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Practice Administration

Advice from Dr. Aldridge: Building Your Practice (Part II)

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This is the second in a two-part post by dentist and CEO/President of Aldridge & Associates, Dr. Duke Aldridge. 
  • Is your Dental Practice presentable? How does your practice look from the outside? Is your signage visible? Do you have adequate parking? Is your carpet and/or hard surface floors clean? Are your ceiling tiles stained? Patients who are seeking a new dentist are addressing all of these issues and will not hesitate to leave their reviews on Yelp of Google for all to see. Maybe you could ask each employee to review your office and make a list of deficiencies. 
  • Have you reviewed your reimbursement with your PPO’s? Is it time to look at your fee schedule and renegotiate your fees? This should be done on a yearly basis at a minimum. You owe it to yourself to know what is happening in your business.
  • Cash is KING! Cash flow is critical to your success. Most accounts receivable are representative of the practice philosophy. Third party, 3rd financing (CareCredit, 0% interest rates on credit cards, etc.) should become an option for all patients. The economic effects of 2008 have changed the way that dentist should do business if they expect to realize the benefits of their hard earned education and labor.
  • Eliminate misunderstandings with a payment policy that is easy to understand and provides clarity. New patients will appreciate your thoroughness by knowing what is expected of them before commencing treatment.
  • Does your schedule allow time for dental emergencies? Each morning you and your staff (morning huddles) should evaluate your schedule and find time to accommodate “emergencies.” Your patients will not hesitate to tell their friends about your ability to accommodate their emergency needs.
  • Are you keeping track of your external marketing with a Call Tracking Dashboard? If not, you are wasting money. Call tracking is an absolute necessity to evaluate the success of all external marketing efforts. 
  • Dental hygiene should account for at least 25% of your practice production. A successful soft tissue program is critical to the success of your dental hygiene program / practice.
  • Periodontal disease is one of the most “under-diagnosed” infections in medicine. The American Academy of Periodontology warns of a significant public concern that 47.2% of all patients 30 years and older have periodontitis A comprehensive exam should always include 6-point probing of all adult patients. While it may take a few extra minutes your treatment plan will be more accurate and your profits will soar. Each and every patient deserves the best dental care available.
  • The General Dentist average dental supplies should account for approximately 3-5% of their collections. When preparing your monthly / annual budgets you should allow for this expense. 
  • Do you know what is in your inventory? Take the time to spend a couple of hours and look inside every cabinet. How about going in on Saturday and making a list of extra supplies/consumables? Your staff will be surprised and you will too! It is amazing what you may discover. If you have extra materials then use them so you don’t have money sitting on your shelves. It is your business. Donate it if you don’t use it anymore. 
  •  We have all heard of scripting and how important it is. Is your staff prepared to answer your patient’s questions while developing a positive rapport and promoting your business? Is everybody on the same page? Does your office role-play at monthly meetings? A well trained staff can handle any question with an enthusiastic and confident smile. 
  • The patient hand-off from the dental assistant to the front office (and vice versa) is one of the main transactions in your practice. This is another example of where communication is critical. Does your dental assistant walk the patient to the front desk and explain today’s procedures, recommended next dental treatment and thoroughly explain what was done chairside? Is the hand-off flawless of do they fumble the ball? A highly trained and motivated staff will enthusiastically welcome or dismiss the patient while creating value to your office.  

 

Advice from Dr. Aldridge: Building Your Practice (Part I)

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This is the first in a two-part post highlighting tips from dentist and CEO of Aldridge and Associates, Dr. Duke Aldridge. 

