Dental Student Research

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Barriers and Opportunities for Dental Graduate Students

Comments about the barriers and opportunities regarding joining private practices versus dental service organizations have been entered into columns B and C of the attached spreadsheet. They include both comments from the perspective of dental graduate students as well comments from the perspective of professionals.

Private Practices

  • Dental graduate students can obtain useful clinical and business knowledge as well as personal mentorship if they join a good private practice with seasoned dentists.
  • Private practices are far more in number than DSOs, so it is easier for dental graduate students to find a private practice in a place where they desire to live.
  • New dental associates are often made to start out with limited patients and simple procedures at private practices, thereby hindering their proficiency.
  • Dental graduate students who join private practices are expected to earn less income until they are able to build a stable client base of their own. Also, most private practices don’t provide healthcare benefits.
  • Private practices typically operate as a tight-knit family. This enables a lot of communication which promotes growth to take place between the owners and the employees who join them.
  • Private practices provide fewer career advancement opportunities for professionals who join them.
  • Private practices can hardly cope with the complexity and rising cost of providing insurance and healthcare benefits for professionals who join them.
  • Professionals who join private practices have their income tied to the amount of work they do and it declines when they are not working.

Dental Service Organizations (DSOs)/Corporate Dental Offices

  • Since all administrative tasks are typically handled by the corporate team, dental graduate students who join DSOs can focus on treating patients, paying off their student debt with a steady income, and enhancing their dental skills.
  • Different DSOs operate with different business models, so dental graduate students would learn different skills depending on which DSO they join.
  • Different DSOs also have different clinical support. Dental graduate students should determine the type of dentists they want to be and find out if they can be accommodated.
  • DSOs are quite busy and efficient. They provide a great opportunity for dental graduate students to learn about the inside operations of successful and profitable DSO practice.
  • DSOs usually provide comprehensive benefits packages. This is an incentive for dental graduate students who are accepting their first job.
  • DSOs can offer the flexibility of relocation to professionals who join them in order to practice in other locations in the US or progress to other career positions.
  • Many DSOs hire part-time and traveling professional dentists and this gives them more flexibility and options to continue practicing.
  • Joining a DSO provides professionals with the opportunity to just show up, do dentistry work, and leave.
  • Professionals who join DSOs generally have lower overall earning opportunities than their counterparts who join private practices.

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Student Debt's Effect on Career Choices

Student debt forces graduates to accept low-paying jobs because the fixed repayment obligations could result to lower credit score in case of default on the student debt, hence inability to secure credit in the future. On the other hand, student debt hinders dental graduates from venturing into private practice because of the perception that it is inconceivable to apply for further credit while they have not yet serviced the education loans.

Effect of Student Debt on their Career Choices

  • The total accumulated student debt in the US is estimated to be approximately $1.5 trillion, owed by 44.5 million students across all demographics.
  • Research suggests that students burdened with debts are more likely to accept and settle for low-paying jobs which can further compound the problem of loan repayment. This is because having fixed and mandatory obligations enhance the aversion to risk forcing graduates with heavy debts to settle for less optimal job positions.
  • According to a calculation by two economists on the impact of student debt in their career choices, it was found that an additional of "$2,500 in education loans bring down an individual’s likelihood of being employed in a job closely related to their major by almost 5 percentage points".
  • Graduates with education loans are forced to go for lower job positions that are available because they are required to pay a percentage of the education loans each month. If they are unable to make the minimum monthly repayment, they are faced with the risk of a decrease in credit score which impacts their future ability to source credit, get a good job, or even buy a home.
  • According to Melinda Lewis, associate professor of the practice at the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, students debts “reduced the ability of our educational system to be a force for upward mobility and for an equitable chance at upward mobility,”
  • Education loans hold working adults back from continuing their education because they may have lost confidence in the 'real' value of a degree especially if they accepted lower job positions because of the education loans.
  • A survey report by Public Agenda revealed that the number of young employees who claim that a college degree is necessary has been on the steady decline and that 46% claim that "a college education is a questionable investment because of high student loans and limited job opportunities".

Effect of Student Debt on Entrepreneurial Choices

Effect of Student Debt on the Career Choices of Dental Graduates

  • According to a 2018 survey report by the American Students Dental Association (ASDA), the average dental school graduate owes about $287,331 in student debts.
  • The report further indicates that the high level of student debts can greatly jeopardize the ability of new dental graduate students to choose their preferred career path.
  • Additionally, over 80% of dental school graduates have student debts of over $100,000.
  • Student debts can hinder dental graduates from venturing into private practice because of the uncertainties of the future, as well as the present need to start servicing the education loans.
  • Besides, some dental graduates who already have heavy education loans perceive that it is inconceivable to apply for more credit to venture into private practice while they have not serviced the education loans.
  • Graduates also cast doubts if financial institutions are likely to lend them further credit while they still owe much in student loans, which impacts their decision to venture into private practice.