Each stage of your dental career poses new challenges and different upsides. Hopefully, you make it through to the end with only a few battle scars and plenty of humorous (or tragic?) stories.

Your dental career has three distinct phases.by Jenn Janicki and Sarah Brady

What differentiates dentists from other professionals like snake venom milkers and chicken sexers? Partly, it’s the whole teeth thing (although snake milkers do deal with fangs). But more than anything else it’s the sum total of our unique experiences treating patients and continuing to hone our skills.

There are at least three phases that dentists go through during their dental career. Here’s what you’ve either experienced or are sure to experience soon …

The 3 Stages of a Dental Career

Fresh out of Dental School

A dental career starts with dental school graduation.You’re young, naive, and ready to succeed! So what if the patients don’t believe you’re the dentist and you’re worried you have no idea what you’re doing? (Cue nervous laughter.) You always wear a lab coat embroidered with your name so there’s no question who is calling the shots.

At this stage, composite fillings are challenging, fun, and so much better than amalgam.

You scour every dental journal and message board known to man to reassure yourself that dental school wasn’t just a fluke. And you have more envelopes that look like bills than payments. But hey, you’re actually doing this whole dentist thing.

10-15 Years out of Dental School

The second phase of a dental career involves buying a practice.Confidence is starting to set in. You’re seasoned, but you still struggle once in a while and have to refer back to those trusty journals and message boards that got you through the first ten years. You feel guilty because the journals tend to stack up, unread, on your desk.

You’ve honed your techniques and ability to approach most cases, but now you’re learning to be a strong business person as well. You’ve purchased your own dental practice (or you’re about to make the leap) and you’ve had to develop a litany of new skills and processes for managing finances and your team. 

If anything’s certain, it’s that things change. Now, you cringe at the thought of having to do another composite restoration.

30+ Years out of Dental School

The final phase of your dental career probably involves a beach vacation.You’ve finally made it. After years and years of blood, sweat, and tears, your dental practice is chugging along profitably and you have more flexibility in how you choose to treat patients.

You’re a pro at jerry-rigging random things like paper clips and plumbers tape into useful tools and the stress of irritating patients *can’t touch this*. Speaking of patients, now they say yes to complicated treatment, but you don’t even want to go to all that effort anymore. The golf course/beach in Cabo is looking nicer and nicer.

You’re in the office less and less, which means you’re contemplating a second marriage, AKA a young gun dental partner. There’s also the option of selling the whole shebang (is that nostalgia creeping in?).

As a confident pro, you’re more selective about the journals you read. Articles need to be real or funny or real funny.

Last but not least, one or more of your children is pre-dental. It’s time to pass on the sage wisdom you’ve accumulated. Sit back, relax, and prepare to take a trip down memory lane as they follow in your footsteps …