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Question for current specialists

Utdarsenal

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Specialists, how'd you convince or talk yourself into spending an additional 3 years in training, not earning income and likely being more in debt than you previously were?

I know this probably wasn't an easy decision thus why I'm trying to dig into your logic here. Did you do it all for the love of the treatments you'd be doing? Because you'd maybe make more money? Because you couldn't picture yourself doing fillings?

3 years of lost income and added debt sounds like quite an obstacle.

I'd like to hear all about it... thank you
 
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SilkyJ

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Resident here. We did a one-week rotation with OMFS in our third year of dental school. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, I knew I had to be a part of it. Haven’t looked back since then. I still enjoyed all aspects of dentistry, but I was willing to give most of it up to be able to do this.

I never really considered the financial implications. I’m happy with whatever life gives me financially, and I plan to always live within my means (whatever that may be). I certainly get jealous when I see how my dental school buddies are living as private practice dentists, but I wouldn’t trade positions with them for anything.
 
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Specialists, how'd you convince or talk yourself into spending an additional 3 years in training, not earning income and likely being more in debt than you previously were?

I know this probably wasn't an easy decision thus why I'm trying to dig into your logic here. Did you do it all for the love of the treatments you'd be doing? Because you'd maybe make more money? Because you couldn't picture yourself doing fillings?

3 years of lost income and added debt sounds like quite an obstacle.

I'd like to hear all about it... thank you

Why did I specialize? Simple answer. I did not want to be a general dentist. I originally was going into medicine. Then changed to dentistry because I didn't want to deal with patient's lives and I wanted to own my practice. NEVER shadowed any general dentist. Most of my shadowing was in medicine. Just assumed I would like dentistry. What's the old saying? Never assume anything. After my 1st yr of DS .... it was obvious to myself that I needed to do something different. Ortho and OMFS were the two most sought after specialities when I went to DS. Had ZERO interest in surgery, pedo, endo, perio, pros ..... ORTHO was interesting and intellectually stimulating. Bam. Decided to go into ortho.

Too many people here focus on lost opportunity costs. That equation only works if you have a crystal ball to know your future longevity. Nobody knows their future or how long they will be breathing on this earth. All you can control is TODAY and maybe tomorrow. That's it. I could care less about the additional 3 years or lost income.

As for additional residency debt. If you're fortunate ...... go to stipend paying residencies. My out of pocket costs for 3 yrs of residency was ZERO. I actually made money those three years. It can be done. I was not the best or the #1 ranked student in DS. I just worked hard. Kissed alot of a** and was lucky.

REGRET is the killer. Like others have said. Don't specialize for the money. Specialize because that is what you want to do as a career.
 
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It's much easier to decide specialize when you are young (24-25 yo) and are still in dental school. Since you are used to living like a poor student, it shouldn't be too bad to continue live like this for another 2-3 years. It's not too bad to start making 6-figure income as a specialist at 28-29 yo. This was why I decided to do a year of GPR after dental school. I was afraid that if I made too much money in private practice, I would lose my focus on reapplying for ortho. Another reason for doing GPR was endo was my backup plan in case I didn't get accepted to ortho.

It's much harder for older dentists who have been out for a few years because they have to give up their 6-figure incomes and downgrade the lifestyle to living like a poor student. It's even harder if they have kids to support and their spouse can not find work in the state, where they do their specialty training at.

I didn't know anything about ortho when I applied. I was too shy to approach an orthodontist to ask him/her about shadowing opportunity. A lot of people in my class said ortho was the best specialty so I just trusted their jugdement. Since it was so hard to get in, it must be a good specialty to pursue. And of course, the most important thing was I wanted to make make more money as an ortho.

It was also easier to decide when the tuitions weren't too high 15-20 years ago. I only had to take out an additional $50k loan (tuitions + living cost) for my 2-yr ortho residency. Therefore, it wouldn't be a huge financial mistake if I had to go back to practice general dentistry (in case I didn't make good money as an ortho). Because the tuition was low, a 2-year program that charged tuition was actually more appealing to me than a 3-year propram that offerred stipend. I could easily make up for that by being out a year earlier. I was tired of being in schools for so long.....the shorter the training, the better it was for me. I was also in a long distance relationship and I didn't want to be away from my fiance longer than 2 years. Now that ortho programs charge much higher tuitions, picking a program that pays is obviously a smarter decision. But getting accepted to these paid programs is not easy....you have to have high class rank (which requires you to work extra hard during your D1, D2, D3 years), good test scores (ADAT, GRE), and research experience (for ortho).
 
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Utdarsenal

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It's much easier to decide specialize when you you are young (24-25 yo) and are still in dental school. Since you are used to living like a poor student, it shouldn't be too bad to continue live like this for another 2-3 years. It's not too bad to start making 6-figure income as a specialist at 28-29 yo. This was why I decided to do a year of GPR after dental school. I was afraid that if I made too much money in private practice, I would lose my focus on reapplying for ortho. Another reason for doing GPR was endo was my backup plan in case I didn't get accepted to ortho.

