What’s Your Dream Job?

  • by Amrita Rohit Patel, DDS, FPFA, FICD
  • May 16, 2023
Congratulations, graduates! Welcome to the best profession in the world. The four years of hard work that you put into obtaining your doctorate were likely full of ups and downs, but you’ve made it. Now, it’s time to go out and find your path in dentistry. There are numerous options available: private practice associateships, larger group practices, academia, public health and military dentistry. You might even want to put yourself on the track to practice ownership in the next few years. This can all seem overwhelming at first, but it is a road that can be navigated with some guidance from those who have been there before you. 

The first and most important question to answer is: Where are you going? I mean this in a literal and figurative sense. Where do you want to be geographically? Where would you like to raise a family? Do you have existing obligations that are drawing you to a certain area of the country? Does being an associate for most of your career interest you, or would you like to get more involved with the business of dentistry? These are all legitimate and often difficult-to answer questions. In my experience, it is crucial to have a plan before setting out on your journey to find an ideal work environment. 

The best place to start having these conversations is often with your dental school faculty prior to graduation and also with your local component dental societies. You will meet leaders in dentistry in your area that might end up being your connections to employment opportunities. You will also get to network with other recent graduates at membership and mentoring events that these organizations host. If you are doing a postgraduate training program, your attendings are also wonderful resources for employment options. Many of them are likely looking for associates to mentor and potentially onboard as partners in the future. Many retiring dentists do not work with brokers or sales representatives when they are ready to sell their practices; instead, they rely on word of mouth. This is a great opportunity for newer graduates to find ideal positions that are sometimes not listed on job websites. If you are interested in practice ownership and learning about the business of dentistry, look for jobs that advertise a partnership or owner track. These will be the right fit for you. 

As you go through the interview process, make sure to ask about scheduling of patients, treatment planning philosophies and any technology that the office uses. You probably learned about a lot of new technology in school and even in your training, and now you get to use what you learned to help patients. The flow of a schedule is an important part of every working day, and some offices allow associates to allot their own amounts of time per procedure. Other offices may create your schedule for you. Remember that, as you grow, learn and continue to practice, your skills and working speed will increase. Don’t get discouraged if appointments seem to take longer in the beginning. Showing an interest in learning to do better can go a long way toward working better with your team. 

What happens after you’ve found your dream job? The first piece of advice I give to all new graduates is to hire an expert — an attorney who deals with contracts — to review the employment contract. Make sure that a contract exists between you and your employer. Handshake deals are red flags and should be avoided. A solid contract, with expectations and requirements clearly laid out, is the way to make sure all parties involved are on the same page. It should describe in detail your expected compensation. There are different methods to calculate this. The most common I have seen is paying a base salary per day and then a percentage of production or collection after a few months. For offices that are in-network with dental insurances, this initial period is generally used to credential you and get you signed up with these plans. 

Other considerations that should be included in your contract are the licenses and documents that you need to keep up to date (malpractice insurance, Drug Enforcement Administration registration and any state continuing education requirements), your daily schedule, and the types of procedures that you are expected to perform. You may also be offered a continuing education stipend in addition to your compensation. This shows that the practice is invested in your clinical growth and is an important point to consider when interviewing. 

Clear communication from the start is how you avoid conflicts and make the transition process a smooth one, no matter where you end up. Make sure to communicate any questions or concerns prior to signing your contract with your future employer. Communicate with your local dental societies to network with other doctors who are in the same position (and use these networking opportunities to find a mentor!). Lastly, remember that these important interviewing and communication skills are the building blocks to continued success in your professional life, whether you choose to be an associate indefinitely or put yourself on the path to ownership. As a doctor and a leader, empowering your team to achieve your goals is the way that successful positive growth can continue. 

Amrita Rohit Patel, DDS, FPFA, FICD, is in private practice with her father, endodontist Rohit Z. Patel, DDS, PC, in Westchester County, New York. She is the AGD Impact Leadership columnist.