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Life as a New Dentist

10 things to look for before signing an employment contract

Understanding an employment contract before you join a dental practice can be intimidating.

signing a documentContracts can be long, the terms can be hard to understand and it may be the fi rst one you’ve ever seen. The ADA publication, “Dentist Employment Agreements: A Guide to Key Legal Provisions,” outlines a number of aspects to look out for in a contract and some key ideas to keep in mind before signing. This online publication is free to members and available for download at Success.ADA.org by searching for the title.

Here are 10 areas to keep an eye out for to make sure you understand what you’re signing:

Employee duties: Pay attention to what is outlined in the contract as far as your duties as a dentist. This provision establishes the job responsibilities and, if breached, could become grounds for termination or a contractual dispute.

Compensation: Understand how you will be paid, how often and whether you’re eligible for commissions or bonuses.

Benefits: Make sure you’re OK with what’s being offered in terms of vacation time, health and life insurance, retirement plan and other fringe benefits.

Term: Check to see the duration of your employment under the contract. Consider what happens if your term expires.

Termination: Understand whether you can be fired without cause.

Malpractice insurance: Check to see if your employer provides dental professional liability insurance or if you have
to purchase it. If the employer purchases it, understand the amount and type of coverage provided.

Noncompete clause: If you’re terminated, this may prevent you from practicing dentistry in a certain geographic area for a specific time period.

Nonsolicitation of employees and/or patients: This may prevent you from actively soliciting employees and/or patients away from the employer.

Dispute resolution: This establishes the process for resolving disputes between you and the owner dentist, should they arise. It’s important to understand if you would be relinquishing basic and important rights, such as the right to a jury trial, if an issue arises that can’t be resolved.

Liquidated damages: This stipulates how much money you would have to pay if you are found to have breached certain provisions the contract.

The ADA advises all dentists to consult with their personal attorneys before signing any contract.

Getting to know you: Dr. Jordan Cooper

Dr. Cooper

Dr. Cooper

Dr. Jordan Cooper is in general practice from Jacksonville, Ark.

Why dentistry?

It is in my blood.  My mom is a dental hygienist and my dad is a dentist.

Why are you a member?

Because I believe in protecting the interest of my profession.

What has been the best time of your career so far?

Four years ago, I restored my first All-on-4 case. It was extremely rewarding and I have been doing more and more of those cases ever since.

When I’m not practicing, I’m putting the final polish on my motivational book, “Chasing the Blue Marlin: How To Pursue Your Life’s Passion — And Passion For Life.” It will be published this month and is the most rewarding achievement of my life outside of my family.

One fun fact about me:

I hold a spearfishing record in Puerto Rico.

Data aids new dentists in deciding where to practice

Wouldn’t it be nice if simply putting a wet fi nger in the wind were enough to fi gure out where to open a new dental practice — or where to fi nd work at an existing one?

Dr. Partha Mukherji of Forth Worth, Texas (middle), launched a private practice in 2012. Here he participates in a table breakout session at the 2012 ADA Evidence-Based Dentistry Champions Conference in Chicago.

Dr. Partha Mukherji of Forth Worth, Texas (middle), launched a private practice in 2012. Here he participates in a table breakout session at the 2012 ADA Evidence-Based Dentistry Champions Conference in Chicago.

Knowing which direction to take when making such important career decisions takes more data than that, of course. Thankfully, brave souls have paved the well-worn path to opening a new practice or deciding where to seek a position. Some have left a trail in the form of advice for new dentists.

Dr. Partha Mukherji of Fort Worth, Texas, for instance, has a few trail tips to share on figuring out where to open a practice. He graduated from Baylor College of Dentistry in 2001 and from the University of Texas School of Dentistry in Houston in 2002, where he completed a one-year postgraduate general practice residency in hospital dentistry focusing on the treatment of medically and physically compromised patients. Then he went to work as an associate.

“After practicing 11 years as an associate in private and corporate settings, I felt confident that I could do dentistry on my own,” he said. “Still, I wasn’t too confident on the business aspects of dentistry. In hindsight, I probably should’ve established my own office sooner. But, hindsight is 20/20.”

Foresight, with data, can also be 20/20. Before deciding where to hang a shingle and open for business, Dr. Mukherji consulted professionals. One of the first things he did was call on a reputable dental practice real estate agency. He made his choice of business location largely based on their assessment of the area. They helped Dr. Mukherji review such variables as demographics and the saturation of dentists in the area.

But Dr. Mukherji also calculated his decision based on certain personal preferences. “I lived in the area, was active in the area and wanted to practice in that area,” he said. He also asked friends, colleagues, specialists and dental vendors for their input. “I found that to be valuable, too,” he said.

