Why Dentists Fear Retirement

Did you know that at least 30 percent of practicing dentists right now are solo practitioners – and 55 or older? If you fall into those categories and aren’t actively pursuing retirement yet, our challenge to you is to ask yourself why.

Why do so many dentists have doubts going into retirement? Research and anecdotal evidence suggest a few reasons:

  1. Fear of not being needed
  2. Fear of being unproductive or bored
  3. Facing one’s mortality
  4. Uncertainty over surprise expenses in retirement/financial unpreparedness
  5. Love of dentistry and unwillingness to give it up

Over and over again, as we talk to retired dentists or those considering retirement, numbers one and five are common in dentistry, and in the medical or healthcare fields, in general. This is a profession built on taking care of others. When you’re no longer caring for the dental needs of your patients, we find that the emotional blow can be unexpected and significant. This is especially true for dentists who have built their identity around practicing dentistry.

Numbers two, three, and four are more common across the board, although number two is more evident in more intellectually driven, self-motivated professions. Think of business owners, lawyers, or professors; so much of their professional life has been non-stop and it can be hard to let go of the structure.

It’s not all up to the dentist, though. How much of your perspective on your own retirement could be influenced by patients? Consider that these are the people you see regularly. In the course of a typical treatment and asking about the patient’s life and family, details tend to emerge over time about that person’s views on retirement, careers, and health. If enough patients complain about poor health in retirement or simply not enjoying it, as you get older yourself it can become really difficult to ignore those nagging thoughts.

As partners in retirement planning, we offer the following advice to Baby Boomer dentists who don’t have a clear retirement plan in place:

Do a personal assessment.

Acknowledge your reasons for staying in practice, and what your long-term goals are. As we’ve said before, your goals will help reveal a transition plan that works for you, your family, and your future.


Start the transition plan now.

Depending on practice location and other factors, the sale process could take a few months – or a few years. There are tax implications to consider and vary according to practice structure. If you plan on selling to an outside buyer, you’ll need time to find the right person or organization. In ideal circumstances, we advise leaving at least two years for a full transition plan, from engaging your dental broker to selling the practice.


Meet with your financial advisor.

One of the biggest fears in retirement is running out of money. Even if that isn’t your top concern, you still want to be prepared for healthcare costs and budgeting, and whether you need to make any changes to your current saving or spending habits.

Have you already retired? Please share your story and insights with our readers. Contact N/L Transitions to share your story, or tell us in on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.