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After Dental School

So you want to be a practice owner someday: Managing debt to ensure practice success

Editor’s note: This is the seventh and final article in a summer series of New Dentist Now blog posts on practice ownership from Wells Fargo Practice Finance, the practice lender endorsed by ADA Business Resources. To read other articles from the series, click here.

Wells FargoFor most dental professionals, incurring significant debt while completing dental school and acquiring a practice is an inevitable part of becoming successful. The trick is to recognize the types of debt so you can effectively evaluate where you stand – and manage your debt to your best advantage. It is common to think that you are better off financially if you eliminate your debt, which is true with regards to credit cards, auto loans, student loans or other debt that does not help to generate revenue. But there is such a thing as “positive debt” – debt that is used to invest in income-producing activity.

Some types of debt can overwhelm your success

Let’s say that after purchasing your dental practice, you are paying $5,856 per month to cover both business and personal debt, including an office remodel, auto loan, student loan and home mortgage, for a total loan balance of $450,000. Now assume you want to buy a new, advanced piece of equipment priced at $125,000 and the vendor is offering financing with payments of $2,610 per month. This would bring your combined monthly payments to $8,466.

Originial loan

Suppose this new payment wipes out any excess funds you were planning to put towards your retirement. You would now have to consider whether to wait to purchase the new equipment so that you do not jeopardize your retirement funding, cover the additional payment with increased production, or put off saving for retirement. The new equipment loan can therefore hamper your ability to save.

To avoid this kind of debt management crisis and ensure you’re effectively managing your debt situation, work with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) to develop a broad financial picture of long-term personal and business goals. Be sure your plan includes an assets and liabilities spreadsheet, profit and loss statement, and a plan for large annual debt expenditures.

Working with your lender to create “positive” debt

A specialized dental lender can help transform a financial liability into “positive” debt that still allows you to accumulate security and wealth. This may be accomplished through a consolidated loan that minimizes interest and total payments.

Using the example above, assume your lender offers a consolidation loan for $225,000 to cover new equipment and remodeling, and a home equity loan with a somewhat longer term to cover your auto and student loans. The new loan reduces your total monthly payment to $6,891, for a savings of $3,001 a month.

Consolidated Loan

If you invest this difference monthly, you may eventually have a healthy fund for your retirement. Or, you can use this savings to reinvest in your practice, including:

  • Technology investment. You might use your new-found funds to leverage the purchase of advanced technology that allows you to expand your services and make your practice more competitive.
  • Enhanced marketing. Reinvesting your added cash in a well-thought-out marketing program can potentially lead to more patients and procedures for your practice. If well-planned and executed, your expanded marketing efforts should generate additional cash flow.
  •  Accelerated Debt Payoff.  Some doctors take advantage of lower interest rates to accelerate their debt reduction program and become a debt free practice more quickly.

By managing your debt situation through the use of long-term financial planning and, if necessary, loan consolidation with a specialized dental lender, you can move a long way towards building a successful practice that meets your ultimate goals.

¹Interest rates cited are indicative only. Actual interest rates depend on your creditworthiness.


Research: Practice setting may determine dentists’ satisfaction

HPIBig or small, there are pros and cons to working in various dental practice settings, and dentists measure their career satisfaction in different ways.

Researchers found that dentists working in large group settings reported more satisfaction with income and benefits than dentists in solo practices, as well as less stress compared to dentists in solo or small practices, according to ADA News.

The ADA Health Policy Institute released a study analyzing dentists’ job satisfaction within different practice settings, finding that those working in small group settings reported the highest overall career satisfaction.

HPI also released two additional studies on group practices, with one finding differences among two types of large group practice settings and the other discussing the growth in large dental practices’ market share.

“In large practice settings, providers may lose autonomy and feel enhanced pressure to produce revenue when making treatment decisions,” according to the authors. “They may have less flexible hours and schedules that could cause dissatisfaction. Conversely, they may benefit from administrative assistance, which can allow for having more predictable income and hours.

“Dentists working in solo or small group practices may have more autonomy; however, they are not immune to pressures to produce revenue, and they may have to perform more administrative tasks on top of their clinical duties. Running a small business may not suit every dentist; the burdens of financing, fixed costs and reimbursement could lead to dissatisfaction even among dentists in solo practice.”

To read more on the study, click here.