Dr. Mukherji advises tapping ADA resources, such as statistical reports. The ADA also refers member dentists to data sources to explore when assessing where to practice. A few suggested resources:

US Census Bureau — Factfinder: Provides population information on household income, education, and many other demographics. Start by entering a city or zip code under the “Community Facts” heading in the left column.

2013 Color-coded zip codes, median household income: Provides a color-coded overview of zip codes ranked by income and education level. Clicking on the map will bring up additional details about the zip code’s income and education level. To locate the map, search the newspaper website for “super zips.”

Wells Fargo Practice Finance: Provides statistical information, including population variables for both residential and employed populations; socio-economic indicators including economics, education and housing; and number of existing practices in designated area.

Three new dentists, three different paths

Whether it’s the owner of a private practice, an associate or a dentist serving in the U.S. military, dentistry offers a wide range of workplace settings. The ADA New Dentist News spoke with three dentists to learn what led them to dentistry and how they chose their career path.

Federal dentist

U.S. Air Force Maj. David Schindler’s passion for dentistry began at a young age with each visit to his dentist whose positive attitude and sense of humor, he said, were contagious. That passion only grew with the influence of his stepfather, Lee Salisbury, a general dentist from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Maj. Schindler

Maj. Schindler

Meanwhile, growing up, Maj. Schindler was also a fan of military history, especially from authors like Stephen Ambrose who wrote “Band of Brothers.”

“I wanted to be part of that tradition and continue the family legacy of service,” said Maj. Schindler, whose grandfathers both served.

Maj. Schindler joined the Air Force in 2005 before beginning dental school, accepting a four-year scholarship. He attended Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry and graduated May 2009.

After graduation, he entered active duty service and began officer training at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, followed by a one-year general dentistry residency in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Today, he practices at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. His mission: To ensure dental readiness by providing high quality care for their active duty population so they can execute their mission at home and be ready to deploy if needed without any dental emergencies interfering.

“One refreshing thing I enjoy about practicing in the Air Force is there is no ‘typical’ day,” he said. Patient care is about 85 percent of a workday, the rest is administrative duties around the dental clinic or the wider medical facility.

In addition, the educational opportunities to expand your skill sets are exceptional in the Air Force, he said.

Other reasons to join are for the great benefits, travel opportunities and the patients who do some extraordinary things for the country each day.

Although service requires some sacrifice on the part of families, Maj. Schindler said, a good option for those going into private practice while continuing to serve on a limited basis is joining the Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard.

“Coming out of school, I didn’t want to deal with the headaches that come with managing the business aspect of a practice — insurance issues, marketing, hiring,” Maj. Schindler said. “I wanted to focus on patient care, help in additional duties; and at the end of the day, focus on my family and not worry about potential issues back at the office. I definitely made the right choice.”

Private practice

Dr. Irene Marron-Tarrazzi is a periodontist in Miami, Florida.

Dr. Marron-Tarrazzi

Dr. Marron-Tarrazzi

“I decided to choose dentistry as a career because it would provide me with independence and flexibility,” she said. “My mother was a true inspiration and I grew up spending time in her dental office. Seeing her as a successful dentist and raising a family helped me understand that as women we can achieve work-life balance. I also enjoy the sense of achievement and pride in the handiwork that comes from reestablishing the health and well-being of a patient.”

After Dr. Marron-Tarrazzi graduated from dental school in Venezuela, she moved to the U.S. to pursue a specialty degree in periodontics. She graduated in 2000 from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In 2003, she obtained her D.M.D from Nova Southeastern University.

Immediately after graduation she worked as an associate in a small group practice.  Her initial plan was to buy in as a partner. After some years she had the yearning to open her own practice. She started her solo practice in Brickell, an up-and-coming neighborhood in Miami, Florida, where she has lived for the past eight years. Her periodontal office consists of herself, one hygienist and three dental team members.

“Being an associate provided me with ample experience in the clinical aspect, time for teaching and becoming involved with organized dentistry” she said. “But I think, until you become an owner, you don’t really know the business aspect of it. For example, we get many lectures on practice management in school and during seminars. However, it isn’t until you have to implement that knowledge on your own that you fully understand it.”

Dr. Marron-Tarrazzi said she tries to keep up-to-date by attending seminars, reading the ADA Center for Professional Success, and periodically meets with a group of dentist friends to share practice management tips.

“New dentists’ pursuing private practice ownership should be a little visionary and creative. Dentistry is a hands-on profession with daily challenges that require the combination of critical thinking, compassion and talent,” she said. “There are concerns of debt, and dentistry is changing. However, I think that private practice is a viable model for our generation, especially when you want to offer a unique practice philosophy.”

