How Long Does It Take to Become a Dentist?

Are you considering becoming a dentist but want to know more about what it takes? How much school is involved? Do you need more than a four-year degree? These are very important questions to ask when considering a career in dentistry. Whether you are just starting out or have completed several courses already, this article will provide a basic overview of what it takes to become a dentist in 2021.

KNOW YOUR WHY

Before starting any endeavor, it’s wise to consider the “why” behind your wanting to do something. This is especially the case with dentistry because it is a rewarding career as well as a demanding one. Consider what draws you to the dental field. Are you interested in how dentistry works? The desire to help people improve their oral health? Maybe you come from a family of dental practitioners and you feel this is expected of you. Whatever the reason, by addressing these questions, you can be prepared for the hours of training ahead with purpose, which can make all of the difference in the long run.

UNDERSTAND THE COST

If you want to pursue a career in dentistry, it’s important to understand the cost. Dental school is a financial and time investment, although, for many aspiring dentists, the benefits outweigh the cost. It is helpful to consider how you plan on paying for school beforehand, for example, and to keep in mind the amount of time that will be required of you. While you most likely are aware of this, understanding the financial, emotional, and mental investment ahead of time often means you are more prepared to tackle setbacks along the way.

EDUCATION AND TESTING

In terms of actual timing, it takes most aspiring dentists about four to eight years of school before joining a practice or starting their own. Most dental schools require several prerequisites, including college biology, physics, and chemistry, before applying for a spot. After you have completed these prerequisites, the next step is to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The majority of candidates take the DAT about a year before they plan on enrolling in a dental school program. After the admissions test itself, you complete the application, which can also include interviews, personal recommendations, and academic evaluations from your GPA and DAT results. Once you are accepted to dental school, the majority of programs take about four years to complete. However, if you are interested in a more specialized field like dental surgery, for example, expect several years of schooling following the initial four years. Each state has specific licensure requirements as well. Review the Massachusetts requirements for dental licensure here.

While the path to becoming a dentist takes time, money, and energy, it is a highly rewarding and fulfilling career. To learn more about the steps to becoming a dentist, your career options, and everything in between, contact Dr. Coughlin at kcoughlin@ascentdentalcare.com.

Thinking of Selling Your Practice? Here’s How to Prepare

Are you thinking of selling your dental practice? It’s a big step. There are lots of things to consider before, during, and even after selling your practice. That’s another post for another day. So, what are the key things to keep in mind as you prepare to sell your practice? Let’s take a look.

PATIENT EXPERIENCE

Like many other business models, a successful dental practice hinges on the reputation and opinion of your clientele. Because of that, any changes to your practice, including one as big as a sale, should be disclosed to your patients. The more transparency you can offer them will not only solidify your reputation but also provide the incoming practice a boost in revenue as well. Keeping your patients in the loop is a simple way to prepare for selling your practice without them feeling like you’re pulling the rug out from under them.

INCORPORATE YOUR TEAM

Similarly, your team plays a vital role in keeping your practice running. Make it a point to keep your employees informed and educated about the potential sale, and especially during the crucial parts of the transition. Communication regarding any changes in roles or job reductions is imperative. Do you have a plan for your employees to stay on in the current location, or move with you? Can you incorporate meetings with the new management to foster trust and rapport? The more honest and transparent you can be during the process, the more successful the transition will be.

LOCATION IMPROVEMENTS

Does your dental equipment need an upgrade? Could your walls use a fresh coat of paint? Now is the time to focus on physical improvements within the practice location. It’s important to take stock of potential areas of improvement even if you’re not looking to sell, but if you want to attract buyers, don’t skip this step.

ADMINISTRATIVE TRANSITION

As tedious as it is, an integral part of getting all of your ducks in a row when you sell a business has to do with administrative organization. Make sure to keep any vendors or other business relationships in the loop to avoid unwanted pauses in service or programs. Since dental practices rely on secured systems to manage and hold sensitive patient information, a successful administrative transition is crucial. Communicate with your electric, heat, and internet providers and work with the buyer to see if they might want to transfer the services. All of these factors help make the process of selling your practice less stressful and more seamless overall.

GOT QUESTIONS?

For more questions or concerns about how to move forward with selling your dental practice, contact Dr. Coughlin today. He helps dental practitioners sell their practices with a high return on investment – he can help you too.

What Are Dental Service Organizations?

Most dentists are faced with the decision to choose either open their own business, join another private practice, or become part of a Dental Service Organization (DSO).

But what exactly are DSO’s? What benefits do they have for your dental career, or alternatively, what are some of the drawbacks associated with them?

This post will give you a basic understanding of Dental Service Organizations and answer these questions with a goal to see how they might work with your own dental career.

WHAT ARE DSO’s?

