There are many dentist career options for new graduates.  Before, it was assumed that you would go out and buy your own practice or buy an existing practice, but with the continuous rise in college and dental school tuitions, many students are graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and it is difficult to justify tacking on another $200-500,000 or more in order to purchase a practice.

There are many corporate dental offices that hire dentist out of school, and allow you to make your money right from the get go without worrying about the overhead of running a practice.  There are also public health clinics or other programs you can join, or of course you can buy your practice or buy into a practice as an associate and work with one or more other dentists.

Most Common Dentist Career Options:

There are pros and cons to all options, but here is a rundown of the most common dentist career options.

  • Solo Practice
  • Group Practice
  • Corporate Practice
  • Education
  • Lecture, Invent, Marketing
  • Solo Practice:

Solo Practice:

This is historically the most common dentist career option.  When you have a solo practice, you get to practice how you want, run your practice how you want, collect all the money, and basically do what you want.  Sounds good right?  While this is all true, there are difficulties as well. 

You need to have staff that you can trust since you can't possibly do or watch everything, so you don't want to have to worry about instruments disappearing, or money getting "misplaced".  Another common issues is if you have a staff of say 4-5 people, if you want to change anything such as opening on weekends, you sometimes hear of staff ganging up on the doctor and resisting change.  For example, if your front office person decides to quit out of the blue, she knows you are going to have big problems.  It takes time to find someone, train them, all the while someone has to cover while this is all being done.

Just the other week I witnessed the staff at an office telling the new associate dentist (who was going to be taking over) what type of insurance they should have.   You as the dentist and owner should make the call, but your staff can make your life miserable if they want to.

Group Practice:

The decision making may get more difficult because there are more people involved, but the responsibility can also be divided. 

Groups can be equal owners, but often start off as an owner and an associate type of relationship.  The associate often has a plan to eventually buy out the owner or buy into the practice, but this can pose issues as well.

Often times the owner is an older, retiring dentist and the associate is a younger dentist.  It is easy to see how their practice philosophy will likely be very different.  Also, the patients may be reluctant to see the "new" dentist, so the owner dentist needs to actively help promote the new dentist.

Corporate Practice:

Because of the rising costs of tuition, this is dentist career option is being more attractive.  This is similar to a regular job.  The corporation runs the practice, you show up for your allotted amount of time, see your patients, and go home.  There is often little management by the dentist needed, but you will also have the corporation deciding what they want you to do.  For example, one corporation had a manager who said he recommended putting Arestin in over 100 sites on a single patient (to increase the production).  Any dentist with any kind of conscious knows that this is ludicrous, but in a corporation you may be asked to do certain things you may not agree with.


Dental schools need dentists.  Dental hygiene programs need dentists.  Even trade schools that train dental assistants need dentists.  You can also look into hospitals, nursing homes, or other facilities that may need dentists.

Lecturers and Product Developers:

On the same note, some dentists become lecturers and teach CE (continuing education) classes.  You can lecture around the country or world, or you can run study clubs in your own area. 

Some dentists have developed products or programs and market them to other dentists.  There is a huge market with thousands of dentists who will gladly pay to hear you speak or pay for your services or programs.  If you think outside the box, or think of what would make your practice better, it would probably make other practices better as well.

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