Dentist employment agreements seminar video

Jeffrey Fraum, senior associate general counsel for the American Dental Association, presented an overview of dental employment agreements to dental students at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

signing a document“You guys deal with contracts all the time. You click through contracts [online] and you get them at the bank. Nobody’s got the time to read them all, but your employment agreement is one you should really look at,” Mr. Fraum said.

In his 30-minute presentation, posted in the ADA Center for Professional Success website, Mr. Fraum addresses key legal provisions in dental employment agreements. He ends his presentation by giving the attendees a copy of “Dentist Employment Agreements: A Guide to Key legal Provisions.”

To view the presentation, click here.

Creating positive space: An essential for your office environment

This post is for Tiffani Horton, and for everyone else who is fighting a battle on the inside.

I’m against watching the news. Other people can watch the news all they want to. That’s fine. I just don’t want to watch it myself.

Dr. Vaughn

Dr. Vaughn

I don’t want to watch the news because buried in every news reel is a sad story. A story that reminds me I’m not invincible, I live in an imperfect world, and that sometimes bad things happen that I cannot control.

And unfortunately, regardless of whether or not you watch the news . . . sometimes a sad story still finds you.

In dental school, you rotate through many clinics. You meet a lot of faculty and a lot of patients and a lot of staff. And what’s nice about all this is that the conversations aren’t always about what X-rays you want to take or whether or not you’ve made the right diagnosis. Sometimes you talk about your weekend or what you plan to do once you graduate or how good the new restaurant in town is. You form this unique bond with all these different people, and it eventually creates this special thing with its own label.

The other night, a good friend sent me a message that told a sad story. Someone from my dental school had just lost her battle with cancer. Her name was Tiffani. A dental assistant that I, along with everyone else in my class, had weekly interactions with.

Ms. Tiffani Horton

Ms. Tiffani Horton

Tiffani was more than a name or a dental assistant. She was a friend, a wife, a mother, a person with thoughts and wants and emotions and ambitions. She talked to some of us like she had known us for years. She helped some of us get patients so we could take our licensing exam and become dentists. She was very much a part of our dental school family.

But the thing about all of this is that I had no idea that Tiffani was fighting this battle. She had liver cancer and was undergoing chemo. All while I was still in school. There were conversations I’m sure that we had, where she was living with this horrible disease . . . and I did not know.

Buried in every news reel is a sad story. But what I’m learning is that buried in every sad story is a truth that I need to know.

Because me and you and everyone we know are all the same. We all have bad days. We get bad news. We go through hard times. We hit rock bottom. And then we have to go out in public and try to be strong and keep it together.

Tiffani teaches us that you never really know what someone is going through.

What does that mean for us as we try and figure out this New Dentist world? It means that we have the vital responsibility of being aware. Of keeping social sensitivity as a priority within our practices. Because our staff will have bad days. Our patients will tell us horrible stories from their pasts. Our business partner might be dealing with chemo treatment or secretly going through a heart-wrenching divorce.

And as people who have dedicated their careers to serving others, we need to create space that allows people to escape the troubles of their daily lives. What does this look like? At its core, it’s being aware and paying attention. Picking up those social cues from your staff. Treating everyone in your office with the care and respect they deserve. Not letting your own troubles affect the way you talk to and interact with the people around you.

From the modern corporate office in Chicago to the paper-chart practice in rural Alabama, you can contribute to making the world a better place just by changing the environment of your dental office. A good dental office is one where honesty, respect, care and love are infused in its fabric.

Because you never really know what another person might be going through.

Dr. Joe Vaughn is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. He grew up in Alabama and recently graduated from The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry in 2015. He now lives in Seattle, Washington, where he attends the General Practice Residency at the University of Washington. Two cups of coffee, writing and indie music are everyday occurrences for Joe. Go Seahawks and Roll Tide!

So you want to be a practice owner someday: Building and managing your cash flow

Editor’s note: This is the sixth article in a summer series of New Dentist Now blog posts on practice ownership from Wells Fargo Practice Finance, the practice lender endorsed by ADA Business Resources. To read other articles from the series, click here.

Wells FargoYour dental practice is a valuable and beneficial investment that can be an important resource for generating cash flow. Simply defined, cash flow is the difference between your monthly revenue and monthly expenses. This is the figure that determines your net income, or the amount you will earn from running your business. Here are a number of ways to build and manage your monthly cash flow from Wells Fargo Practice Finance, the practice lender endorsed by ADA Business Resources.