It's much harder for older dentists who have been out for a few years because they have to give up their 6-figure incomes and downgrade the lifestyle to living like a poor student. It's even harder if they have kids to support and their spouse can not find work in the state, where they get their specialty training at.

I didn't know anything about ortho when I applied. I was too shy to approach an orthodontist to ask him/her about shadowing opportunity. A lot of people in my class said ortho was the best specialty so I just trusted their jugdement. Since it was so hard to get in, it must be a good specialty to pursue. And of course, the most important thing was I wanted to make make more money as an ortho.

It was also easier to decide when the tuitions weren't too high 15-20 years ago. I only had to take out an additional $50k loan (tuitions + living cost) for my 2-yr ortho residency. Therefore, it wouldn't be a huge financial mistake if I had to go back to practice general dentistry (in case I didn't make good money as an ortho). Because the tuition was low, a 2-year program that charged tuition was actually more appealing to me than a 3-year propram that offerred stipend. I could easily make up for that by being out a year earlier. I was tired of being in schools for so long.....the shorter the training, the better it was for me. I was also in a long distance relationship and I didn't want to be away from my fiance longer than 2 years. Now that ortho programs charge much higher tuitions, picking a program that pays is obviously a smarter decision. But getting accepted to these paid programs is not easy....you have to have high class rank (which requires you to hard during your D1, D2, D3 years), good test scores (ADAT, GRE), and research experience (for ortho).

Thanks for the replies everyone.. I greatly appreciate your insight.

I guess the main reason why I'm so indecisive on applying is because me and my wife are 28 and by the time we're 31, it's hard thinking about starting a family (her having kids) when she's already over 31 and all.. I know nowadays it's common to have babies at 30+ but it's still something on my mind. She doesn't make very much income so I think we'd basically be starting fresh at 31-32. Thankfully, I graduated without student debt and that's a plus, but it's a little tough thinking about being 31 or 32, graduating with possibly 150k+ in student debt from specialty, having to probably start a family ASAP, buying a house, etc.. when I can somewhat phase those things in over the next 3 years slowly if I stay a GP. I'd love to do a specialty but those are my limiting factors. I know there are people in much worse scenario's so just kind-of trying to convince myself that it's OK to specialize, but it's tough..
 
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NavyDentist2

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Thanks for the replies everyone.. I greatly appreciate your insight.

I guess the main reason why I'm so indecisive on applying is because me and my wife are 28 and by the time we're 31, it's hard thinking about starting a family (her having kids) when she's already over 31 and all.. I know nowadays it's common to have babies at 30+ but it's still something on my mind. She doesn't make very much income so I think we'd basically be starting fresh at 31-32. Thankfully, I graduated without student debt and that's a plus, but it's a little tough thinking about being 31 or 32, graduating with possibly 150k+ in student debt from specialty, having to probably start a family ASAP, buying a house, etc.. when I can somewhat phase those things in over the next 3 years slowly if I stay a GP. I'd love to do a specialty but those are my limiting factors. I know there are people in much worse scenario's so just kind-of trying to convince myself that it's OK to specialize, but it's tough..

I would stay GP if I were you
 

guidohead

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You have to want to do the specialty, and you have to enjoy it. It's been said a million times on SDN, don't do it just for the money. Like 2TH MVR, I didn't want to do general dentistry. I saw surgery in dental school and thought, 'I want to do that.' I did do general for almost 3 years for scholarship payback, then put my path back on OMFS as soon as I was done with my payback.

I believe I would have been happy doing general, and that was my initial goal when applying to dental school, but I wanted more as I learned. And I knew I wasn't going to give up on OMFS even though it was going to be a rough road. The income will make up for debt and residency pay in the long run, and I have loans to pay too (BS, MS and some DDS loans).

I finished dental school at 30, started residency at 33 and finished at 37. I got married my final year of residency, baby #1 at 38 and #2 is coming in 2 months at age 40. My wife is in her mid 30s. Thank God for her putting up with me through residency. We moved across the country, giving up both of our jobs to make less money, and I was grumpy most of residency.

You are going to read every possible different opinion on here. It won't help you. Just know that what you are contemplating can be done. You need a supportive partner that knows residency is temporary and will pay off. You have to commit to it, and you better know you like the specialty.

Good Luck
 
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Thanks for the replies everyone.. I greatly appreciate your insight.

I guess the main reason why I'm so indecisive on applying is because me and my wife are 28 and by the time we're 31, it's hard thinking about starting a family (her having kids) when she's already over 31 and all.. I know nowadays it's common to have babies at 30+ but it's still something on my mind. She doesn't make very much income so I think we'd basically be starting fresh at 31-32. Thankfully, I graduated without student debt and that's a plus, but it's a little tough thinking about being 31 or 32, graduating with possibly 150k+ in student debt from specialty, having to probably start a family ASAP, buying a house, etc.. when I can somewhat phase those things in over the next 3 years slowly if I stay a GP. I'd love to do a specialty but those are my limiting factors. I know there are people in much worse scenario's so just kind-of trying to convince myself that it's OK to specialize, but it's tough..
I hear you. It's tough to give up the currrent lifestyle and have to go back to live a like student...... and then have to start everything fresh again at this age. It's also tough having kids at older age and being an older parent. As I get older, I have more anxiety about my health. I've seen many of my son's and daughter's friends, who lost their parents due to heart diseases, cancers, and other terminal illnesses. It must be tough for these young kids to grow up without a mom or dad.

