Studying and Practicing Dentistry: General Discussion

Haha, definitely seems that way! I'm just curious about the business-dynamics of running a dental clinic, as for me personally, I do see it as some milestone I'd perhaps work towards in my dental career. However, with the saturation of clinics I've seen recently (metro at least), it seems difficult to start-up in the current climate.

Certainly am at this rate! Fortunate to have been given an offer for dentistry, but am unsure to take it or retry for medicine. After realising the reality of medical training pathways, dentistry took my interest for being hands-on and the supposedly better lifestyle. Even then, the ability to be accredited after just 5 years and to start practicing appeals to me as well. I know you're not earning the 6 figures immediately (albeit the few lucky ones), but being able to practice and get good at your craft straight-away is amazing.

Certainly true, however, I question why there is a high corporatisation rate in the US in comparison to Aus? Possibly due to a difference in healthcare systems, but I'd have no idea.

This is where I see an issue in metro-based dental clinics in the future (potentially). Disclaimer, I have absolutely NO idea about the industry and am making this based on general understanding. If the saturation of clinics increase, people tend to 'shop around' for the best prices. With some corp-clinics (possibly) on the rise, I'm sure the general public will tend to favour these cheaper options for their general dental procedures (possibly due to hygienists?). I do see the value in private dentists still being able to perform more elusive procedures, as they have the skills/experience, but perhaps corps may change to also target this specific market as well.
I am a practicing dentist. There’s a pretty big difference between medicine and dentistry, we did have a lot of dental students in my year drop out at the end of first year to go to med because they realized it wasn’t for them and they weren’t able to forget their dream of being a doctor. Like.. I hope I don’t offend any other dentists here but being a dentist is not the same as being a doctor and I do feel definitely you won’t feel the same type of importance/respect at work. Patients will see you as probably like a technician lol. Of course I realize there are many downsides to medicine too but overall I’d say think hard about if you really want to give up on med.

There’s a lot of upsides to dentistry too like income, flexibility of hours, lifestyle. a much shorter pathway etc. But don’t go into dentistry thinking it’s “almost like being a doctor but with benefits” because it’s really not. Like I reckon a GP has pretty good hours and lifestyle too and that’s not a super long pathway either.

Dentists in private usually earn commission so your income can vary a lot depending on how busy you are and how much expensive vs cheap treatment you do. But like someone else said it is not hard at all to earn six figures on your first year out provided your clinic is reasonably busy. Overall I’d say if you are even a little bit ambitious it’s better to work private than public. Public jobs tend to offer less experience and limited scope (I would disagree that even extractions are good because most general public dentists don’t do surgicals and just refer to the specialists, whereas I was encouraged to do them privately). People who work in public do it for a few reasons, some feel it’s better job satisfaction (since you are helping people in need and don’t have to charge them). I generally feel it’s easy/less stressful clinically but there’s a crapton of admin and hospital politics you have to deal with (such as senior nurses who will tell you what to do based on what they want to do because they’ve been there longer than furniture). Source; I work both private and public, they have their advantages/disadvantages.

As for opening your own clinic, like someone else has said it’s not at all hard for you to earn more working for someone else than opening. I would say the market for a experienced dentist is good. Not hard at all to find a good metro job with 2+ years experience at a clinic that is busy, offer you 40% and would love it if you did lots of expensive treatment. If you did that you can earn $300-$600k without having to worry about staffing, equipment and all the stresses of running a clinic which could eat into your clinical time and thus your earning. Of course if you don’t upskill (at least doing a regular amount of crowns/bridges/surgical extractions or even better ortho/implants) or if you work at a not so busy place you could be stuck on $100-$150K for a while. But at least you will not be earning negative.

from what I’ve heard it’s very very difficult to open a new clinic in metro area Sydney or Melbourne as it’s so saturated. General Clinics are at the mercy of insurance companies as patients will want to go to their insurance companies preferred provider and they care more about how much gap they’re paying more than how charismatic/personable/skilled their dentist is. Like as long as you’re not clearly terrible, all dentists are more or less same to them. It’s impossible to get a preferred provider status now in metro areas of Sydney and Melbourne as they’re all taken. It’s like a race to the bottom because as long as you sign up you’re bound to the healthcares list of fees… uh BUPA $120 cleans anyone? But if you are not a preferred provider, good luck to growing your practice.

youd either have to take over an existing popular metro clinic which already has a preferred provider status (expensive $$$$$$) or you could open a start up rurally.