  • When you answer the telephone you have an opportunity to leave a wonderful impression and establish a long-term relationship.  The tone of your voice and your enthusiasm are key to this relationship.   
  • Smile before you answer each and every telephone call. Your confidence, enthusiasm and genuine concern for each and every patient will be heartfelt.   
  • It is critical to track all of your external marketing efforts (newspaper, direct mail, radio, TV, newsletters, website, etc.) so you can determine your true ROI (return on investment). Be careful with your new patient “acquisition cost” as most marketing companies will fail to include your overhead leading to inaccurate information. Your external marketing budget should be 3-6% of your annual production.   
  • Internal Marketing is the key to building your practice. Patients expect “excellence” in all areas and anything short thereof will fail to provide optimal results for your business. 
  • Is it truly realistic to see 4 patients a day as opposed to 20 and be more profitable? Indeed it is! Work smarter not harder. Our full proof scheduling system, “Scheduling for Your Success” will help you become a more comprehensive clinician with less stress and substantial profits.   
  • The average dental staff member is employed for less than 2 years. Your staff is a reflection of you. Most dentist hire the first or second person to apply because they need an employee (dental assistance/front office) to fill the space. Employee screening, job descriptions and comprehensive training for all employees will help alleviate constant “turn-over,” stress and sleepless nights for the owner. If you don’t take the time to train and develop a great team then your patients, family and colleagues will pay the price.   
  • Communication is the number one breakdown in a dental office or should we say “the lack thereof.” If your staff doesn’t communicate with you and each other how can you possibly convey a consistent and cohesive message to your patients? Morning huddles and regular staff meetings are a great opportunity for team members to hone their skills and enhance their communication techniques. If you want to develop excellence in your business skillsets start with a monthly staff meaning that includes input from all personnel. Morning huddles should be mandatory.   
  • Branding is the process of creating a unique name and image in the consumer’s mind. Whether you are a small operation with 4 employees or a large group practice, branding helps identify your business and separates you from others. In an industry which has become so competitive your “Brand” and “Value Proposition” should be apparent to every potential patient.  
  • Do you know your “magic” number? Profit and Loss (aka income statements) statements are a necessary in any business including a dental practice. The only way to know if your dental practice is truly profitable is by preparing this statement on a monthly basis. This “business tool” will help keep you on track and reach your financial goals and objective.    
  • You have your phones ringing, now what? Your front office personnel must CONVERT the call to an appointment or you have lost money and business! It is critical your staff learns how to convert potential patients into real patients. There is no substitute for professional training. A poorly handled telephone call will cost you thousands and thousands of dollars and lost business.   
  • Internal marketing should be your #1 source of referrals. As we all know the best complement our patients can give us is to refer a family member or friend. Do you just expect your patients to share their dental experiences with others or do you ask them to? You and your staff should be trained to ask for referrals. Especially after the patient makes a favorable comment about your services or personnel.   
  • Successful marketing (both internal and external) has become a key component to building any dental practice. The ability to track your telephone calls, website visits and other media types has never been better. Each and every business should address employing a “Marketing Coordinator” (2 days per week) who is responsible for all internal and external marketing efforts.   
  • The dentist time is a precious commodity and it should be spent generating income for your business. Learn to train your team and let them do their job. If you feel you cannot trust your team then you might have the wrong personnel or maybe you haven’t spent adequate time training them? Continuous training, role-playing and scripting are paramount to a successful dental practice. The dentist is required to attend and complete a number of Continuing Education Courses each year. Why is the staff any different? In-house training on a monthly basis can be very enjoyable and beneficial to all team members.   

 

Five E-Learning Tools You May Encounter in Class

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As a student, you know that dental education faces a number of challenges. Rising tuition, a shortage of instructors and the high cost of clinic operations are prompting administrators and progressive reformers to seek alternatives to the “conventional” classroom experience to more effectively utilize your time and investment. With increasing frequency, dental schools and instructors are turning to online multimedia like THE NEXTDDS to improve your experience and education.

 

As you enter the new school year, dont' be surprised if you see some new applications or programs in your professors' educational tool chest! A few of the new tools you might encounter are:

 

 

  • Adobe Captivate facilitates creating application simulations and soft skills training materials. Instructors can import PowerPoint slides and enrich them with multimedia, interactivity and quizzes. 
  • Easygenerator is a free online authoring tool that stores all content in the cloud. Part of the free edition includes hosting, updates, upgrades and maintenance. 
  •  ZebraZapps, a cloud-based authoring and publishing platform, enables instructors to create interactive applications easily and quickly. 
  • QuickLessons is a collaborative platform to create e-learning courses using their templates, animated characters, and interactive games. The tool also can incorporate PowerPoint presentations if desired. 
  • Articulate’s Storyline is a user-friendly tool used to build highly interactive online and mobile courses. 

 

 

You and your contemporaries pursuing the dental field have grown up in the digital age, and your connections to each other are now reinforced through social media, text messaging, and cloud computing. As a result, you as “digital natives” are comfortable learning with the type of technology offered by THE NEXTDDS and other online education tools. Consequently, dental school educators are increasingly incorporating e-learning, which can include everything from instructional videos to exquisitely mapped 3D atlases to clinical animations, within their educational materials. To date, e-learning seems to work best when integrated with traditional methods. 