Being raised in an Asian family, I felt obligated to take care of my elderly parents, who had made a lot of sacrifices for my future. My dad came to this country with nothing when he was 52 yo; therefore, he couldn't save anything for his retirement. I wanted to be done with schools and start working as soon as possible so my 65+ yo parents could retire.

Life is too short. The sooner you start working, paying off debts, and saving for retirement, the better it will be. If I were in your situation, I don't think I would have the gut to give up the current 6-figure income job to go back to school to specialize.
 
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endodonia

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Why did I specialize? Simple answer. I did not want to be a general dentist.
yup.
You are going to read every possible different opinion on here. It won't help you.
correct. it may confirm a decision you've already made, but it will not (and it should not) convince you.
You do not convince yourself. You just fall in love with a subject and that is all you want to do
correct. I did not quote the rest of this individuals post because I do not agree with "regardless of financial constraints". opportunity cost is a thing. you can still do whatever you want as a general dentist without a formal residency and not take a $1M of opportunity cost to do it
If I were in your situation, I don't think I would have the gut to give up the current 6-figure income job to go back to school to specialize.
this kind of contradicts my previous point, but if you are miserable as a general dentist and just to play devils advocate to a prior point charlestweed made, life is too short. you can always argue the opposite side of an argument. life is too short being miserable going to work all day. idc how much you make. debt free, make $80k and love your life? sign me up. key phrase, love your life.
 
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P7898

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yup.

correct. it may confirm a decision you've already made, but it will not (and it should not) convince you.

correct. I did not quote the rest of this individuals post because I do not agree with "regardless of financial constraints". opportunity cost is a thing. you can still do whatever you want as a general dentist without a formal residency and not take a $1M of opportunity cost to do it

this kind of contradicts my previous point, but if you are miserable as a general dentist and just to play devils advocate to a prior point charlestweed made, life is too short. you can always argue the opposite side of an argument. life is too short being miserable going to work all day. idc how much you make. debt free, make $80k and love your life? sign me up. key phrase, love your life.

preach my friend!
 
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Combine33

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I did an AEGD because I wanted to be a good GP, and I worked in practice for a year. The farther I got in, the more I realized I hated (sorry yall) restorative and endo. I was only really excited to do extractions and place implants. Those were my favorite days! So I decided to go back, take more loans, and do what I want to do every day, instead of dread the coming crown or class II restoration.
 
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Combine33

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and to save teeth right! ;)

for me the worst was exams. new patient or periodic. didn't like them. and I didn't enjoy working with hygienists. it's amazing how much more they know than me.
Oh yea definitely (even better if I can use a 15 blade to save it) hahaha! Oh yea that was really tedious and annoying as well
 

bones18

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if you don’t mind me asking, what specialty and how much in debt did you go/how fast you paid it off?
Starting Perio. Worked in private practice for 8 years paid off all debt, sorted my life out and saved enough to anticipate finishing perio program and still have cash left. If you can plan, budget etc. You should be able to run the numbers and see what time frame works for you to break even.

Also being a GP I found my brain being pulled into too many directions, just want to focus and specialize in one area that I like :)
 
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Torshammer

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I'm headed to endo residency this year. I realized I detested general dentistry in my first year out in practice. I also saw how tough it is in California to earn a high income as an associate general dentist so I started thinking about specializing in either perio or endo after 1.5 years. I enjoyed RCTs starting from the beginning, so my inclination was picking endo, but my dad (who is a dentist as well) persistently advised me to do perio because he thought it would make a good financial complement to my S/O, who is an endodontist. My heart wasn't in perio though, so his insistence kept me on the sidelines for a while.

I also found other ways to talk myself out of specializing, thinking about opportunity cost (although this was easier for me to stomach because I had no debt), feeling like I may have my freedom taken away (I have always disliked the rigorous schedule of school), the difficulty that goes into preparing a competitive app (hunting down old faculty and making new connections in order to secure good letters, etc.), and dreading having to study for the ADAT while working and after not having sat down with a textbook for years.

Eventually though, I suspected I would start to resent myself if I never gave it a shot, especially as I became more passionate about endo. The fact that most endo programs are 2 years vs. 3 years gave me some reassurance that the opportunity cost would be reduced, and I thought if I prepared a competitive app/did well on the ADAT I may be able to secure a spot at a school with cheaper tuition or even a stipend. The process was a lot of hard work, but many times when I started to have doubts, I told myself that being an endodontist was my dream and that anything would be better than a life of prophies, fillings, and crown preps (at least for me, anyways).
 
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