Manage your financing term

The financing term, meaning the time over which your debt is payable, for your dental practice purchase or start-up may be more important than you imagined. A dental practice is a cash flow based business, and choosing financing that supports your cash flow can be critical to creating a sound financial future.

Most lenders or banks provide a maximum loan term of seven years, which may in fact allow enough cash flow to pay expenses and income while paying off your debt in a shorter period of time. However, if you could have a term that was almost 50 percent longer, such as a 10-year term, you would have a substantial increase in your monthly cash flow. For example, when you borrow $300,000, the difference between a seven-year note and a 10-year note is approximately $1,200 per month. If you opt for the 10-year term, the added savings to your annual cash flow would be approximately $14,400 per year! And, all of the interest you pay on the note can be used as a line item expense and written off against the revenue of the practice, along with the depreciation of the principal amount.*

Consolidate your debt

If you have existing debt that’s over five years old, another option for creating cash flow is a debt consolidation loan. By taking advantage of lower interest rates, you can lower your monthly loan payment and redirect your savings towards your dental practice. However, it would be wise to move quickly on this option as interest rates are poised to rise.

To qualify for debt consolidation financing, you will need to maintain an excellent personal credit profile and be able to demonstrate that your cash flow can support and meet a lender’s minimum standards for the level of financing for which you are applying.

Expand practice capabilities

On its face this may seem counterintuitive: How does taking on new debt to expand your practice help generate additional cash flow?  The key is to structure your expansion so it pays for your debt.

Adding square footage as well as new dental services generates both higher fees and increased patient flow.  While you may need to consider bringing in an associate to help manage increased patient flow, more overall production for your practice ultimately means greater cash flow. And if you are able to add specialty services while expanding your practice, you have doubled your opportunity to improve your income. The debt you incur to expand your practice can usually be paid for by the increased traffic flow and level of services – particularly if combined with a Section 179 tax deduction.*

Reinvest with a practice equity loan

If you have owned your practice for three or more years, you have equity that you can use to generate cash flow and reinvest in your business. Whether you need to purchase equipment, fund a partnership transition, or pay for education, tapping into your equity may give you the cash flow you need to work towards growing your business or securing your future. Some lenders offer practice equity loans up to $500,000 depending on the value of your practice, with terms up to 10 years.

*Consult your tax advisor and/or accountant for a statement of tax and accounting rules applicable to your particular situation and for all other tax and accounting advice.

3 months before opening checklist – part 1: Finance

In previous articles, I’ve covered some of the very first things you’ll do as a new dentist who is planning to open a new practice. These included forming a legal entity and then actually setting one up.

Rich McIver

Rich McIver

In this article we’re shifting gears and turning to the first of three articles covering some of the more practical steps you’ll need to take approximately three months before opening your practice, and some things you should consider when taking on these tasks. This article will focus on finance related tasks:

1. Bookkeeping:

It may seem like overkill to hire a bookkeeper (or if you’re doing it yourself, to buy Quickbooks and set up a file) months before you actually open, but a lot of your most important bookkeeping work is done in well before you actually open for business. That’s because you’re going to be making large equipment and fixtures purchases (that should be properly capitalized), and you’re going to be incurring initial expenses (that should be properly categorized into custom expense categories), among other considerations. Not setting up your account properly means that while you may be able to accurately file your taxes, you won’t have accurate financial reporting, which will become necessary as your practice grows.

My Advice:

The temptation for most new dentists is to try to do your own bookkeeping initially, or at a minimum to hold off on hiring a bookkeeper until after you open in order to save money. While the motive to save money early is smart, fight the temptation here and pay for a bookkeeper. I can virtually promise you, you will screw up your Quickbooks file by not setting up expense categories properly. And then when you do end up hiring a bookkeeper, they’ll have to manually backtrack to fix everything you did wrong, and end up charging you nearly as much as if they would have just handled it for you from the beginning. To the extent you can, find a bookkeeper that has experience with dentists, as they’ll know industry norms and can help guide you, and will know a lot of the suppliers already, so they’ll be fewer questions from your bookkeeper each month asking “what was this charge for?”

