Dentists are uniquely qualified to help people improve their oral health and self-confidence. While it is a rewarding profession, it also requires dedication and hard work. This article will discuss the five stages of a professional career for a dentist, from the time of graduation until retirement.
First Stage: Introduction Stage aka “Rookie Dentist”
The first stage of a dental career is right after graduation when a dentist is classified as a “rookie.” Although no one officially uses this term, this Stage typically includes some degree of apprenticeship, which allows the dentist to build experience. They may shadow experienced dentists while slowly taking on more responsibility and complicated cases.
This stage will last up to 3 years, with the average age of the dentist between 24 and 30.
Financially, in this stage, the dentist may make an income that is sometimes lower than expected. However, this provides the necessary foundation for the subsequent stages of their career.
Mentally, in this stage, you are still in that phase of doubt, skeptical, and worried about all the other practices that started much before you. You are concerned about whether you will be successful, and you make mistakes and learn from them; make yourself strong internally & externally.
This is also one of the most stressful phases in the dental career.
You begin to understand the importance and realize the value of patience. Your expectation of overnight clinical practice success gradually disappears, as this is an extended test of resilience, and you are in it for the long haul. You understand the essential management skills and how to deal with patients. You entertain every patient even when you know they won’t go for the treatment.
This stage is about getting into the grind of clinical practice, and you slowly get used to it and gradually go beyond that initial stress and eventually get more Sensitive and calmer!
Second Stage: Growth and Experience
As dentists reach the second stage of their career, they become more experienced and may begin to establish their practice and take on their cases. The workload for the dentist in this stage increases significantly, as they are now responsible for all aspects of patient care, from attending to their patient’s needs to managing billing and administrative duties.
The growth stage lasts 5 to 10 years, and the average group age is 26 to 40.
Financially in this stage, the dentist must invest in marketing and build an excellent online presence to attract new clients. Eventually, your presence in the market has built a brand value for yourself, and you have patients who have established a comfort level with you. They feel confident in referring your practice to their friends and families. As a result, income is typically higher than during the ‘rookie’ stage but often entails long hours and complex cases. At this point, the dentist is considered a younger professional and usually has to compete with well-established dental practices to gain patients. It is the best stage of your practice as the patient flow is good, and you leap towards financial stability.
You will observe a rise in your income by 15%-25% every year.
On a personal level, most dentists get married and/or plan a baby in the mid-stage of growth, which sometimes adds to your financial burden. The increasing financial demands (due to growth in the family) make this phase one of the most laborious and hard-working phases of your dental practice career, but you realize the Worth of this phase and keep striving hard. There is that happiness of being the family man and the determination to build a better future for your family.
Third Stage: Maturity and financial stability
By the third stage in a dentist’s career, they typically have a well-established practice with a steady client base. They can now take on more complicated cases and have the opportunity to specialize in certain areas. Maturity is the stage where you enjoy the premium and reap the full benefits from the experience you have built in the last two stages. This stage lasts for 5-10 years & average age group is 35 to 50 years.
Financially, you are now among the established Senior Dental Practitioners in your locality, and your brand value is at its highest, with patients eager to be treated by you. Thus, the workload increases, and the dentist now has more responsibility for choosing and managing staff and handling all administrative aspects of running their practice.
By this stage, you will appreciate a 10%-20% rise every year, but it doesn’t increase like it was in the growth stage, but it has financial stability.
Mentally, your confidence makes you feel no compulsion to adjust to the whims of the patients or be dependent on seeking patients, but in fact, patients seek you. Your approach towards your dental practice changes as you work to earn, but money isn’t your priority; it’s peace of mind and stress-free work. You get relatively rigid about the treatment charges, are less bothered about the competitors, and are confident about the brand recognition of your dental practice.
Personally, your priority becomes “Time” for your family, which stops you from entertaining every patient.
Fourth Stage: Saturation and Stagnation
The fourth stage of a professional dental career is when the dentist is considered ‘seasoned’ and highly experienced. The dentist may transition into more academic or research-oriented roles at this stage.
This stage can last for 5-10 years & it is commonly experienced after 50+ years.
Personally, the dentist will have more respect and confidence in their field and can command a higher income due to their experience and expertise.
Mentally and physically, in the saturation stage, you will get physically weak and mentally exhausted. The workload dramatically increases as you are now expected to mentor and guide younger dentists. It is a natural thing to happen, as Dentistry puts a lot of pressure on your body and mind over the years.
Financially, in this stage, you see stagnation in your income as there is a definite increase in your expenses. Your requirements increase as your kids need money for education, marriage, or business. You will also experience increased competition, as the young dentists you considered “Kids” have now entered their own growth or maturity stage.
Fifth Stage: Physical Decline and Retirement
The fifth and final stage of a professional dental career is retirement, and most dentists will continue to practice part-time as they transition away from full-time practice.
This is the last stage of your dental practice career, experienced after 60 years of age.
Physically, your body can’t be as efficient as in the previous stages, and in this field, dentistry is a skill-based-driven practice. It is the stage where you must decide on what your goal is, to sell your practice or hand it over to the younger generation; the best-case scenario for a dentist to remain active in this phase and take up the mentor role, as this reduces work-related strain.
Financially, the income and workload during this stage are lower than in the previous phases due to the physical limitations at this age.
Personally, many dentists find this stage enjoyable as they now have more free time to pursue hobbies or interests they may have neglected during their full-time years of practice. Your kids will be grown-ups with their careers and family, and your responsibility over your dependents will decline as they pursue their own careers.
This stage also highlights the importance of planning for your retirement properly.
Overall, a dental professional career consists of five distinct stages from the time they graduate until they retire. Each stage brings its own challenges and opportunities, from beginning as a ‘rookie’ to establishing their own practice and even transitioning into academia or research in the later years and finally retirement.
But there is nothing to be sad about it. You have done your part in the journey called dentistry. Be rest assured that you have earned the respect of patients and your fraternity. Now it’s time to relax and leave the rat race. It is time for you to enjoy retirement and/or mentor the young upcoming dentists. There is always great satisfaction in sharing your experiences with the younger generation of dentists.
That is one of greatest way to build up your legacy.