Associate to owner with DSO support

Unlike her older siblings who both knew what they wanted to be before they were 6 years old, Dr. Andrea Janik didn’t make up her mind until she was 17.

Dr. Janik

Dr. Janik

“I had a really great orthodontist, who seemed like he was really happy being a dentist,” she said of making her career choice.

When she told her father, he gave her his blessing with one condition, that she explore other possibilities in college.

“He said, ‘If you’ve done that and still want to be a dentist, you can,’” recalled Dr. Janik, a general practitioner in San Antonio.

She graduated with a psychology degree and enrolled in 2004 in Baylor College of Dentistry. After graduation, Dr. Janik wanted to focus on patient care — not necessarily on running a business.

“My expertise is as a clinician. That’s what I wanted I’ve always dreamed of being,” she said.

Dr. Janik worked as an associate dentist in Dallas, but after five years, she found an associateship at a practice supported by a dental service organization in San Antonio. DSOs provide support to affiliated dental practices with nonclinical functions, including accounting, human resources, legal and marketing.

“Eighteen months later, I realized ownership was right for me,” she said.

Today, Dr. Janik owns a practice, employing one associate dentist and 1.5 hygienists. She receives services from four specialists and contracts with a DSO for business support services.

“I’ve built around me a tremendous staff,” she said. “We’re doing phenomenal patient care. For things I don’t know anything about, I have people who have degrees in those specialties.”

However, Dr. Janik said she realizes DSOs may carry a bad connotation among her colleagues.

“I’ve had judgments passed on to me that I’ve had to overcome, usually from people who don’t understand what I do,” she said. “Basically, anything to do with patient care is all up to me.”

Dr. Janik said with the cost of student loans, opening a practice from scratch is daunting for a recent graduate.

“That doesn’t include the cost of buying a home or car,” she said. “Just from a personal preservation standpoint, coming in to an office with (DSO) support may not be a bad idea because you’re able to just focus on dentistry and patient care.”

Will there be a dentist shortage in 2025?

May 2015 JADACheck out the May issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association to read how falling busyness levels and financial barriers to dental care may challenge predictions of a dentist shortage by 2025. Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., ADA’s chief economist and vice president of the Health Policy Institute, examines the issue in his Health Policy Perspectives column, Rethinking Dentist ‘Shortages.’

And for more highlights, watch JADA Editor Michael Glick’s preview on ADA.org or jada.ada.org.

NHSC sets May 7 scholarship application deadline

The National Health Service Corps invites scholarship applications through May 7 for the 2015-16 school year for students pursuing primary care health professions training leading to a degree in dentistry or other specified disciplines.

The scholarship pays tuition, fees and other educational costs and provides a living stipend in return for a commitment to work at least two years in a NHSC-approved site in a community classified as an underserved health professional shortage area. For each year of financial support (up to four years), the student agrees to serve one year (minimum two years) at an approved site in a high-need urban or rural community. Service begins upon graduation and completion of primary care residency training for dentists.

To learn more about the program, visit hrsa.gov, click on National Health Service Corps tab on left of page and select scholarships “learn more.” A customer care center number is available 1-800-221-9393 Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Eastern time.

Nepal dental school seeks instructors for new Health Volunteers Overseas project

Dr. Hollander's favorite mountain in Nepal is Ama Dablam, pictured here.

Dr. Hollander’s favorite mountain in Nepal is Ama Dablam, pictured here.

Any interest in teaching in Nepal?

The ADA News is reporting that a dental education project in Dhulikhel, Nepal, is seeking volunteers to teach this fall under the auspices of Health Volunteers Overseas, Dhulikhel Dental School and Kathmandu University School of Medicine.

“They want to improve the dental education that they provide the students,” said Dr. Brian Hollander, project director. “Our volunteers will work with both the students and the faculty in helping them improve their knowledge and teaching techniques. Their goal is to produce excellent dentists. It’s a pretty interesting partnership. HVO just launched the project last month. We’ve already had quite a bit of interest. I’m very excited about this program.”

Dr. Dashrath Kafle, left, and Dr. Hollander stand overlooking the dental school at Dhulikhel Hospital. Dr. Kafle is a professor at the school and the HVO project's local contact.

Dr. Dashrath Kafle, left, and Dr. Hollander stand overlooking the dental school at Dhulikhel Hospital. Dr. Kafle is a professor at the school and the HVO project’s local contact.

The first volunteer is going to Nepal in April. The project needs volunteers for placement between September and mid-November.

Infection control and hygiene; training for dental assistants and hygienists; dental laboratory techniques; finishing orthodontic cases to American Board of Orthodontics standards; oral pathology and oral medicine are among the requested focus areas for volunteers. Academic support in oral medicine and oral pathology has also been requested.