 2. Credit Card Processing:

This is something a lot of dentists forget to do until the week before they’re opening for business. Normally for existing businesses, switching credit card processors just takes a couple of weeks. But for new businesses, particularly where one of the owners has less than ideal credit, it can take a couple of months.  Given that not being able to accept credit or debit cards effectively means that the majority of your patients won’t be able to pay you, starting early is a good thing, and you can usually get them to waive any monthly fees until you’re actually ready to start accepting payments anyway.

My Advice:

Dentists generally fall into a pretty good risk category, so you can get pretty cheap rates even as a new business. But to get cheaper rates, in general, you will have to obtain service through an actual credit card processing company rather than your practice’s bank. When you do get quotes, unfortunately, credit card processing is priced so confusingly that it can be hard to compare offers across multiple providers. So, I recommend either using a third party negotiating service, or demanding that any offer be presented in the more transparent interchange plus pricing format.

3. Business Checking Account:

Getting a business checking account is very similar to a personal checking account, it’s quick and easy. That said, you still need to do it early, before you start incurring expenses. Otherwise the temptation will be for you to pay for things out of your personal accounts, which will complicate your taxes and accounting immensely down the road.

My Advice:

You can find still banks with no monthly fees, and you should consider that. But perhaps more important is finding a bank with a banker you can actually get a hold of, and who is competent enough to get things done for you. As a dentist, you won’t need much, but getting a wire sent out without having to go into a branch, a hold placed on a check via a two minute phone call, or getting a phone call from your banker in lieu of an overdraft fee, are, in my opinion, what separates a good bank from a bad one.

Conclusion:

These three items are each things are the sort of mundane details that you may overlook entirely when mapping out your new practice. They are, however, very important, and cannot be done last minute. As far as product recommendations go, it’s a good idea to ask around for recommendations from your colleagues. The ADA, and perhaps your state dental society, offers endorsed providers (check out ADA Business Resources) for some products and this is a good place to start.  For provider recommendation information in each of these items from me, contact me. In the next article in this series we’ll discuss three operational tasks that you should do three months prior to opening your practice.

Rich McIver is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and the founder of MerchantNegotiators.com, a company that helps businesses obtain cheaper and better credit card processing. He also assists his wife, Dr. Holly McIver at her orthodontic practice, Kingwood Orthodontics. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

So you want to be a practice owner someday: Planning for growth and expansion

Editor’s note: This is the fifth article in a summer series of New Dentist Now blog posts on practice ownership from Wells Fargo Practice Finance, the practice lender endorsed by ADA Business Resources. To read other articles from the series, click here.

Wells FargoMost new practice owners don’t open their first practice with thoughts of immediate growth in mind. Nevertheless, it’s critical to layout future plans early in your career so you are prepared when the time comes to expand. While there are some clear indicators that will tell you when it’s time to update, expand or relocate your office, getting ahead of the process so you are in control will make the process easier, and the outcome more rewarding.

There are three facets to growing your practice – increasing the number of patients you treat, increasing the types of services you provide, and expanding your physical space to accommodate these patients and services. Your plan for growth needs to address all three aspects, using the following guidelines.

Put your growth plan in writing

The first task in preparing for growth is to have a written plan that outlines your vision for your practice. For instance:

  • How large do you ultimately want your practice to be? Specify the number of patients, operatories and associates you envision for your practice, and the amount of revenue you would like to achieve over the next five years or so.
  • Outline how you will attract new patients. Will you use local advertising, internal marketing, promotional programs?
  • Can you manage this growth in place with your current office set-up or an expansion, or will you need to move your practice location?
  • What kind of financing will be required for a practice expansion or relocation? Is your financial profile robust enough to ensure you can fund future growth?

Putting these details in writing mentally prepares you to take all the necessary steps for making a smooth transition to a larger practice when your growth plans succeed.

Understand the growth indicators

How will you know when it’s time to expand to a larger practice? Some key growth indicators for triggering an expansion might be:

  • Your space is not adequately meeting patient demand, with appointments booked out for two or more weeks. Generally speaking, if you are at 85% of capacity in your current facility, it’s time to start thinking about expanding or relocating your office.
  • You are referring too many patients out for specialty services. This represents lost revenue that could be kept in-practice if you can add an associate who offers these services.
  • Your technology is not keeping up with the competition. If your equipment is clearly dated and incapable of delivering a high level of efficiency and performance, it’s time to expand your services with a technology upgrade.

Prepare for the impact

Remember that an increased patient load not only impacts your facility with potential overcrowding and traffic flow issues, but also your staff and operations.

