Dentistry Career Options: Finding the Best Fit

Most students start and end dental school intending to run a private practice, with the bulk of those students desiring to be solo practice owners. However, many of them are neither aware of the different career options, nor do they spend time to explore the overall benefits and drawbacks of each option thoroughly. Therefore, before you become a graduate from dental school, you should research the different career options in dentistry to make the most out of your profession.

dentistry careers

Now Is the Ideal Time to Be a Dentist!

The U.S. News and World Report ranked dentists at #2 on its list of 100 best careers to have in the healthcare field in 2018. Also, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that the overall employment of dentists will increase 19 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Therefore, the demand for dental services will grow as the population ages and as studies continue to link oral health to overall health.

Read more to learn the various types of dental careers to find the right fit for you.

Many Faces of Dentistry

The dental profession offers diverse career options. Dentists can set up their own private practice or assist another dentist in a public or private office or institution. They may prefer solo or group practice or serve under other health professionals in the realm of total health care. These are the major facets of dentistry that you need to consider before finalizing which career path to follow.

1. Associate Dentist

As you may already know, an associate dentist is the employee of another dentist or group practice. Practice owners consider hiring associates for several reasons, most often to fulfill additional patient demand as the practice expands. By hiring an associate, owners can increase profits, reduce their workloads, grow services, and make valuable additions to the practice.

Although a drawback of being an associate dentist is not having any decision-making role in the practice, it can also be a good thing. Associates will get remunerated regardless of the success or failure of the business because they are simply employees. An associate’s risk is far lower than a partner’s risk, despite having similar workload and responsibilities.

2. Partner in a Group Practice

Partners are partial practice owners and similar to an associateship, there are upsides and downsides to becoming a partner. Many owners prefer to take on a partner to decrease their risk in the business. With every new partner included, owners are liable for a smaller share of debt and other responsibilities that are linked to owning a business.

You may be willing to consider taking additional risks in exchange for a higher payoff and may find an owner who is nearing retirement and looking for an exit strategy. That can most likely be the exact point where perfect partnerships are created. Just be sure that the business operation is exactly as described by the owner. Performing a careful, thorough investigation of the financial condition of practice before assuming the partnership role is essential in the decision-making process.

3. Private Practice Owner

Traditionally, dentists have considered practicing with their vision, as a better choice. However, to be a successful dentist, you not only must have exceptional clinical skills but also know the business aspect of dentistry. When starting a practice, you need to understand the associated costs and identify how you’re going to meet those costs. If you are ready to be the boss and have a full understanding of the financial and legal obligations of starting a dental practice, then go for it!  

Also Read:  6 Effective Strategies to Improve Accounts Receivable in Your Dental Practice


Dentistry is an excellent and highly rewarding profession. Just like any significant life decision, it’s best to know what you’re getting yourself into when deciding upon the best career path in dentistry.

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Steffany Mohan, DDS

Dr. Steffany Mohan, DDS is a highly accomplished dentist, speaker, and coach in dentistry and has been practicing for around 22 years in West Des Moines, IA. She is renowned for her achievements in implant practice management and has established Plaza Dental Group as among the busiest and most thriving dental offices in Iowa