Oct 2, 2020
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Hello everyone,

I am currently an 22 year old undergraduate student pursuing dentistry. I have quite a bit of interests in the healthcare field, however, I feel as though dentistry fits my liking the most. With that however, there are a few things that I just can't seem to get a clear understanding on. I feel as though you guys can help answer some of these questions:

1) Is it worth it to get a dental degree if you plan on only being an associate or working in corporate dentistry? It seems like the large majority of people plan to open their own practice, but as of right now, that is not something I see myself doing at all. I like the dentistry aspect of dental medicine, but I do not want to go home worrying about finances and if the lights are going to stay on at the office. I would much rather go in for "shift work" and practice dentistry solely, and then go home free to my family and other interests.

I see starting salaries for associates anywhere from $120K - $200K in Florida for corporate offices plus benefits and paid time off... I do not know why, but everyone makes it out to be a disadvantage to be an associate, but doing some research I found that the AVERAGE private practice owner makes roughly the same. Some even less + extra stress + no benefits. Correct me if I am wrong however.

2) Being an associate/working for corporate, what can I expect in a work week (hours/how many days of work in a week)? Is it any different from a private practice?

I guess my questions are all about whether dentistry is worth it financially with the lifestyle I am trying to live as an associate. There are just so many variables when it comes to student loans and owning a business and how you pay off debt etc.

I want to live a comfortable life, I don't plan to live in a very lavish life or drive a very expensive life. I would rather live in something nice and comfortable and drive something nice and comfortable that does not break the bank. I would also like to have to seek out other interests/hobbies, have time for family, and spend on a big trip every year with my wife/family. I am about experiences, and that is where I want to put my money. But I also want to be able to do that in my late 20s and early 30s and so on. I do not want to wait on my student loan debt to be paid off. I would like to travel and enjoy my life.

3) Is it possible to travel and enjoy life while paying off your student loan debt as an associate dentist (possibly sacrificing purchasing a house right off the bat and living in a nice 1 bedroom apartment with my wife)?

4) Can you compare the answers to the previous 3 questions to an associate family practice physician working in a clinic. Is the lifestyle the same? Is it worth it financially?

5) If you are answering these questions with a "no" or "not possible," what alternative careers in healthcare do you think would suffice for what I am looking for. Just curious.

I know I am asking for a lot, but any insight will be helpful!


Gold Donor
2+ Year Member
Aug 3, 2017
North Scottsdale, Arizona
  1. Dentist
What it boils down to is your final DS debt. If you can keep your debt reasonable (<300K ... this number is debatable))... then what you do later (associate, corps, public health, private practice, academics, etc. etc.) doesn't matter as much. If your debt is higher than 300K .... then it will matter. Why? Debt service. Do the math. See what your debt service will be. Can you enjoy life as you want and easily pay down your debt?

Are you planning to live in a saturated urban area or rural? This matters. The headaches of running a dental practice will be less in a rural area and your earning potential will be higher than being an employee.

If you're planning on living in a saturated, urban city ... and your goal is to be an employee. I would choose medicine over dentistry.
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7+ Year Member
Dec 30, 2013
  1. Pre-Dental
Hey. Among my school student body, it seems that I am the most financially literate. I also go to a dental school where I am maxing my loans and expect to graduate with $450k including interests and including the current interest relief. That being said, I'm not too afraid about the amount of debt owed (or debt in general) given my mastery on the topic of finance.

I want to say you should go into dentistry with as little consideration for money as possible. Whether you work as an associate or as an owner, your lifestyle will differ. Associates will clearly be at the mercy of the work hours as agreed upon with the employer. Different employer = different work hours and you can figure our how much you want to work, how hard you want to work, and apply to jobs based on your criteria. I guess an average would be 40 hours a week (so much nicer than medicine). Pay is variable based on employee-employer contract. For example, there are offices that pay new, inexperienced dentists ~$200k with ~$10k loan repayment although those offices are approximately 100-150 miles outside the border of a metropolitan. There are also offices that have 24-32 hours work week for those who want to have a more laid-back life. I can talk so much about private ownership but maybe in a private message.

Answer to 3: Yeah travel as much as you want. Just talk to your boss about the sick/paid/personal leave policies and travel based on that. Suppose you make $100k a year ($20k after tax and bills paid and funds saved?), then $5k used for traveling is totally doable.

Answer to 4: you're asking to compare a lifestyle of an associate dentist to the lifestyle of a private practicing physician. This is nearly impossible given the scope of the question, primarily how privately practicing (family) physician can do sooooooo many different things.

Feel free to message me things. I can also talk about money too.

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