Dentistry has historically been considered one of the two best professions in the United States. Now, it seems, some of the luster has worn off thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a peer-reviewed study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, more than 40 percent of the 250 last-year dental and dental-hygiene students surveyed haven’t been able to secure the post-graduation employment they want. According, they’ve changed their plans.
This isn’t a decision made lightly, given the degree of student loan debt that most of these students had incurred up to this point; an average of $290,000 according to a 2019 ADA survey. But with the prospects for highly lucrative positions waning, the outlook to aggressively repay those loans extends past the 10-year mark, if not longer.
A high debt load has implications for dentists’ ability to open a new practice or purchase an existing one. As well, those students are all too aware of the revenue hit that most dental practices took in 2020 as well as the layoffs that resulted.
Put simply, dentistry is no longer regarded as a bulletproof profession.
Higher Costs, Lack of Job Security
PPE, sterilization measures, and infection control have increased the operating costs for dental practices. As well, the U.S. economy is still suffering its highest unemployment rate since the Great Recession. The outlook for a dentist just starting out – financial as well as hiring – for those who want to own their practices is mixed at best. So it’s not surprising that students are rethinking their post-graduation plans.
A decrease in the number of new dentists in the workforce may also impact the growth plans for existing dental practices.
This is a situation that growth-minded dentists, particularly those who want to open another location or employ more associates, need to monitor closely. The next generation of dentists may be smaller than expected and not driven by the same imperatives as dentists currently in practice.
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