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Is dentistry worth it?

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  • Avatar accidentaldental 
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    Status: Student
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    Joined: 03/06/2019
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    I’m a student interested in healthcare but debating between medicine and dentistry. The actual practice and scope of medicine seems much more interesting and more impactful than traditional dentistry, but dentistry lends itself to a much better lifestyle:income ratio as well as the opportunity to own a business while still maintaining a lot of the benefits medicine brings.

    I have family both in primary care medicine, specialty medicine, and dentistry and they all appeal to me. I’m just not sure if I’m as great of a fit for dentistry, being less micro-surgically inclined.

    My dad is a dentist and owns a fairly small lifestyle dental practice where he works about 15-20 hours per week and earns slightly <$200k.

    If I were to go to dental school, I would probably be in $300k+ in debt by graduation.

    I know this is fairly jumbled but would be interested to hear some outside thoughts on the career.

    #196118 Reply
    triad triad 
    Participant
    Status: Dentist, Small Business Owner
    Posts: 219
    Joined: 04/29/2016

    I like being my own boss as dentist.  The income per hours worked is tough to beat.  You’d certainly earn more as a specialist but I’d take the lifestyle of a dentist.  300k in debt is tough but if you live like a dental student for 5-7 years after graduation you knock it out.

    #196192 Reply
    Avatar Tim 
    Participant
    Status: Accountant
    Posts: 2127
    Joined: 09/18/2018

    “micro-surgically inclined”, 15–20 hours per week, $200k per year, life style, worth it.

    You seem to have access to both dental and physicians.
    Have you shadowed them? You might need to consider what you like and what you can’t stand. If you hate it, 15 hours per week will really suck!

    That said, medical school pays better.
    Both dentistry and medicine have a variety of startup and variable employment challenges.
    The more you put into it, the most likely the better you will be financially. I doubt many dentists are successful and satisfied shooting for 15-20 hrs/wk at $$200k.

    Think you ought to pick one you can work full time.

    #196196 Reply
    Liked by adventure
    Avatar adventure 
    Participant
    Status: Spouse
    Posts: 1119
    Joined: 10/24/2016
    I have family both in primary care medicine, specialty medicine, and dentistry and they all appeal to me. I’m just not sure if I’m as great of a fit for dentistry, being less micro-surgically inclined.

    Click to expand…

    Students love to talk about motor movement when considering a career in (or out of!) dentistry.  I think it’s largely irrelevant.

    Have you shadowed them? You might need to consider what you like and what you can’t stand.

    Click to expand…

    This – I’d ask to shadow both, 1 day/month for a year.

    I know this is fairly jumbled but would be interested to hear some outside thoughts on the career.

    Click to expand…

    I think the entire process is pretty neat.. you get to learn a ton, and shadow all sorts of folks. For example, do you want to be a neurosurgeon? … but getting to spend a rotation learning neurosurgery is a pretty cool oppourtunity.

     

    @accidentaldental, When would you need to take the MCAT and/or DAT?

    #196211 Reply
    Liked by Zaphod, Tim
    CordMcNally CordMcNally 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 2139
    Joined: 01/03/2017

    It won’t be worth it if you hate dentistry. Are there any other cheaper options for dental school?

    “But investing isn’t about beating others at their game. It’s about controlling yourself at your own game.”
    ― Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor

    #196228 Reply
    Avatar Tim 
    Participant
    Status: Accountant
    Posts: 2127
    Joined: 09/18/2018

    There have also been discussions that “fellowships” can require some hefty payments and types of issues in purchasing a practice as well with a difficulty in building a practice independently.

    Just looking at “Dad” cruising along may be an opportunity or mislead you in starting your own practice. Do your own due diligence. Take inputs from experience people, but the information needs to be current, not just how they handled things.

    #196236 Reply
    Avatar orthodds 
    Participant
    Status: Dentist
    Posts: 109
    Joined: 11/07/2017

    Choose the career/specialty that you find most enjoyable.  The rest will work out as long as you are reasonably wise with your finances.  If you enjoy dentistry and you have a desire to be a business owner then without a doubt dentistry is worth it.  I wouldn’t trade my profession for any other.  It’s rewarding personally as well as financially.  I enjoy the freedom.  I can’t imagine not being a business owner–it’s a major reason I chose dentistry.  But to each his/her own.  Both fields are fantastic in their own ways.  If you aren’t interested in being a business owner then I would say medicine is probably the “safer” choice from a financial perspective.

    #196260 Reply
    Liked by Tim
    SerrateAndDominate SerrateAndDominate 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 386
    Joined: 02/01/2018

    I think everything has pros and cons that need to be considered. My wife was undecided between dental and medicine; applied to both and chose dentistry. Same for a classmate of hers. If you want to be a general dentist, there seem to be a lot of job opportunities (employed vs owner) with various income potentials, which is similar to the medical field. The path to practicing general dentistry is quicker than a physician’s.

    I didn’t really consider dentistry but I think I would have enjoyed it. I like working with my hands and problem solving. My wife enjoys her work and gets pretty antsy when she has days off.

     

    Others on here know better than I do, but I will warn you the fellowship/residency situation for dentistry is a bit ridiculous in terms of paying to be a trainee or getting paid next to nothing. We have one friend who is doing periodontics, and she’s making less than minimum wage when all is accounted for. It’s a pretty lame system.

     

    Also, not sure where you are located, but NY (and I think DE) are states that require a residency or two years of practice to get a full license. It’s pretty dumb, but even with medicine, state requirements can vary. Just seems like dental license requirements aren’t nearly as universal as medicine

    Earn everything.

