Is it bad to go into Dentistry without a passion for teeth?

May 17, 2015
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I have an interest in science and helping others but my main motivation has never been fixing teeth. I want to go into dentistry for things such as autonomy, lifestyle, ability to help others, and owning my own practice. Are all of these good reasons to do it?
 

TanMan

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I have an interest in science and helping others but my main motivation has never been fixing teeth. I want to go into dentistry for things such as autonomy, lifestyle, ability to help others, and owning my own practice. Are all of these good reasons to do it?
Those are great reasons. I don't think anyone has a love of teeth going into the profession, but its different when you come out. You may either love it, hate it, or are indifferent to it. Those reasons you outlined are some of the best reasons to go into dentistry.
 

Del0

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I've met very few people that genuinely just really liked teeth. All the dentists I know like the field for the same reasons you've listed. I didn't have a passion for teeth, but now I love the work we do with people. It's much more rewarding than I actually thought it would be.


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I've met very few people that genuinely just really liked teeth. All the dentists I know like the field for the same reasons you've listed. I didn't have a passion for teeth, but now I love the work we do with people. It's much more rewarding than I actually thought it would be.


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At what point did you realize this?
 

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I want to go into dentistry for things such as autonomy, lifestyle, ability to help others, and owning my own practice. Are all of these good reasons to do it?
That's why I did it.
 

Daurang

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My girlfriend went to dental school so I switched from engineering to dental school. It's just another job really and most dentists can't wait to retire.
 
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shulk

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Those with a 'passion for teeth' should do something like research teeth, development of teeth, or diseases of teeth. Better yet, if you are passionate about teeth forget about humans who have largely boring teeth and become a paleontologist or anthropologist instead. If you have a passion for (or think you could have) patient care, healthcare, and business then dentistry is for you.
 
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charlestweed

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Is 250k too much debt to go to school for? How long would it take to pay that off?
It depends on how good of a business person you are. It’ll be hard if you plan to work as an associate dentist (w/o any health and 401k benefit) for the rest of your life. It’ll be even harder if you are married, have kids, and are the only income earner in the family. You have to own your own business. You have to save for your future retirement. You can’t work for someone else forever.

How do you know if you will be a good business person or not? You don’t. I remember when I first entered dental school 15+ years ago, my goal was very simple: becoming a good GP and making $60-70k/year (that was the average dentist income during that time). Fortunately, I was surrounded by very smart roommates/classmates, who helped encourage me to specialize. When I got my orthodontic certificate, I planned to work for a chain until I retire because the salary was good and I didn’t think I had the business skills to run a practice. I also hate going door to door begging the GPs for referrals. 4 years later, I finally had the courage to start my own office. Before having my own offices, I was always afraid of getting fired or being replaced by a younger orthodontist. Now with my own business, I can enjoy all the things that you listed above: autonomy, lifestyle, job security etc.

Dentistry is a great profession if you have your own practice. I always encourage my kids, nephews and nieces to pursue a career in healthcare (dentistry, medicine, pharmacy etc) because of all the reasons that you listed. I don’t want my own kids to end up like the majority of the college grads, who still have to rely on their parents for financial support (Half of college grads still rely on parents for money). Who wouldn’t want their kids to grow up to become successful and financially independent?
 
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May 17, 2015
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So whats the timetable for paying it back? Like 4-5 years? Is it really true you couldn't pay it back as an associate?
 

Cold Front

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So whats the timetable for paying it back? Like 4-5 years? Is it really true you couldn't pay it back as an associate?
Everyone's timetable is different to pay back their loans.

Any dentist who is associating after 7 years will not be able to reap the full potential of the profession, including autonomy and income.

It's not uncommon for a student to extremely worry about their student loans while they are still in school, and then turn that worry to the least of their concerns when they enter the workforce.
 

charlestweed

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So whats the timetable for paying it back? Like 4-5 years? Is it really true you couldn't pay it back as an associate?
10-30 years, if you only make the minimally required monthly payments. It really depends on the lifestyle you choose to have, the state/city where you want to live in, whether you have kids or not, and your spouse's income etc.