Financial Rules of Thumb for Young Dentists

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Student Loans 

In order to be able to retire before age 70 these days, the first order of business is to pay off your student loans. Student loans should be fully paid off as soon as possible. In fact, you should pay off your student loans before you take out any other loans. Period. During this time, it is also important to not accumulate any credit card debt either. This way, once your student loans are paid off, you start out clean. You’re going to need to live like a student for another three to four years after you graduate if you went to a public dental school, maybe six to seven years if you went to a private school, but you have to get your student loans paid off. If you don’t pay them off as soon as possible, your ability to save throughout your career will be severely inhibited. I cannot stress this message enough; get the student loans paid off.

 

Savings 

If you can save up to 10% of your income between ages 30 and 40, you’ll be doing better than most. Paying off loans should be prioritized over generating savings in the early part of your career, so if you are able to save 10%, consider it a bonus. As you get a little older and more established, you should try to save about 15%, but remember: savings comes after you’ve paid off your student loans.

 

Your practice loan should also come after you’ve paid off your student loans. If you want to take on a practice a couple of years before you finish paying off your loans, that can be alright. It can be risky, but your practice loan is going to be good for you in the future, and is a productive loan. However, do NOT take out a home loan before you take out a practice loan. Having a home loan before a practice loan will put too much pressure on you the first several years of owning or working in a practice. If you don’t envision yourself buying or starting a practice, you may take out a mortgage, but make sure you have no credit card of student loan debt at the time, as both of these will factor into your mortgage rate.

 

Income Ratios 

Capital to Income Ratio 

There are several important ratios throughout your career which relate to different aspects of your income and savings. Generally speaking, your income between age 30 and 45 is going to be somewhere between $120,000 and up to $500,000. Capital-to-income ratio is one important set of numbers to keep in mind. By age 40, it would be ideal to have about double your regular income as savings. This means that if you’re earning $200,000 per year, you should have about $400,000 saved, but very few doctors are able to accomplish this. By age 45, you should have a 3:1 capital to income ratio ideally, but again, this will be pretty unusual for most.

 

Mortgage to Income Ratio 

Mortgage to income ratios are another key number to talk about. You should never take out a mortgage that is more than double your family’s net income. This means that if your family as a whole is earning $250,000 per year, you should not take out a mortgage of more than $500,000. Sure, you can buy a million dollar house if you can put down $500,000 at age 40, but that is not a realistic number early on in a career. Remember that the banks will loan you much more than that, but, realistically, double your income is the limit. Anything more will severely inhibit your ability to save anything later in your career. If you do have a home, perhaps the most important factors to keep an eye on are house/home upgrades. You will always have property taxes, insurance, and general repairs, but upgrades can be costly and drastically cut into your savings.  Upgrades include everything from outdoor landscaping to new/renovated kitchens, and can cost upwards of $100,000 each. That severely inhibits your ability to save; if and when you do buy a home, buy one that doesn’t need immediate upgrades, and future upgrades are going to be minimal. When getting home upgrades, it can be tempting to get into HELOCs, or Home Equity Lines of Credit, but these can be very dangerous and a slippery slope. Any upgrades that you do should be paid in cash; if you can’t afford them in cash, don’t get them.

 

Practice Loans 

Be very careful with your practice loans. Again, generally speaking, it is a lot better and safer to buy a small or midrange practice than a large one. A large practice puts a lot of pressure on you and your wallet, and can make everything from the initial investment to staffing to turning a profit more difficult than it needs to be. I’m not saying don’t buy a big practice; sometimes they’re a great deal and everything is set in place for you already. This opportunity can allow you to maintain a nice lifestyle and income while saving a lot, but it’s more difficult to manage and maintain than a smaller practice would be. Wealth generation normally happens much quicker in a small to medium practice.

 

Car Loans 

I would suggest never taking out any kind of loan for a car. You should always be paying cash for cars no matter what age you are. If you have the money, buy them; if you don’t have the money, it probably is not worth taking out a loan.

 

Investing 

It is important for young people, and young doctors especially, that they get off on the right foot. Stay away from anything related to insurance, and from traditional brokers; their fees and their commission are too high. If you’re going to use an advisor, make sure that it’s a fee-only advisor. Certified financial planners are usually the best options to use, but even they can get you into trouble with some of the funds that they choose.

 

Also stay away from something called “Active Management”, always use Passive Management tactics. Active management means trying to time the market, but it does not work. It’s been academically shown to not work. Remember these two simple rules: if you use an advisor, fee-only, and no using active management strategies. Safe alternatives to active management strategies include the use of index funds, which are passive strategies.