    #196265 Reply
    Liked by Zaphod, Tim
    Avatar dentoid 
    Participant
    Status: Dentist
    Posts: 76
    Joined: 02/08/2016

    I’m a dental specialist. The income is great but the sacrifice was significant. 5-6 days a week to pay off over $300k. It’s tough because dentist and MD’s are not on the same playing field. If anything is unsuccessful, the patient responsibility is nil. With the large corporations, it’s a matter of time when general dentist, pediatric dentist and orthodontics are corps like MDs.  The psychological wearing of each day is cumulative for my personality. I do love the hours and the lack of “real” on call, but you still get harassed on the weekend.  I’d shadow both and wouldn’t go into significant debt >2 x expected income. Realize most associates start around 80-120k unless you want to sell yourself to corporate. Getting a good associateship in a desirable city is very, very difficult.

    #196266 Reply
    Liked by E5797, Tim
    Avatar orthodds 
    Participant
    Status: Dentist
    Posts: 109
    Joined: 11/07/2017

    In terms of the finances of dentistry, where you plan to work/live will make a substantial difference when it comes to earning potential.  So the answer as to whether it’s “worth it” may depend on this factor as much as any other.

    #196280 Reply
    Molar Mechanic Molar Mechanic 
    Participant
    Status: Dentist, Small Business Owner
    Posts: 364
    Joined: 10/29/2017

    Pros and cons to both.  Dentistry is changing as well, so I’m not sure my experience is representative of what yours will be.  The pros and cons of dentistry have a lot of overlap.  You actually get to physically manipulate tissue.  It’s surgery all day every day.  There is very little no stress, low activity time, and if it is you aren’t being productive.  The schedule is fairly rigid working daytime hours, so not as flexible.  The business is totally reliant on your production and skill.

    Medicine seems to be a more pure path to a comfortable $300-500k, with ability to under-perform or outperform that.  Most dentist practice owners CAN make that or significantly more with hard work, talent, skill and good systems.  I suspect there are a far larger percent of dentists in the very high six figure or seven figures, but that comes with the responsibility, risk, and stress of owning the business.  The path of training is longer for medicine, even if you specialize.  One thing I never appreciated when I was in your shoes is how you can mold your career to fit your path.  Dentistry is rarely performed outside of the hours of 7-7, and people expect the office to be open more than 2-3 days per week.  I’ve learned through this forum how many physicians can work their schedules to take 7, 10, or 14 days of in a row and not affect a paycheck.  You’ll never do that in dentistry.

     

    Neither is perfect, and I don’t believe there is ever a perfect choice.  Both are good and you’ll get out of it what you put in.

    #196291 Reply
    Avatar Tim 
    Participant
    Status: Accountant
    Posts: 2127
    Joined: 09/18/2018

    Is this a reasonable expectation for a new dental practice?
    “ small lifestyle dental practice where he works about 15-20 hours per week and earns slightly <$200k.”

    #196301 Reply
    Zaphod Zaphod 
    Participant
    Status: Physician, Small Business Owner
    Posts: 5647
    Joined: 01/12/2016

    I think it was ego at the time, or that I just realize so many things are interesting now (I think I would like several medical fields i pushed off in school), but I think I would have enjoyed dentistry, especially the earlier start and the lifestyle/owning part of it. Maybe ortho, its pretty awesome.

    #196302 Reply
    Liked by E5797
    IntensiveCareBear IntensiveCareBear 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 138
    Joined: 12/22/2018

    …300k in debt is tough but if you live like a dental student for 5-7 years after graduation you knock it out.

    Click to expand…

    The delayed life plan is never a good plan… “We are always getting ready to live… but never living.”

    There is no saying that any level of income will make someone happy if they don’t like the career or have good happiness skills. This is why there are all kinds of situations where all kinds of people are happy, indifferent, or miserable in the exact same situations… it is their interest level and personal skill level at creating their own happiness.

    It won’t be worth it if you hate ___________ ….

    Click to expand…

    Correct. “Money often costs too much.”

    It is all about finding something that interests you. Interests may change, but if it doesn’t light your fire early on (shadowing, early courses), it probably never will. Don’t start.

    Nothing is perfect, but you should view any career as a learning and growth process… seek what you feel has as much enjoyment as possible with as little bona fide work (things you dread doing) as possible. Happiness is a skill. If you can find a good situation that engages and interests you, you need less skill to make it enjoyable for yourself… and will probably have more skill and energy left to pass happiness to others. Personally, I could probably do well in basically any medical specialty that involves patient care or social interaction (rad, path, most anesth situations, etc would be drags for me), but I would also avoid the bad hours doc jobs (surg, ortho, ER, etc) since I know from residency that inconsistent sleep makes me grumpy and less healthy. Derm or plastics with lots of needy and cosmo patients would probably annoy me also. Other docs are probably the exact opposite of what I want. The point is… Know thyself.

    As was mentioned, the way to figure out what interests YOU is by shadowing. It sounds like you have more than ample options in and around the family for shadowing med and dent. GL

    #196303 Reply
    childay childay 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 853
    Joined: 01/09/2016

    Is this a reasonable expectation for a new dental practice?
    “ small lifestyle dental practice where he works about 15-20 hours per week and earns slightly <$200k.”

    Click to expand…

    I wondered the same thing

    OP: what does your dad think?

    #196307 Reply

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