Traditional Practice is Dead: Part 3

Let me surprise you with my take on dental schools and dental students. We need to stop blaming dental schools. Nobody on earth is more aggravated (occasionally) with ignorant dental school instructors (dsi’s) than me. Particularly aggravating are some at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine. With a name like that, how can you question what I just told you above? Nevertheless, I have always said dental schools do a good job under tough circumstances (the dsi’s are almost all kdt’s) and turn out capable dentists. All of ‘em. And here at Comfort Dental, we have graduates from virtually every school in the US. My problem with ignorant dsi’s happens when they attempt to impose their biases on students dishonestly, unethically, unprofessionally and sometimes even illegally. I’VE NEVER MET A DENTAL STUDENT WHO WANTED TO BE A DSI UPON GRADUATION. NEVER. NOT EVEN ONE. Ever wonder how we end up with so many dsi’s when nobody ever wanted to be one? Hmmmmm.

But they turn out capable dentists and I don’t blame dental schools for our problems. Dental student debt is certainly a disaster and will remain awful but will flatten and maybe even get a little better. Dental schools are learning too. They know how to raise $, compete for students and they’ve learned how to provide faculty practice so they can attract and keep dsi’s. What a concept! Dsi’s with no overhead (fixed) and no need to compete for patients with the real world. (Remember that $100K number again?)

There are a bunch of new, for-profit (ahh, those pesky businessmen again) dental schools and existing dental schools are increasing class sizes. What would you guess more dental graduates will do to dentist income? Here’s a hint: that pesky supply and demand thing. $100K!! But dental schools have their hands full teaching students to fix teeth. When they stick to that, they do a good job.
Likewise, I don’t blame dental students. There’s been a lot of talk about the declining caliber of our young dentists. I’ve participated in such talk but I’m not all that certain there’s much to it. To be sure, they are willing to work for lower income. Who knows, maybe that’s a better way to live. Maybe they’re right. Also, they borrow too much (yes, even more than they need) and being hamstrung with debt causes them to accept what appears to them to be the relative security of $100K JOBS.

But we’ve found lots of immensely skilled younger dentists. They look pretty good to me and at Comfort Dental, we LOVE our young partners. Most of ours are true superstars. Of course, ours earn 3-4 times their non-Comfort counterparts. To be fair, there are lots more foreign students and of course lots more women in dental schools today. Go to the ADA for the demographics on this to the extent you can believe ADA statistics (I am a member). They use some really funny math when they compute and report dentist income. Our female and foreign trained partners are indistinguishable from our American born men. However, as a growing dental school demographic, it is only fair to state the fact that women dentist’s careers are shorter with longer and more frequent interruptions and that must make a $100K JOB appear attractive to them. As for foreign born/trained dentists, my conclusion is that $100K looks great from the start to most of them. There I go again, making the point that this is all fodder for corporate dentistry. HEY SHOOT ME AGAIN, I’M THE MESSENGER!

So corporate dentistry’s come-on tag of “you just do the dentistry and we’ll do the rest” is pretty enticing for dentists these days. Hell, my colleagues have done the same forever by allowing the high school graduate up front to manage the practice while he did the dentistry.

*The final piece of Traditional Practice is Dead will be coming soon. Make sure you watch for it! You DO NOT want to miss Part 4. rk

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