 

Don’t have a lazy portfolio; balance your portfolio once per year. Lifecycle funds, or “target date funds”, automatically rebalance every year, and they cover the whole market; academically proven to be the safest way to save your money. Think in terms of fee-based, passive index fund investing if you’re going to use an advisor.

 

Life Insurance 

Always use term life insurance, not whole life, universal life, or permanent life insurance. Whole life is an investment that gives you a really horrible return over time because of hidden commissions and fees. Buy term life from ADA, USAA, TIAA-CREF, or any other company that has good term life plans. They will always try to sell you whole life, universal life, or something similar with another name because it will help them make big commissions, but these will again will inhibit your ability to save.

 

For term insurance, it is advisable to have 12x your family’s income as insurance. For instance, a dentist earning $200,000, will need a $2.4 million dollar insurance plan. Remember though, you can subtract out any savings from your required plan; so that same dentist, if he has $200,000 in savings, will only need a $2.2 million dollar insurance plan. As a young dentist, probably $2-3 million is appropriate to have in term life insurance, and it is cheap enough to easily maintain. For the doctor’s spouse, it would be advisable to go with 12x their income.

 

College Funds 

Starting to save money or fund college for your children may be appropriate ONLY after you’ve met the following thresholds:

  • Student loans are paid off
  • Retirement savings is 10%+
  • Your savings to income ratio is correct
  • Your mortgage to income ratio is appropriate
  • You’re paying cash for cars
  • You don’t have any HELOCs or credit card debt

 

If you don’t meet all these benchmarks, it might be best to think twice about funding college for your children, and instead having them take out student loans. I know that this is expensive, but your retirement is more important at any age than funding for college. There are no loans for retirement, and it would be worse to force your kids to eventually have to take care of you because you run out of money for retirement; you do not want to force your kids or yourself into that situation.

 

Conclusion 

As soon as you graduate from dental school, you’re going to have a pile of student loan debts. It will be of paramount importance that you pay off these debts fully and completely before you can think about saving in earnest. Once your student loans are paid off, you can think about acquiring practice loans, and after that, home loans, but that order should be preserved for simplicity and monetary reasons. Keep your capital to income ratio at a healthy level, make smart, safe investments, and find the right insurance plans, and your transition to the middle and later parts of your careers will be smooth and manageable.

Young Doctors and Money: Part II - Savings

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Be sure to check here for Part I about Debt, which presents recommendations for managing student loans early in your career along with practice loans and mortgages. This post is going to focus on savings – starting with the importance of an emergency fund. In the last video, Dave Ramsay talked about having a $50,000 emergency fund. That’s more for a dentist in mid-career, not for young dentists – for whom $25,000 is more appropriate.

 

Emergency Funds 

You should keep your emergency savings in money market funds. I’ve talked to young dentists about this, and they often think that they need growth for their money. No, you don’t! This money has to be safe and, most importantly, needs to be liquid in case of an emergency such as injury or illness.

 

I can share two personal examples of this. One dentist had a stroke at age 55. He was out of commission and out of the office for 6 months, but he had an emergency fund of well over $100,000. After 6 months, he jumped back in, went on his way, and he retired a few years later, before the age of 60. He was not affected that much by this emergency.

 

Another younger dentist had an athletic accident in which he broke several bones in one of his legs. He was out for four months. Six YEARS later, he was still taking care of the debt caused by this injury, and he had no savings for that period of time; it really affected him financially. So you do need to have liquid emergency funds. Keep them in a money market account.

 

Retirement Savings 

When should you start saving for your retirement? How much should you save? Different people have different opinions on this. Brian Huffard of Huffard Financial writes for Dental Economics, and I really like what he offers on this topic. According to him, dentists should try to save 20% of their net income every year consistently. That’s really difficult to do, but if you do, you may be able to retire by age 55.

 

Fifteen percent is probably more practical. If you can do that, you’ll probably be able to retire by your early 60s. I went through a Monte Carlo softeware analysis a few months ago and came up with different scenarios for 20%, 10%, 15%, starting at different ages and coming up with different scenarios. Fifteen percent consistently saved from your early 30s will get you to retirement in many instances by your early 60s.

 

Investment 

  

Beyond retirement savings, where should your money go? One book I’d recommend is The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John Bogle. Bogle, founder of Vanguard Index Funds. His book covers passive investing in index funds allocated broadly, not just in large cap, ,small cap, or American stocks; he talks about international stocks, bonds, fixed income, everything. Buy the market; don’t just buy a few funds.

