Determining Needs and Goals: What Happens When You Don’t Love Dentistry Anymore?

Has dentistry started to lose its appeal? Many dentists report loving their job, but for others – well, maybe you’re burned out, maybe dentistry was never really your dream job to begin with, or maybe you’re just ready for a change … but you don’t know what the next step is. How do you figure out your life after dentistry when the next step is entirely unknown? And are you alone in a profession of people who seemingly love their jobs?

First, the answer to the second question is most definitely no, you are not alone. There’s an entire Dentaltown thread with more than 150 responses on the topic of another, unknown career brought on by lack of interest in dentistry.

The reality is that for most dentists, dentistry itself resembles a bell curve: some days it’s really good, some days it’s really bad, and most are in between. If you find yourself more consistently on the ‘really bad day’ end of the spectrum, it’s time to reassess your career and determine your options.

This process starts with an honest assessment of your needs: financial, emotional and mental, and otherwise. Do you need to keep working to more fully fund a retirement or pay off debt? Or can you sell your practice, walk away, and start fresh?

If your current needs are financial, don’t make the mistake of figuring out a plan on your own. Let a qualified financial advisor help you realistically figure out how to achieve your goals.

Aside from that, letting go of daily practice management responsibilities may be enough to lift some of the stress. Selling to an associate and working part-time, merging with another practice and sharing management responsibilities, or selling your practice and working for a new dentist as an associate are all viable options in the right situation.

Other options include:

  • Seeking out training in a new area of dentistry to help reinvigorate your passion for the profession
  • Changing your practice model to focus on procedures you enjoy doing, and outsource or hire someone for the rest

If finances aren’t a major concern but you consistently feel disheartened and stressed by your practice, here are a few questions to think about:

  • If you didn’t go into dentistry, what career would you have chosen?
  • What would your passions and hobbies be, if you had more time to pursue them?
  • Can you take a sabbatical and return to practice after, say, three months?

Also, and far be it from us to diagnose anything other than the value of a dental practice, but addressing your mental health is important. Maybe the most important piece of the puzzle, in fact. Depression and dentistry aren’t talked about much openly, but it’s a stressful career and those of you who do well also can be prone to focusing on what can go wrong, or what you could have done better.

Are you thinking about life after dentistry, but aren’t sure what that is yet? Contact N/L Transitions to share your story, or tell us in on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.