  • Staff– Be sure you have capable staff that can continue to provide excellent service to your full patient base. Consider including part-time or temporary staff positions to maximize your cash flow and build flexibility into your payroll until your patient base stabilizes.
  • Support – Don’t forget that more patients means you will be making a greater demand on your dental laboratory. Make sure your laboratory can continue to provide the turnaround time you expect, and add an additional lab to your support team if necessary.
  • Dental tools – Your computer software should be able to absorb an increase in patients, but not necessarily your dental tools. Take an inventory of your equipment and determine how many units you need of each tool to service your existing patient base. Then determine how many new patients you have added or plan to add this year – say, an additional 15%. Multiply your current inventory by 15%  and this will tell you the equipment purchases you will need to include in your practice growth budget.

Once you have carefully outlined a plan for the growth of your practice, understood the key growth indicators, and primed your facility for increased traffic, you have taken some of the key steps in preparing for the success that is bound to come your way.

My New Dentist Life: Dr. Emily or Dr. Hobart?

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a New Dentist Now blog series, My New Dentist Life, following a new dentist’s first year experiences out of dental school. The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author and are not intended to reflect the views, positions or policies of the ADA or the New Dentist Committee. To read previous articles in the series, visit ADA.org/mynewdentistlife.

Dr. Hobart

Dr. Hobart

After five years of undergrad, one year of studying for the Dental Admission Test and working as a dental assistant (In addition to two other jobs — applying to dental school is expensive!), four years of dental school, several written and clinical board exams, applying for my South Carolina license, applying for my South Carolina controlled substances license, applying for my DEA license and filling out a mountain of credentialing paperwork so that I can accept every insurance known to mankind…

As of last week, I am finally a practicing dentist!

My first week (I started Aug. 3) working at Family Dental went, to my surprise, really well. Besides having to get to know a new computer program (Eaglesoft), which slowed me down, everything went swimmingly.

I have to say, I was quite nervous the Sunday night before my first day. All that I could think about was the fact that I had not touched a handpiece in about three months.  Dentistry really is like riding a bike though. My first few patients felt as natural as if I had never left the clinic. I did a lot of comp exams and recall exams, several extractions and fillings (composite and amalgam) in one week — more than I had done in a few months in dental school. I also started a few dentures and had one root canal, which I thankfully was able to use my WaveOne that I rush-ordered! And most importantly, I met a lot of great new people — patients and staff.

The one awkward thing that happened this week, was when my office manager asked me what I wanted the staff to call me. At first she had been calling me Dr. Emily (which I think was because nobody knew how to pronounce my last name correctly).  I surprisingly get mispronunciations of my last name a lot, which is odd to me because it is only two syllables. I really had to think about it when she asked me. She is about my age and most of the assistants are about my age. In my head I was thinking, “You can just call me Emily.”  But in front of the patients? When I was an assistant, I called the doctors that I worked for Dr. _____ or doc. Eventually we decided on Dr. Hobart. Dr. Emily had a very pediatric dentist ring to it. This definitely caused me a little more anxiety than I would have thought though.  Being called “doctor” is just something that I have never experienced! It was a funny moment.

Dr. Emily Hobart is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and an estranged Canadian who grew up in Glendale, Arizona, where she attended dental school at Midwestern University. She is now finding her way as a new dentist in Columbia, South Carolina. In her free time, she loves running, rock climbing, pub trivia, karaoke and traveling!

Colleague Connection — Christina Ciano, D.M.D.

Editor’s note: Colleague Connection is a new feature of the Journal of the New Jersey Dental Association. Our first member-to-member profile is of Dr. Christina Ciano (NJDS – 2010) interviewed by David Lepelletier, D.M.D., (NJDS – 2012) a member of the NJDA Committee on New Dentists. Dr. Ciano’s pediatric dental practice is in Princeton, N.J.

Dr. Ciano

Dr. Ciano

Describe your path so far (pre-dental to present)

After growing up in Old Bridge, NJ, I attended Rutgers University as a pre-pharmacy student. I spent a summer working at Pathmark Pharmacy and quickly realized that pharmacy wasn’t for me. Luckily for me, my roommate’s dad was a dentist and introduced me to the world of dentistry, and from then on I was excited to be in pursuit of this great career. I did my dental school at UMDNJ and went on to complete my pediatric dentistry training at Columbia University.