 

Passively invest. Do no ust active management.. Active managers rarely beat passive investors over the long term; that’s been proven over and over again.

 

Bogle’s book will give you the basics of investment, but where should you go for additional help? Do you go to a traditional stock broker or financial management company? In my experience, the fees never overcome what you might make compared to passive strategy. Passive strategies have performed best over the last 120 years.

 

Should you use stock brokers, bankers, insurance salesmen? Again, no, no, and never.

 

What about a certified financial planner? To be sure, a lot of them are really knowledgeable. They can set up a nice estate plan for you; they can work with you on insurance and investments. But if they’re actively managing your funds--- if they’re buying and selling and trying to tweak investments to “only follow the winners”---they’re not going to do as well as those that have index funds which are passively managed. If you’re using active strategies, you’re going to lose in the long run.

 

One thing worth mentioning on this subject before moving on is the fact that you can go to Vanguard, Fidelity, Schwab, or another discount brokerage and for very little money have a proper allocation planned for you..

 

Target Date Funds, of life cycle funds, offer an excellent way to invest with low fees and no work on your part.  Vanguard is my best recommendation, as they have the lowest fees.

 

Making Sense of Diversification 

Let’s take an example. The “Lost Decade” is a term that refers to the years between 2000 and 2010. If you invested a million dollars in the S&P 500 in 2000, by the end of 2010 you’d still have your million dollars, and nothing else. But the S&P 500 contains only the largest 500 companies in the United States. There are also small cap stocks, medium cap stocks, growth stocks, value stocks, international stocks, emerging country stocks, and then there are fixed income funds including municipal bonds, treasury bonds, corporate bonds, high-yield bonds, and other income-producing investments. Invest in the whole market, not just tiny segments.

 

So, while the S&P 500 saw zero growth between the years 2000 to 2010, people who had a diversified allocation of 50% index stock funds and 50% index bond funds saw a 4% to 6% gain per year over that decade.

 

If you started out with a million dollars, after those 10 years -- just by rebalancing and not adding any money -- you would have 1.6 to 1.7 million dollars in 2010. It was only the Lost Decade for those either tried to time the market by jumping in and out, or invested in only a small segment,  such as the S&P 500.

 

Many dentists have invested in gold in the last few years.  Gold is a high-risk investment, as is any commodity. Investing more than 5%  of your total portfolio in individual stocks or commodities increases your risk factor to a level most dentists do not tolerate with wise strategy.

 

No-Nos 

  

Insurance is great for cars, your home, your life, disability, long-term care, your office, and health, Insurance companies generally do not offer good investments.  A big hype in the last few years has been the insurance salesman query, “Hey, would you be interested in an investment wherein you will never lose money, and you get the gains of the Market along with it?” The promise is that you will never lose money, and you’ll see a guaranteed rate of return every year. These are commonly Equity Index Annuities or a type of variable annuity.  The SEC has been investigating these policies and claims  for several years. Yes, you can lose money and your gains will be much lower than a corresponding index fund because  of all the fees attached to these investments. Salesmen rarely disclose what all the fees are, but they do know what their commissions are! So please, whenever an insurance company tells you about something that sounds fantastic, remember there are always going to be hidden influences and fees that you’re not aware of.

 

Free seminars with meals attached are another big no-no. This is normally to sell insurance products. If there’s a free seminar that doesn’t have a meal attached, it may be fine.

 

You may also find day- trading threads on the Internet posted by those who own only 20 stocks, run options, and try to  beat the market via timing strategies. Over the long run, you can’t beat the market.

 

Day trading is a loser’s game. Even those who day-trade full-time rarely make any money.  Don’t believe the traders’ hype on the airwaves.

 

 

A big pet peeve of mine is vacation timeshares. Tom Stanley of The Millionaire Next Door series wrote a book recently, Stop Acting Rich and Start Acting Like a Real Millionaire, where he states that  deca-millionaires, those who have more than 10 million dollars in savings (not including their home), rarely have a second home or a timeshare. The reason: it’s too much work, a waste of time, and there is no profit. They’d rather go visit a website, find a similar place, pay less than the maintenance fee for your timeshare, and not be tied into anything.

 

This is the end of Part II of this post about dentistry and savings. Click Here to View the Video.