Hope this helps. I hope I’m not too doom and gloom. I do still think dentistry is a wonderful career and always still recommend it when my patients ask me about it for their kids. But like you said it may not be as good as it was 20,30,40 years ago and may continue to slowly decline. You can combat that by upskilling and doing more complex work and still earn great money. But it’s not just an easy walk in the park, just open a clinic and the patients will come, that it used to be.
 

q8888315

Member
If you did that you can earn $300-$600k without having to worry about staffing, equipment and all the stresses of running a clinic which could eat into your clinical time and thus your earning. Of course if you don’t upskill (at least doing a regular amount of crowns/bridges/surgical extractions or even better ortho/implants) or if you work at a not so busy place you could be stuck on $100-$150K for a while. But at least you will not be earning negative.
Thank you for your informative reply! Second year dental student here.
When you say a general dentist can earn $300-$600k, is it for real? I always thought that only dental specialist can earn the $400k-600k range, or only if you own a clinic, then you can achieve such level.It is definitely very encourating for me.

From my experience, dentistry is definitely very hands-on, interesting and rewarding. However, it also means a physical-demanding job. Because dental work need to be in accuracy of 1mm, my hands are sore sometimes after clinics and practical works.I even start to worry about early retirement. That is why I think dentist actually deserves better pay than $100k-200k. And honestly I don't understand why a GP who does consulting can earn better than a dental surgeon. 😂
 
Thank you for your informative reply! Second year dental student here.
When you say a general dentist can earn $300-$600k, is it for real? I always thought that only dental specialist can earn the $400k-600k range, or only if you own a clinic, then you can achieve such level.It is definitely very encourating for me.

From my experience, dentistry is definitely very hands-on, interesting and rewarding. However, it also means a physical-demanding job. Because dental work need to be in accuracy of 1mm, my hands are sore sometimes after clinics and practical works.I even start to worry about early retirement. That is why I think dentist actually deserves better pay than $100k-200k. And honestly I don't understand why a GP who does consulting can earn better than a dental surgeon. 😂

Yes, general dentists can earn that much and some earn even more.
However with that said, they would be the minority rather the majority.

The difference between medicine and dentistry is that all dental specialists start off as as general dentists. Whereas medical specialists don't start off as general practitioners (which is a specialty itself)
Therefore all general dentists can in theory perform some (or most, depending on who you ask) of the procedures that dental specialists can perform. The difference is that dental specialists will be performing those procedures fulltime unlike your average general dentist.

However in the current, and into the future dental landscape, it is no longer uncommon for their to be general dentists who limit themselves to "specialist procedures". For example, some clinics employ a dentist who do all their root canal treatments, or extractions, or cosmetic rehabilitations for them. These dentists will be earning very similar to dental specialists if not more.
 

LMG!

MBBS V (omg)
Administrator
Do any practicing dentists have an opinion on the possibility of Medicare dental for adults and what this would do within the profession? I was just starting out as a psychologist which it was added to Medicare and the staffing shortages were astronomical to the point that a whole new ‘fast-track’ type pathway to registration was created (that is only just now being phased out again).
 

laerla

Member
Do any practicing dentists have an opinion on the possibility of Medicare dental for adults and what this would do within the profession? I was just starting out as a psychologist which it was added to Medicare and the staffing shortages were astronomical to the point that a whole new ‘fast-track’ type pathway to registration was created (that is only just now being phased out again).
I think depends on whether it means bulk billing or medicare subsidising some costs or whatever the plan is going to be
 

ponyswordz

UAdel BDS (2020-2024)
Valued Member
Thank you for your informative reply! Second year dental student here.
When you say a general dentist can earn $300-$600k, is it for real? I always thought that only dental specialist can earn the $400k-600k range, or only if you own a clinic, then you can achieve such level.It is definitely very encourating for me.

From my experience, dentistry is definitely very hands-on, interesting and rewarding. However, it also means a physical-demanding job. Because dental work need to be in accuracy of 1mm, my hands are sore sometimes after clinics and practical works.I even start to worry about early retirement. That is why I think dentist actually deserves better pay than $100k-200k. And honestly I don't understand why a GP who does consulting can earn better than a dental surgeon. 😂
From what I have heard, I believe those figure salaries are more applicable to a very experienced dentist on a commission OR SFA system (outputting lots of implants, crowns/bridge work etc. and producing a minimum of $600/700k gross for the practice). Assuming you go into a commission-based role as a new grad in the first 2 years at a metro region, you will generally be placed in a role with lots of scale/clean & fillings which would earn you about $100-150k (assuming you produce about $250-300k gross for the clinic practice if they go by the 35-40% sliding scale). That being said, working out in rural under the commission system as a new grad in the first 2 years is an entirely new playing field. Since there is significantly less competition out there, there is greater potential to upskill and do more complex procedures whilst also being easier to have booked out patients. It's not impossible or rare for a newly-graduated dentist working in rural to earn upwards of $150-250k if they doing more complicated procedures and not being constantly shoved to the department of scale/clean/fillings. Given enough time and experience, $300-600k can be achievable (although it makes me wonder how workaholic they have to be to reach that standard -> it's definitely not sustainable and burnout is a real concern not only in dentistry but every profession).
 