What has been the hardest part of being a new dentist?

The hardest part about being a new dentist is trying to build rapport with your patients (and their parents) in a short period of time. With youth comes the assumption of inexperience and that is an obstacle that is difficult to overcome. I can’t make myself any older! But like anything else, the longer you do, the more confident you are and after a while I think that my patients would realize that although I’m young, they can trust that I know what I’m doing.

Why did you decide to open a practice relatively soon out of school?  What would you suggest to others in your situation?

Dentistry is a great profession and one of the things that makes it so special as far as healthcare professions go is that it affords you the opportunity to be your own boss and own a small business. There are just too many advantages to having your own practice and I always felt like I wanted to follow through with that. For me, I carried that mindset with me throughout my training and it made the transition easier because the decision had been made well before I actually did it.

My recommendation to others would be to do whatever you feel would make you happy. The reason dentistry is still a great profession is because of its flexibility. If owning your own office doesn’t seem like something that would make you happy, then don’t do it! I know many people that have found amazing associateships and feel very happy to not have the added stress of ownership.

What’s your take on group practices?

I think group practices are the trend in dentistry now. Patients are looking for convenience in a lot of different ways and having everyone under one roof is a nice service to provide for the patient. I think they make interdisciplinary cases easier to manage and make overall communication more precise.

How do you balance life/dentistry?

It’s a constant effort to keep my life in balance. I’m married with a young son and I’m expecting another baby at the end of the summer. I am very fortunate to receive a lot of help from family and friends and I think that makes things easier. Whenever I’m not working, I make an effort to spend quality time with my family, whether it’s something as simple as going out for breakfast on a Sunday or going to the beach for a day.

What do you do when you’re not working? 

When I’m not working, I spend as much time as I can with my husband and son. We enjoy spending our time outside, going for family bike rides, and walks around the neighborhood.

Describe a typical day for you.

I wake up and get lunches ready for everyone and get my son ready for the day. I drop him off at daycare and head over to my office. I have a “Master To Do List” at work where I prioritize what needs to get done. So whenever I have down time in between patients, I can focus on what’s important. My list includes marketing tasks, bill payment, insurance issues, ordering supplies, and all other things that need to get done to make the practice work. As a new office, a large proportion of my patients are new patients, which is great because I can take the time to get to know them and their families. After the work day is over, I head over to pick up my son and we go home and play, read, make dinner, etc.

What’s the most influential CE you’ve taken since graduating?

I took a course on starting your own practice a few years ago called Breakaway by Dr. Scott Leune. The course was like a playbook of what needs to get done in order to start your own office and it gave me a blueprint for my office. As a life-long student, I was yearning for a manual of sorts; something for me follow in order to figure out what to do, and Breakaway did that for me.

Why was now the right time to start your practice?

Now or never! I would imagine there are very few people who regretted starting their practice shortly after school, and probably a lot more people that wish they hadn’t waited so long. I had been out of dental school nearly 5 years when I started and I think that’s enough time to have a good hold on the dentistry side of things. And as far as the business side of things, you can’t really prepare for that. You just learn as you go.  A professor in dental school once told me that you are never going to be more financially ready to struggle then when you have just graduated from school.  You don’t have large expenses yet, you don’t have a huge mortgage or fancy car payments and it’s not as big of a sacrifice as it might be later on.  And I always remembered that.

Why start your own practice instead of buying? 

I actually looked into buying a practice before starting my own. I think that buying into an existing practice makes a lot of business sense. Unfortunately, at the time, there really wasn’t anything out there for purchase so I decided to bite the bullet and start from scratch.

What’s the vision you want for your dental career?

I hope to never lose my desire to learn and improve as both a dentist and a practice owner. I thoroughly enjoy going to CE courses because they rejuvenate my interest in being the best dentist I can be. I want to take care of the kids in my community and hope to see them grow into great adult dental patients. One day, I would love to teach dental school students or residents. I feel that is a great way to both give back and get a lot in return.

What do you think is different for a young dentist vs. what it was like to start a career twenty years to thirty ago?

Three words: Competition, and patient expectations. The dental field is far more competitive than it once was. There are just so many of us now! Opening is not as easy as just hanging up your shingle and waiting for the patients to walk through the door. In addition, patients have higher expectations for their healthcare. They want more of a say in their treatment and have expectations that every visit will be smooth and pain-free. As new dentists, we have the advantage of being up-to-date on the latest dental technology and being able to offer our patient state-of-the-art treatment.