Creating the Ultimate Patient Experience

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As you consider the transition from successful dental student to successful dental professional, it can be important for you to consider the type of clinical experience your future patients will have in your care.  With the appropriate communication skills, motivational techniques, and negotiating practices, you can give patients a deeper sense of commitment and loyalty to the practice. Here are ten tips: 

 

1. Create an extended relationship with patients by fully utilizing online communication tools (e.g., online patient account login, digital forms, online bill pay, online appointment confirmation processes, e-newsletters, and virtual birthday/holiday greetings) that they can access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year .

 

2. Use pre-set “we care” questions to shift the focus of your new patient first call from giving and receiving information and making an appointment to building a real relationship based on value and trust.

 

3. Conclude every new-patient inquiry with the verbal phrase, “You made the right choice calling Dr. ______. His/her patients love him/her and you will too!”

 

4. Move away from the old school medical model that uses words like “exam,” “consult,” and “recall,” and embrace a new model that focuses on collaborative health and well-being with words like “evaluation”, “treatment conference,” and “recare.”

 

5. Ask a lot of open-ended questions to create guided co-discovery, then wait for the patient to ask you, “Is this something we need to handle now?”

 

6. Employ SPIN Selling when discussing treatment with patients. Start by asking situation questions, followed by “why is this a problem?” questions, followed by implication questions that highlight the consequences if the problem persists, and end with needs payoff questions that point to how the patient’s life will be better once the  problem is fixed.

 

7. Ask every new patient during the pre-clinical interview, “How do you sleep?”

 

8. Handle any financial objections by asking, “If finance wasn’t a concern for you, would there be anything else keeping you from this very necessary treatment?” Once the patient answers, ask, “If we find a financial option that is as stress free as possible, are you willing to look at options?”

 

9. Make sure you have much more flexible internal financial guidelines that make your dentistry more affordable, especially if you are asking the previous questions!

 

10. Never leave the patient with a “maybe” answer. Ask if maybe means “its no, for now.” When patients have a good relationship with you and don’t want to disappoint you, they may be thinking “no” but say “maybe.” You might hear “yes”. To maintain the relationship, always clarify an answer.

After Dental School

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Dental school graduates have a variety of career options—including academic dentistry, dental research, and service with the federal government. Approximately 80% of all dentists practice general dentistry, and 20% are specialists. In most states, dental school graduates are eligible to enter the practice of general dentistry immediately upon graduation. Many graduates opt for advanced education, completing advanced general dentistry, dental specialty, master's, or Ph.D. programs.

 

Private Practice

The majority of practicing dentists are engaged in some form of private practice, either by themselves or in partnership with other dentists. Most recent graduates begin their careers in salaried or associate positions in private practices, but most choose to move to practice ownership within several years. Most practitioners use a fee schedule, participate in preferred provider plans, or accept some combination of both as payment for providing care. Fewer than 15% of dentists participate in dental health maintenance organizations (HMOs).

 

Academic Dentistry and Dental Education

Many dental educators say the chief benefit of their career is the stimulation of working with outstanding colleagues and bright young students. Other significant benefits include teaching in didactic, clinical, and laboratory areas; patient care in dental clinics or in faculty practice; designing and conducting research; writing for journals; exploring new technologies and discoveries; and administration. Many dental school faculty combine the private practice of dentistry with teaching responsibilities.

 

Dental Research

Dentists trained as researchers are scientists who contribute to improving health care nationally and internationally. Many researchers are faculty members at universities; others work in federal facilities such as the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or in private industry. Postgraduate fellowships and opportunities are available in a variety of areas and sponsored by public and private organizations.

 

Service in the Federal Government

Numerous opportunities for dental school graduates are available through federal government positions. The military enlists dentists to serve the oral health needs of military personnel and their families, and offer scholarships and loan repayment programs for dental students and graduates. For information on careers in the military, check out:

U.S. Army
 

U.S. Navy
 

U.S. Air Force
 

 

Dental Specialist

The majority of the 164,000 practicing dentists today are general practitioners. The remaining (about 20 percent) are dental specialists who limit their practices to one of the nine ADA recognized dental specialties (i.e., Dental Public Health, Endodontics, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics and Prosthodontics.  In addition to four years of dental school, two or more additional years of dental specialty education are required using the Postdoctoral Application Support Service (PASS), which simplifies the process of applying to most postdoctoral programs in general dentistry as well as the specialties listed above. To learn about participating programs in all general and specialty fields, the American Dental Education Association’s PASS Program Search Engine provides current information that is maintained by the programs themselves.