For those of you who are dentists with children, or anyone with children that have an interest in dentistry, we all wonder if our child should go to Dental School. If you won’t have a child near that age for another decade or so, things may change. But what about right now? Should my child go to dental school? This also may be pertinent to those in college right now or to give those currently in dental school some things to think about.
Things are different now
Most things in this world change over time. Just as the old saying goes “The only constant in this world is change”. I hear of stories back in the day when dentists had fee for service practices. Maybe there are some out there still but that is not anywhere near the norm now. It is a hassle dealing with insurances, and we don’t always get the fees we feel we deserve, but in most practices now days it is almost a must to be an insurance practice
There are different types of insurances such as PPO’s, HMO’s and, Medicaid. Not all of them are the same. Make sure you do your research and know the pros and cons for each. You don’t want to accept something that is not worth your time.
Why are insurance practices more mainstream now? People are less willing to spend their money on dental services (unless they are in pain). People today seem to be more concerned about getting the latest iPhone or having a nicer car than they are about their dental needs. There is also a lot more competition. Especially in more populated areas. There are new dental schools opening all of the time and the class sizes are growing. Being in network with a lot of insurances helps your practice to get new patients. There simply are not enough new patient’s for us all. Some numbers show that with the rapidly increasing population that the need for dentists is increasing. This may be true in some parts of the country, but it seems that most new dentists want to practice in the same areas.
The Cost of School is rising, Incomes are not as much
According the ADEA, the average student loan debt for the graduating class of 2019 is $292,169. This breaks down to $261,305 for public school graduates and $321,184 for the average private school graduate. This is just an average. There are many graduates well over that amount. In fact, I graduated over 7 years ago with about $400,000 in debt. I have heard of many well over $500,000 these days.
According to this article the cost of dental education even when adjusted for inflation is twice what it was in the 1980’s. The problem with that is, the average income for a dentist when adjusted to inflation has not doubled. According to salary.com, the median income for a dentist today is about $156,000. Now that varies widely. Specialists earn a lot more. General dentists who own a practice earn more than employed dentists, and it obviously depends on where you live and practice.
Below is an excerpt from an article in 2016. (Read the full article here). While it is 4 years old, dentist incomes are not keeping up as much with inflation as other professions and with the rise in the cost of education:
“In 2015, general dental practitioner net earnings averaged $179,960. Those owning their own practices averaged $195,200 while non-owners netted approximately $132,370. Dental specialists brought home more, averaging around $320,460.
However, when adjusted for inflation, the average net income for all general dental practitioners has decreased substantially since the peak value was recorded in 2005. That year, the average net income was $219,638.
On the supply side, new research shows that the supply of dentists is expected to increase in the coming years. If the dental sector is indeed entering an era of flattening total dental spending and an increasing supply of dentists, this will have important implications for the bottom line of dental practices.”
Is it still worth it?
That depends on a lot of factors. There is a way to make good money as a dentist. But if that is your primary motivation then it isn’t worth it. The first and foremost reason to go into dentistry is because it interests you and you have a desire to help people. We need to always do what is best for the patient. Practicing good dentistry is your number one priority when you become a dentist.
There are ways to practice good dentistry, do what is best for the patient, and be financially successful. However, you may not be able to live and practice where you want to. You can, but it may not work for all. There are a lot of underserved areas of our country where you are more likely to not only help people, but make a good living.
I discussed average incomes for dentists, but this can vary widely by state or even county. Geographic arbitrage is a great way to increase your income. Owning a practice vs. being an associate will also usually increase your earnings. There are several specialties that earn much higher than general dentists as well, however, doing a specialty for the sole purpose of earning more money is also not recommended. It is not what is best for the patient, nor what is best for your long term happiness and job satisfaction.
Get off on the right foot out of Dental School
For becoming a dentist to still be financially worth it, getting off on the right foot right out of dental school is a must. With these large student loan burdens, it can be easy to become debt numb. It might seem like monopoly money. Taking out more loans for a house, nice car, a dental practice etc. may not seem like that big of a deal. It’s just adding more to your debt. It may seem just like a number.
However, this will lead to financial stress. I truly believe that a dentist that is not in financial stress is a better dentist. He/she will be happier, less stressed, and more likely to practice honest and good dentistry. We all want to be better practitioners, and I believe being financially stable will help you be a better one.
Destroying your student loan debt within a few years of graduating dental school will springboard you to financial success. It is pretty easy to see about 5 years after graduating how your financial life will be for the rest of your life. You cannot spend “like a doctor” right out of school because you feel you “deserve” it. I know of far too many new graduates who buy fancy cars or houses before their student loans are paid off. You simply can’t do this if you want to reach financial independence at a decent age, or ever.
I paid off my student loans pretty quickly. Read here about some of the things you can learn from how I did it and hopefully apply them to your situation. I did make some mistakes a long the way. Read here for those. If you think it is too late for you, it is not. It is better to start now down a better financial path than never.
Dentistry is a noble profession. We help people everyday get out of pain, have better oral health, and feel better about themselves. If your child is interested in dentistry for the right reasons, it is a wonderful profession. It takes a lot of hard work and education. There will be a lot of ups and downs and hardships. However, most things in life that are worth it take hard work. They will be able to make a good living. If they get financially educated, save money, are frugal, destroy their student debt quickly, and don’t over spend then they will be able to become financially independent and enjoy their career free from financial stress.
-Debt Free DDS
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*Nothing on my website is professional or legal advice. I am only sharing information that I have learned and it may or may not be accurate. I am not liable for any problems you may have by following this advice. Please do further research and get professional and/or legal advice about any of these topics. This post contains affiliate links. This site could be paid for clicks or purchases made through these links.