein you inside one enclosed space? Your mould may be multi-practice ownership.
My career in dentistry began as an associate dentist, then progressed to private practice ownership as a partner, and now includes multi-practice ownership. This professional path has been personally rewarding; but, this path is not for everyone. Throughout my practice journey, I have confronted doubts, fears, and insecurities resulting from my chosen course. I have also reveled in the enjoyment of a fulfilling career and practice life that is a blessing to both myself and my family. Are you questioning your current practice circumstance? I’ve been there. Do you feel you are living your most desirable professional life? I’ve been there, too, as well as all points between these two extremes.
A career path sculpted from even your most personal best-laid plans can become tortuous and littered with obstacles you are forced to confront and overcome. In dentistry and dental business, no path is easy and no load is light. Our nature as caregivers and healers of the oral cavity sheds light into the dentist’s personality where we also feel the obligation to care for those around us: our patients, our dental team, and our families. We are susceptible to feeling the pressure encroaching on us from all sides. When I feel this pressure, an encouraging word from a mentor or an honest, heartfelt assessment from my wife provides the necessary fuel to propel me beyond whatever obstacle has risen before me. The obstacles that appear along the way don’t change my practice and professional goals; they are merely interfering with the process to achieve them. The path continues beyond the obstacles, but my shortsightedness steals my attention and disrupts my focus. Along the way, these instances of wandering eyes and drifting focus have allowed for tremendous personal growth in preparation for the next practice or professional obstacle. The career path you follow is determined by the goals you set for yourself; any obstacles you encounter on the way to your goal are mere distractions.
Only you can create your most desirable practice mould. Given the current climate in dentistry and dental business, there are more practice options than have been seen previously. No longer is a dentist forced to graduate dental school only to hang out one’s shingle to begin their professional career as a solo practitioner. Is this path still possible for dentists to follow? Sure. However, this isn’t the only path available to dentists practicing today. This evolution embraces the diversity of thought and makeup of the most recent dental graduates, whose ideal practice style differs greatly from the style a generation prior.
Dentistry is changing. The structure of dental practices is evolving, the practice desires of dental school graduates differs from past generations, and fewer dentists aspire to own a private dental practice. Women are now attending dental school in greater numbers than their male colleagues. Student debt has created an entirely new obstacle for dental graduates to overcome and has caused an alteration in what is considered an ideal practice scenario. Through the changes present today, there is no single path a dentist must follow to reach success. A number of options are available, and each individual has the freedom to choose their most ideal style of practice. Through this series, I will detail the path that has led me to my career today.