If you would like to be profiled in a future issue or would like to interview a colleague, please contact Lorraine Sedor, managing editor, at 732-821-9400 or lsedor@njda.org.

This blog post, reprinted with minimal edits and permission, will be appearing in the upcoming issue of the Journal of the New Jersey Dental Association.

Finding value in ‘newness’ in your new dentist life

Dr. Joe Vaughn starts his cross-country drive June 8 from Birmingham, Ala. to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Seattle.

Dr. Joe Vaughn starts his cross-country drive June 8 from Birmingham, Ala. to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Seattle.

I drink two cups of coffee a day. Minimum.

Sometimes, I don’t even want to drink that second cup. I do it because I feel like I have to. Like people will look at me in a strange way if they found out. I can hear it now. “You only drink ONE cup a day?!” they would gasp.

Let me explain.

DrVaugn

(From left to right) Drs. Joe Vaughn, AJ Fennell and Ben Samuelson sightseeing in Los Angeles on a June 11 trip.

I’m a Seattleite. A new one. A very new one. My waiters still do double-takes whenever they see those beautiful red “ALABAMA” letters plastered across the top of my driver’s license.

I graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry just two months ago. It wasn’t seven days later before I had my entire life packed up in a moving truck heading across the country for Seattle, Washington. It was just me and two of my classmates. Traveling the country. Driving all through the night. Experiencing America as we never had before and may never again. The trip of a lifetime.

I grew up in Alabama. I ate middle school lunch pizza in Alabama. I studied college physics in Alabama. I spent my childhood looking into the eyes of Paul “Bear” Bryant and Joe Namath in the paintings above my parents’ fireplace. As a teenager, I sat in the stands amongst 100,000+ people in Tuscaloosa all yelling “Roll Tide” at the top of their lungs every time our team did something even remotely exciting.

So what am I doing here? Why am I sitting in this minimalist coffee shop in the Emerald City? Why do I eat Thai food now and drink lattes and ride the bus twice a day? Good question. Let’s talk about it.

Newness

I think there’s value in “newness.” Something new, something different. I have friends that will buy the newest version of the iPhone no matter how long it’s been since the last one came out. The iPhone is their fix of newness. That works for them, and that’s awesome. In a weird way, they are an inspiration to me.

For us dentists, finding that change, or that newness, is just as important. We all hear about those stories of the older guys who have fallen out of love with dentistry. The ones who have lost touch with their younger selves and just can’t wait to get out of the office. We may have even had a classmate or two drop out of school because they couldn’t handle the routine.

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Dr. Vaughn and Dr. Devon Cooper on graduation day in Birmingham.

Newness gives us and our profession a tune-up. Seattle is a big change for me. But one day, I’ll have to find another source of newness.

Because newness is not geographical. You don’t necessarily need a new city. Your newness will probably be different than mine. It could be a specialty. A procedure you’ve never tried before. A new technique to an old procedure. Working one day each week in a community health clinic. Joining a social club. Reading a book. Challenging yourself with ideas you’ve never considered before. You could keep a journal or write a blog. Play an instrument. Bake something.

Whatever it may be, the point is to keep you, your life and your job fresh and fun and totally worth all that hard work you put in to get it. And a healthy happy you makes for a healthy happy profession. Which means me and you and everyone we know benefit from the newness you and I decide to add to our lives.

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Dr. Vaughn with one of his clinical faculty members, Dr. Rama Kiran Chavali.

Dentistry promises great things. It is so overflowing with potential that even its opportunities have opportunities. But we always run the risk of falling into the pattern of dread and routine. And before you realize it, all of your techniques and equipment and philosophies are 15 years behind the times. Don’t be that dentist.

Instead, join me in adding newness to your life, whether it’s work or personal. And in turn, keep our profession crisp. Fresh. New. We are a part of one of the greatest professions in America, and we have our entire careers ahead of us.

I don’t know about you, but I can certainly “Roll Tide” to that.

Dr. Joe Vaughn is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. He grew up in Alabama and recently graduated from The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry in 2015. He now lives in Seattle, Washington, where he attends the General Practice Residency at the University of Washington. Two cups of coffee, writing and indie music are everyday occurrences for Joe. Go Seahawks and Roll Tide!