Hear from Practitioners

Practice Management Options

Posted by Roberta Garceau, D.M.D., FAGD on January 01, 2014

You’ve logged countless hours in predoctoral education and likely postponed other personal goals to pursue your dream of becoming a licensed dentist. The dream has been so exciting, but the reality of actually putting all your efforts into practice can be rather daunting. So, what options do you really have once you’ve attained your dental degree? To give you some insight, allow me to share my experiences…

When I graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine in 1994, I knew I wanted to work in private practice, but wasn’t exactly sure of the best setting or location. UCONN provided a solid foundation, but I felt that my confidence and speed needed improvement. I spent the next two years at UCONN in the Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency and fellowship programs, and I highly recommend post-doctoral education to every new dentist. During those years, I advanced my skills in implantology and endodontics, as well as oral surgery and treatment planning. Pursuing a residency not only increased my efficiency, but also afforded me the opportunity to work in public health clinics and Veterans Affairs Hospitals as well as in private practices as a part-time associate (employee).

Aside from choices in public health, research and education, practicing dentists either become employees or employers in the business of dentistry. Working as an associate in several different private practice settings allowed me to experience different practice styles and to learn both what I liked and disliked about various models. You can earn an excellent living with health and retirement benefits without necessarily having the administrative headaches of running a business, managing personnel and the financial and emotional stress of owning your own business. Benefits such as license and continuing education fees are also negotiable. Current trends reflect a growing percentage of large group dental practices, which may have dozens of employees, including specialists and laboratory technicians, all under one roof.  This model can provide a direct referral and support network.

After working as an employee for a few years, I knew that I personally needed the autonomy of being my own boss. I selected dentistry as a profession because I loved the marriage of art and science as well as the ability to help people improve their lives on a daily basis. I chose working as a solo practitioner because autonomy is an absolute necessity for me –I want to be my own boss! Being a self-employed dentist does have its drawbacks: all of the financial risks and administrative responsibilities fall on one set of shoulders—mine! But with risk comes reward, and with responsibility comes privilege. I have ultimate control over my schedule: I never had to consult with anyone regarding family planning choices, which continuing education courses I should take or when I might be allowed to take a vacation.  I also have complete control over who I hire and educate to work with me—do not underestimate the value of choosing with whom you will spend the greater number of your waking hours. Financially, I can tailor my retirement and other benefits to best suit my personal needs, rather than conform to what’s best for a group of dentists who may have very different goals. At the end of the day, albeit with a tremendous amount of support from my talented team, the rewards of owning my own practice far outweigh the disadvantages to me.

So what is the most beautiful aspect of sorting through your individual options? The choice is uniquely yours! Find a mentor, explore different practice styles and models, and spend some quality time with yourself to determine what your strengths are and what makes you happiest. I guarantee you’ll find the answers that lead to your success. Enjoy the journey!

*This post was originally published on 9/13/2012

About Roberta Garceau, D.M.D., FAGD:

Roberta Garceau, D.M.D., FAGD Practicing Dentist, www.greatnewsmile.com