My cousin, who is an MD anesthesiologist, graduated 15+ years ago. He is still paying back his student loans. I am sure he makes more than most associate dentists. Working as an independent contractor, he has to buy health insurance for his family, puts his retirement money in the SEP IRA account, and saves money for his kids' college. He takes vacations 1-2 times a year, has 2 young kids, owns a $560k house, which will be paid off in a few years. He currently leases a $55k Porsche Macan (I convinced him to lease intead of buying). Before that, he drove a used BMW 328i. He and his wife are both in their mid 40s and have a very comfortable lifestyle. He can make a lot more if he practices in the mid western states but he chooses to live here in CA.

I also know a dentist couple, who both graduated from Loma Linda with $300+k student loans. They own 2 successful practices in CA. They paid off their student loans + a home mortage before the husband reached his 40th birthday. Since they had no kid, they'd traveled very frequently. They drove simple cars. Their associate dentist drives a much better car (an Audi S7) than theirs. They recently welcomed a baby girl and upgraded to a BMW X5 (which they paid in full of course).

Since I still work part time for a chain, I have the opportunity to meet a lot of different associate dentists. Some are new grads. Some have 5-10 years experience. Some sold their practices (because they failed) and went back to work as an associate. All I hear from these dentists are the constant complaints about their job: the bossy office manager, the managing dentist who takes all the good paying procedures away from them (the associate dentists), lack of instruments, running out of supplies, the lazy and disrespectful assistants etc. That's why none of them stay here for more than 12 months. That's why your ultimate goal should be to have your own office, if you want to become a dentist.
 
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Del0

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At what point did you realize this?
Early into first year. Shadowing gave me a lot of confidence in knowing that I'd enjoy the profession but once first year started and we were doing fillings and preps on the plastic teeth I knew it was something I'd really enjoy. I was never an artist but something about the artwork feel of dentistry is actually a lot of fun. And then starting third year now I've been in clinic for a couple months and it's even more fun.
The best recommendation I could give is to shadow. That'll give you the best idea of whether or not you'll truly enjoy it.


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Early into first year. Shadowing gave me a lot of confidence in knowing that I'd enjoy the profession but once first year started and we were doing fillings and preps on the plastic teeth I knew it was something I'd really enjoy. I was never an artist but something about the artwork feel of dentistry is actually a lot of fun. And then starting third year now I've been in clinic for a couple months and it's even more fun.
The best recommendation I could give is to shadow. That'll give you the best idea of whether or not you'll truly enjoy it.


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Would you ever get frustrated with your hand skills in the beginning and rethink if you made a mistake going into the field? Dentistry is awesome but I feel that if I was bad at my hand skills I would start to get "false" second thoughts. But I know 100% nobody is anywhere near competent when they first start, no matter their initial skill level
 
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Cold Front

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Since I still work part time for a chain, I have the opportunity to meet a lot of different associate dentists. Some are new grads. Some have 5-10 years experience. Some sold their practices (because they failed) and went back to work as an associate. All I hear from these dentists are the constant complaints about their job: the bossy office manager, the managing dentist who takes all the good paying procedures away from them (the associate dentists), lack of instruments, running out of supplies, the lazy and disrespectful assistants etc. That's why none of them stay here for more than 12 months. That's why your ultimate goal should be to have your own office, if you want to become a dentist.
You are 200% right on this.

I went through 4 associates for those exact same reasons. People in general lack long term goals these days and can't be in position to invest in short term (with patience) for long term gains. Associates want to be pampered and expect to negotiate a new deal every year that maximizes their income, but not for the collective bargaining with the office. Associates have 3 major goals; learn fast, work faster, and have an exit plan. Employer dentist benefits from the associate working faster (higher production) with better bottom line and in return coaches the associate with most things about being a dentist in private practice, and eventually understands no associate will last forever, because owner dentist has been an associate at one point themselves.

Associates who leave during a contract after being employed at the office under 1 year is becoming more common. Not sure if corporate culture is setting those standards for these younger doctors, but it's not ideal for private practice offices. That's why I red flag resumes for short sporadic employment history. Not to mention a host of other unrealistic things an associate expects without realizing the goals of the practice they want to work for first.
 
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