The program needs academic support in oral medicine and oral pathology and training in four-handed dentistry for the dental nurses and assistants.

Volunteers must be fully trained general dentists, specialists and/or board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeons who hold a current license to practice. Assignments are for a minimum of two weeks.

To read the full story, click here.

New Dentist Conference Joins ADA 2015 – America’s Dental Meeting

The ADA is pleased to announce that for the first time, the New Dentist Conference will be held at the ADA annual meeting from November 5-10 in Washington, D.C.

New Dentist Conference 2015Features of the New Dentist Conference include:

  • Shark Tank co-star Daymond John as keynote speaker.
  • Exclusive, interactive educational offerings.
  • High-level networking opportunities with leadership and peers.
  • New Dentist reception and lounge.
  • Significantly reduced hotel rates.
  • A chance to give back at the ADA Mission of Mercy.
  • We encourage you to share this information with any dentists who have been out of school for ten years or less as this is an experience they won’t want to miss.

Registration for the New Dentist Conference at ADA 2015 opens May 13 — a full week earlier than general registration! For more information, visit ADA.org/NDC.

Win a Fitbit Flex office package through the Center for Professional Success

Looking to improve your fitness and the health of your staff? Member dentists have a chance to win a Fitbit Flex office package (six devices) by logging into the Center for Professional Success website and entering the monthly contest.

Center for Professional SuccessTo enter, simply log in with your user ID and password at Success.ADA.org, click the Fitbit image and register by April 30.

Last month, Brett Nelson, a dental student at the University of Colorado, won an Apple iPad Air.

The ADA Center for Professional Success is an ADA member-only interactive Web resource where dentists and dental students can find practice management information and decision support tools and applications, along with online and in-person executive management certificate and life mastery programs. Through the Center, dentists can discover relevant and impactful solutions to the business challenges they face every day in the office. Visit Success.ADA.org to learn more.

Austin, Texas, dentist shares his approach to continuing education

Austin, Texas — Dr. Vincent Ip left his role in a cosmetic dentistry practice to return to his native state of Texas to pursue his passion to provide oral health care for families.

Dr. Vincent Ip

Dr. Vincent Ip

This native son of Stephenville, Texas, founded Smile 360 in Austin to realize that dream, and continuing education has helped him do just that.

“I’m always looking to expand my dental knowledge and stay current in my craft,” he said. “I pride myself and my office on the fact that we are state-of-the-art and always try to use the latest and greatest equipment and ideas to benefit our patients.”

He completed two courses at ADA 2014 — America’s Dental Meeting that covered lasers in managing periodontal patients: Manage Your Periodontal Patients with Techno Power and Utilizing Dental Lasers in a Periodontal Environment (both with Dr. Samuel Low).

“I signed up to juxtapose the traditional way with the new way — lasers — so that I have the knowledge of both,” he said.

He also took Concepts and Procedures for Predictable Crown Lengthening (Dr. Jim Grisdale). Dr. Ip shared practical and tactical advice for other new dentists when planning their CE options.

Managing expectations

“I take classes to broaden my knowledge. I need to have the ability to explain procedures and treatments to my patients in a way they understand so they know what lies ahead,”

Dr. Ip said “Patients are looking at me as the expert.

“I want all of my patients to leave my office wanting to commit to their health and their teeth. The only way for them to do this is if I keep learning new tools to help them commit.”

Taking it chairside

Dr. Ip appreciates CE that allows participants to work hands-on, citing chairside benefits in periodontics classes.

“More than half of my patients have periodontal disease,” Dr. Ip said. “So obviously this is something that I need to stay very current on. I also need my patients to feel confident that I can help them treat their disease. There is not a day on my schedule that I don’t have a perio patient .”

He said classes like the ones he took at the ADA annual meeting provided him with the information needed to give his patients the options to decide what is best for them and their health.

Getting the full experience

Aside from options at the ADA annual meeting, other opportunities for CE exploration are available on ADA CE Online — adaceonline.org. A 50 percent discount is available using promo code 482153.

Dr. Ip mentioned enjoying the comradeship with his coworkers and other peers during CE courses and workshops.

Coming in November, check out the New Dentist Conference in Washington, D.C., scheduled for the first time in conjunction with ADA 2015 — America’s Dental Meeting. Exclusive benefits will include a VIP lounge, access to significantly reduced hotel rates, high-level networking opportunities and a customized CE track featuring live interactive technology. For more information about the New Dentist Conference and all that the Nov. 5-10 annual meeting has to offer, visit ADA. org/meeting.