What is the best advice you could give yourself, if you had to start your dental career over? What mistakes have you made (or seen), and how can a younger dentist avoid the same pitfalls? There is a litany of career advice out there for new dentists. Here, we compile some of the most popular categories to help new dentists start their career off on the right side of the chair, so to speak.
Although your perspective on work-life balance can and probably will change throughout your career, if you know you’re the type of person who thrives in a slow- or fast-paced environment, pursue those types of opportunities. If you don’t mind working a lot of hours with little time off for awhile when you’re young, then do it. But don’t burn yourself out. For many seasoned dentists, the ability to enjoy life outside dentistry comes with pacing yourself, hiring help when it’s needed, and only taking on the patients and cases you know you can manage. That means making decisions on what not to do and saying no to some things – but pacing yourself over time is important to maintain your love of dentistry.
A successful dental practice is one where the dentist understands his or her practice’s business operations. This means stretching your comfort zone and becoming comfortable and confident in financial management, leadership, marketing, and growth. These are skills that aren’t taught in dental school, but necessary if you want to run a profitable, growth-oriented practice. To that end, seek out continuing education, lectures and workshops, coaches and consultants, and senior dentists who can teach and mentor you. Early in your career is the best time to learn these skills, as an associate or junior dentist, before you consider becoming an owner yourself.
Most seasoned dentists will tell you to keep learning. Take all the continuing education you can and incorporate it into your practice. Use it to your advantage to go after new opportunities or decide where you don’t want your practice to go. It’s never too late to hone your clinical skills, either. If you decide at the peak of your career to learn a new skill, like implants or sedation dentistry, go for it.
Practice According to Your Strengths
It’s important for young dentists to identify their strengths and tailor their dental practice around those strengths. Do what you love, not what you feel will be the most profitable or trendy. Setting the style and tone of your practice can be key in getting the most out of dentistry. For example, do not pursue surgery or endodontics just to round out your practice and attract more patients. If you prefer to do more hygiene or routine dental care, stick to it – and do it well.
Every older dentist can agree on one thing: contribute to your retirement early and often! Even with student loan debt, don’t put off paying yourself. And when it comes to debt, practice management loans are good debt, and personal loans for expensive cars or a high credit card balance are not. Live within your means to enjoy a better quality of life later.
Most dental school graduates have a substantial amount of student loan debt. The best way to repay it depends on your situation, but one thing most older dentists agree on is paying down the balance aggressively early on. This can mean refinancing, making extra payments, choosing an alternative repayment plan, or all the above. You can still get a practice loan with student loan debt, but take steps to ensure you own your debt, not the other way around.
Did we miss anything? What career advice would you give to new dentists? If you are a new dentist, or an associate with just a few years of experience, what is the best advice you’ve been given? Share your comments with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. And if you have questions on dental practice management, buying your first practice, or anything in between, contact us today.