Dental Service Organizations are also referred to as Dental Support Organizations. They both are commonly abbreviated as DSOs, and at their core, their business models provides non-clinical functions for dental practices. In many cases, services can include things like human resources, payroll, marketing efforts, IT solutions, and practice administrative support. For a dentist that seeks to focus primarily on their patients without the stress or worry that operations and administrative tasks can create, joining a practice that is managed by a DSO is an attractive option. DSO’s generally promise greater mobility and work-life balance compared to practices who manage their own operations.

That being said, there are definite advantages and disadvantages when it comes to joining a DSO. If you’re a novice dental practitioner, here are some to keep in mind when making decisions that affect your career.

BENEFITS

As mentioned before, the primary benefit that DSO’s offer is the ability for dental practitioners to focus on their clinical and patient experience, while the administrative and operational duties are managed by a third-party DSO.

This potentially means more time providing high quality care and less time spent on menial operational tasks.

Similarly, participating in a DSO can yield access to cutting-edge technology that might not otherwise be attainable through an independently managed practice. There are also special mentoring programs, coupled with attractive starting salaries, that can be especially enticing for dentists in the early stages of their career.

DISADVANTAGES

The biggest drawback to signing up with a DSO is the lack of independence and autonomy. Because DSO’s manage everything from payroll to administrative staff, your practice does not have a lot of freedom (if any) when it comes to management in these functions.

Another key disadvantage to joining a DSO is that the focus can become focused on numbers instead of providing patients with a high-quality standard of care. While DSO’s can boast greater numbers because of their ability and scope to serve more patients, the quality and personal nature can often diminish as a result.

THINKING OF JOINING A DSO?

Whether you have a freshly minted DMD degree or you’ve been practicing for decades, the decision to join a DSO does affect your career. If independence and autonomy are some of your goals, DSO’s might not be the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you hate being bogged down by the operations side of things, DSO’s could help you take away some of that burden.

Regardless of where you stand, you don’t have to make the decision alone. Reach out to Dr. Coughlin today and we can help you make the best decision for your career and/or practice – whether it’s with a DSO or not.

Manage Your Dental Practice. And Your Time.

Life is busy. The days go fast and the years seem to speed by – especially when you’re running your own practice. You’ve learned by now that being a dentist can be a demanding job, but just as equally rewarding. The key is mastering your schedule and making a plan so you’re not constantly running all over the place and working longer hours than planned. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and you deserve to make the days go as easy as possible. So as your patient list gets longer and your availability gets smaller, you need to figure out how to manage the clock as best as you can.

These time management tips can help you get through the day not just more easily, but more effectively.

1. Ignore your phone.

Checking your phone in between appointments can mean working longer hours. Not only is it a distraction, but it can take up longer time than you think. Instead of picking up your cell, focus on other tasks you need to get done so you can complete your day earlier. Set aside a specific time of day to catch up on emails so that it’s not a distraction.

2. Don’t do it alone.

Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you have to control everything. You’ve hired employees for a reason, and they’re here to help. Stick to your dentist duties and don’t be afraid to delegate the rest. Assign specific tasks for each role in your office and let your team members do their jobs. If everyone does their work diligently, you’ll find you can dedicate your time more beneficially to the more important matters.

3. Take care of your team.

A successful office starts with a happy team. If they’re doing their job to the best of their ability, yours will be so much easier. Remember that they are the face of your office and the reason it runs smoothly. Make sure they have proper training so they feel

empowered. Provide good scheduling software so they can plan and prioritize quickly and simply. Take their feedback seriously and listen to their suggestions.

4. Put the patient first.

You (and your team) won’t have to spend so much time trying to make sure patients are happy if they feel comfortable and accommodated. And when they are, they’ll tell their friends. (Easy advertising!) Small things like providing good reading in the waiting area, fun activities to keep kids busy, a nicely decorated office, and a space that feels welcoming will go a long way. Go above and beyond where you can. Give gifts (everyone loves free stuff!) and a new tooth brush or travel size toothpaste is an easy, practical giveaway.

5. Have a site that sets you up for success.

Being a dentist today is a lot different than years ago. Now, patients can help make your job a lot easier, saving you and your staff a lot of time. Having a good website can reduce phone calls in your office, which will give your employees more time to focus on other duties. (Plus, it can keep your patients happy because they’ll avoid long wait times to speak to someone.) A good website will review the services you provide and share important information that answer basic questions like available hours, services offered and current team members.

6. Take a break.

Running around from morning to evening can be exhausting – and not very productive. One of the best things you can do for yourself – and your patients – is to set aside time to rest and reset. It doesn’t have to be very long, but it does need to happen. Set aside at least a half-hour each day as quiet time to let your mind take a break and to think about the nonclinical tasks you need to get through before you head home. Remember that working on your business, not just in your business is essential for success. It might be hard to find time to “give up” but this time will help you be more effective in the long run – and your practice and patients will be better for it.