You are ready to graduate from dental school, or you have recently graduated, and now it's time to think about what you should do for the rest of your life. You have probably talked to many other people in the dental business for advice, have gotten a plethora of answers, and now have some questions that you may not have known to ask! This type of information that you get is usually as good as the price you pay for it. People can tell you what they think based on their experience, but they are not you, and, because of that, their advice may or may not be the best for you.

No one can tell you what is best for you because no one knows you as well as you do. However, your perspective on dentistry is based on your experience in academics, not real life. Real-life is about to become your next school of learning, and for some, unfortunately, it will be a school of hard knocks. Just the same, here are some suggestions (and myth-busters) that you may want to consider when making plans for your future as a dentist.

1. You will never make enough money to pay off your student loans by working as an associate. You will only find yourself going deeper and deeper into debt each year, trying to live a "doctor's lifestyle" on an associate's income.

2. Dentistry is a business, and you need to be a good business person and be an excellent clinician; your future depends on it.

3. You will practice dentistry for a finite number of years, and no one knows how many years that will be. Most of you will practice dentistry for about 35 years or more, and some of you will practice until you die. Some of you will practice less time, and for some, much less time because of an untimely death, disability, or just plain burnout.

4. You went into dentistry to make a living. If you have family responsibilities, your goal should be to reach financial security in as short a time as possible. You should live your life like you have a hundred years to live but plan it like you only have ten!! If you died or became disabled, the business decisions you make now will determine how well your family will do following your untimely departure (if that happens).

5. Think long-term; you weren't born a dentist; you don't have to die a dentist! If you minimize the financial mistakes you most assuredly will make in your practice lifetime; you could get out of dentistry alive.

6. Don't develop "Dentalvision" (aka being trivial focused). Buying a practice is an investment, not an expense. You'll sell it someday for a lot more money than you paid for it. Don't focus on practice cost; focus on growth potential and profitability. New dentists lose out on great opportunities because of poor advice and Dentalvision.

7. There are very few dentists still practicing dentistry after age 65 because they want to (they have to work, unfortunately for them). As one dentist put it, "After my 10,982 MOD, the challenge just was not there anymore." Most of them (if not all) picked lousy financial and legal advisors.

8. Keep things in perspective, such as life and living. The age-old dental maxim, "Practice for a living… don't live to practice!" will mean more to you as the years pass.

9. Any advisor (legal or financial) whose income is enhanced through conflict will create a lot of costly conflict for you throughout your business lifetime (in billable hours and missed opportunities) unless you learn to control them. They advise, but you decide. It's your future, so you should always make the decisions.

10. Never let the desired practice location take priority over a better financial opportunity. The chance to earn a lot more money makes almost any location more desirable.

11. Goodwill is the most valuable asset you can buy. Don't pay a million dollars for a practice and then lose all of the goodwill through negotiations. Tough negotiators always lose more money than they ever gain.

12. It's reasonable to expect to earn $200,000 to $250,000 the first year you own a dental practice if you buy the right one for the right reasons.

13. It's reasonable to expect to earn $500,000 to $1,000,000 per year as an entrepreneurial dentist if you have what it takes to be a business person rather than just a clinician.

14. You should be able to achieve lifetime financial security and retire after 20 years of practice if you do things right (or you can change careers if desired).

Just think about it and try to keep it in mind as you embark on your new and exciting career in dentistry.

If you'd like for your future to depend less on luck and more on good advice, then call AFTCO at 800-232-3826 or visit our website at

Print this Article