TKAO

oowah!
Valued Member
From what I have heard, I believe those figure salaries are more applicable to a very experienced dentist on a commission OR SFA system (outputting lots of implants, crowns/bridge work etc. and producing a minimum of $600/700k gross for the practice). Assuming you go into a commission-based role as a new grad in the first 2 years at a metro region, you will generally be placed in a role with lots of scale/clean & fillings which would earn you about $100-150k (assuming you produce about $250-300k gross for the clinic practice if they go by the 35-40% sliding scale). That being said, working out in rural under the commission system as a new grad in the first 2 years is an entirely new playing field. Since there is significantly less competition out there, there is greater potential to upskill and do more complex procedures whilst also being easier to have booked out patients. It's not impossible or rare for a newly-graduated dentist working in rural to earn upwards of $150-250k if they doing more complicated procedures and not being constantly shoved to the department of scale/clean/fillings. Given enough time and experience, $300-600k can be achievable (although it makes me wonder how workaholic they have to be to reach that standard -> it's definitely not sustainable and burnout is a real concern not only in dentistry but every profession).
Hey thanks for the explanation on that. For those of us who aren't dental students or don't know the lingo, what is a SFA system? And considering you insinuate that 300-600k is attainable if they are a workaholic, are you suggesting that it isn't really feasibly possible to do in a 40 hour work week (or even 50 hour work week) kinda thing?
 

A1

Retired Admissions Helper
Moderator
Hey thanks for the explanation on that. For those of us who aren't dental students or don't know the lingo, what is a SFA system? And considering you insinuate that 300-600k is attainable if they are a workaholic, are you suggesting that it isn't really feasibly possible to do in a 40 hour work week (or even 50 hour work week) kinda thing?
In my undergrad years sometimes I worked as accounts/receptionist for my aunt's clinic. The billings work out around $400/hour = $16,000 per 40hr week. A commission-based dentist gets 40% = $6400 x 46 weeks (after annual leave/public hols) = ~$300k/year.
 
SFA refers to services and facilities agreement. Basically means the clinic charges a % of the billing as an all inclusive fee for providing the clinician the premises/staff/materials/overheads etc.

The clinician takes the remainder as a "commission"

This is a very common system in all of healthcare, not just dentistry. Reason being is it aligns the incentives of both the clinician and the business.
It motivates the business to market the clinic to attract new patients, work hard to keep old patients, keep the premises up to date to keep clinicians happy etc.
It also motivates the clinician to not be lazy and actually provide a good service so that patients like them and return to see them etc.

Medical GPs generally take 60-70% commission
Dentists generally take 30-40% commission
Other medical specialists take different amounts of commission depending on what the field is. However it's also common for niche medical specialists like surgeons to buy in and become true business partners rather than just take a commission. This motivates specialists to stay with the business they started with rather than leave and open up their own shop once they're busy enough.
 

q8888315

Member
In my undergrad years sometimes I worked as accounts/receptionist for my aunt's clinic. The billings work out around $400/hour = $16,000 per 40hr week. A commission-based dentist gets 40% = $6400 x 46 weeks (after annual leave/public hols) = ~$300k/year.
Hi A1, thanks for sharing the detailed figures and calculations. Must be a very busy clinic. Just out of curiosity, is the clinic located in metro or rural? Thank you.
 

tdnii

Member
In my undergrad years sometimes I worked as accounts/receptionist for my aunt's clinic. The billings work out around $400/hour = $16,000 per 40hr week. A commission-based dentist gets 40% = $6400 x 46 weeks (after annual leave/public hols) = ~$300k/year.
is the $400 purely profits?
 

A1

Retired Admissions Helper
Moderator
Hi A1, thanks for sharing the detailed figures and calculations. Must be a very busy clinic. Just out of curiosity, is the clinic located in metro or rural? Thank you.
It's a metro clinic in a low-SES outer suburb. But my aunt has established it for 25+years, near a shopping centre lots of exposure and she's a great dentist (have to say that for my aunt don't I :) ) the appointment book is always full.
 

TKAO

oowah!
Valued Member
Is there any reason why dentists only get a standard 30-40% whereas medical GPs get 60-70%? That seems like a pretty big difference
 

A1

Retired Admissions Helper
Moderator
Is there any reason why dentists only get a standard 30-40% whereas medical GPs get 60-70%? That seems like a pretty big difference
I guess a GP needs an office & a shared receptionist. Dentist needs an office/dental chair, a shared receptionist, a dental assistant each, plus expensive consumable materials.

GP's billings probably don't amount to $400/hour though. Let's say $300/hour : GP 60% x 300 = $180/hour, Dentist 40% x 400 = $160/hour.
 
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