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Life as a New Dentist

Bang for Your Buck! Prioritizing CE opportunities as a new dentist

We knew all along. We knew there were things we were not learning while we were in school. Now, we’ve made it out. We are practicing dentists. We’ve climbed the mountain, celebrated, taken a deep breath, and turned around to find ourselves at the bottom of another mountain. We know there are things we don’t know. Now what? How do I decide where to start? How do I prioritize what CE warrants my time, effort and money?

Dr. Moon

Dr. Moon

Before elaborating on choosing CE, let me say this: First of all, give yourself a break. You don’t have to save the world your first year as a practicing dentist (even though it kind of feels like you can once you’re treating more than 2-3 patients per day). Use your training to approach cases and treatment conservatively as you build up your confidence and skill level. Don’t get in over your head early. Personally, I believe I spent about six months focusing on my job prior to taking any CE after school.

Once you’re ready to get back at it, make CE choices that benefit you and your patients. After some time practicing, you should have a feeling in your “gut” that if you just knew how to __________ or ________ your patients would benefit and you would feel like a more proficient dentist. Once you have that feeling you are more than halfway there.

I have found that asking myself the question: “Is this good Bang for My Buck?” has consistently helped me make good decisions about how I prioritize my CE. I consider three areas when answering this question to myself:

1. Will learning ____________ benefit the majority of my patients, or a few?

2. Is this topic something very limited or specific, or something I can build upon in the future?

3. Is there a hands-on component to this course, or will I potentially leave this course without the confidence I need to implement what I was suppose to learn?

Answers to these questions usually guide my decisions. I prefer to attend CE that offers benefit to the largest number of patients possible, on a topic or area that can consistently be built upon or integrated into multiple procedures, and especially those that include a hands-on component.

Early on in my career, I found myself focusing on CAD-CAM dentistry and bone grafting procedures. I had come to the realization that the majority of my patients would benefit if I increased my skills in these areas. Also, a basic foundation in these topics is beneficial, but you can learn an extensive amount with either, and continue to build your skills and expand the number of billable procedures you provide. Again, once you know what you want to learn, incorporating a hands-on component will make you that much more confident as you implement your knowledge and new techniques in clinical practice.

For new dentists looking to pick up some valuable CE, I suggest that these two areas are not a bad place to start. Incorporating CAD-CAM dentistry into your practice opens up a lot of treatment options and office scheduling benefits that are not available without it. Also, implant dentistry continues to develop and become a more commonly selected treatment option. Bone grafting and socket preservation procedures help patients obtain optimal treatment results, can often be performed quite easily, and will in many cases be the difference between success and failure concerning fixed prosthodontic and/or implant treatment options. Go get that Bang for Your Buck!

For more information on online and in-person continuing education opportunities, click here.

Dr. Brenden Moon is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and currently serves as Chair of the Illinois State Dental Society New Dentist Committee and sits on the Board of the Illinois Academy of General Dentistry. He began practicing in western Illinois after completing dental school at the University of Mississippi in 2007, and enjoys participating in organized dentistry on the state and national level. Dr. Moon practices in both Public Health and Private Practice settings and is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry, International College of Dentists, Academy of Dentistry International, and the Pierre Fauchard Academy

Part 3: Taking the leap to practice ownership? These ADA resources can help

Let me start off by saying that opening my own practice from scratch was one of the scariest moments in my life thus far. I knew I had a good portion of dental knowledge amassed over the last few years, but what did I know about running a business? I could sit down and talk to patients about decay and occlusal wear; however, could I sit down and talk to a team about the goals of the practice and how to achieve them? What about how much my fees would be for my services, and what insurances I should take? How would I go about preparing my office for HIPAA and OSHA protocols?

Dr. Sinclair

Dr. Sinclair

Many of these questions I later found out could be answered through various departments and locations through the ADA’s resources. In this article, I will be discussing several of those resources that can be huge assets when you decide to make the leap into practice ownership.

The ADA Catalog

Another benefit from the ADA I would like to discuss is pretty self-explanatory. What if I told you that before the practice doors even opened you had to make sure all HIPAA and OSHA guidelines were being followed, and if not, you could be subject to fines which could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars? A few months before I opened my doors, I would have had a blank stare on my face.  Once again the ADA came to my rescue by having both HIPAA and OSHA compliance manuals readily available. The manuals gave me implementation protocols and procedures to make sure my office was up to date and compliant before anyone even stepped foot inside the door. The ADA Store is an excellent resource where you can find almost any must have item for your practice. Some examples include brochures for patient education, CDT code books updating the latest dental codes, and information regarding creating an internal marketing program. Many of the items are also customizable.

RELATED: Part 1 & Part 2

Starting out I mentioned that opening my practice was one of the scariest moments in my life, but I can also say that it has been one of the most rewarding. With the help of the ADA, I have created an environment that I, as well as my team members and patients, look forward to every day. I know that I will still have plenty of successes and failures along the road, but I look forward to sharing and celebrating these moments with all of you, my fellow colleagues.

This blog post, reprinted with minimal edits and permission, originally appeared in the Virginia Dental Association journal. Dr. Cappy Sinclair is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and a 2009 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Sinclair currently serves on the Board of Trustees at the Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, as member of 3M’s Council for Innovative Dentistry, and as an ambassador for the Dawson Academy. He started his own practice Coastal Cosmetic Dentistry 3 years ago from the ground up and is more than happy to share his success and failures with fellow new dentists. He is a member of the American Dental Association and the Virginia Dental Association. To contact Dr. Sinclair, email him csinclair@smilevabeach.com.

Job hunting? Searching for employees? Visit the ADA CareerCenter

The ADA CareerCenter is the official online job board of the ADA and is a great resource for searching dental career opportunities or for recruiting dental professionals.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 10.37.32 AMAt careercenter.ADA.org, users can search or post job opportunities for dentists, oral surgeons, orthodontists and other dentistry related career opportunities.

Both job seekers and employers can benefi t from this resource. Those looking for a job can sign up for free on ADA CareerCenter to find dental profession jobs listed by location, company and job type; upload resumes; receive new job alerts via email; save and track jobs and apply online. Even more job opportunities can be found offl ine in the Journal of the American Dental Association’s classified pages.

Meanwhile, dental employers and recruiters can use ADA CareerCenter to choose from a wide array of online options to showcase open positions, including basic and featured job postings or Featured Employer upgraded accounts.

For more information, visit careercenter.ADA.org.

Part 2: Taking the leap to practice ownership? These ADA resources can help

Let me start off by saying that opening my own practice from scratch was one of the scariest moments in my life thus far. I knew I had a good portion of dental knowledge amassed over the last few years, but what did I know about running a business? I could sit down and talk to patients about decay and occlusal wear; however, could I sit down and talk to a team about the goals of the practice and how to achieve them? What about how much my fees would be for my services, and what insurances I should take? How would I go about preparing my office for HIPAA and OSHA protocols?

Dr. Sinclair

Dr. Sinclair

Many of these questions I later found out could be answered through various departments and locations through the ADA’s resources. In this article, I will be discussing several of those resources that can be huge assets when you decide to make the leap into practice ownership.

The Center for Professional Success

There are very few places where one may find legitimate answers to questions that arise when opening a practice. One of the best resources I have found is the ADA’s Center for Professional Success (CPS). Here you can find several must-know items such as: how to design your office if you are building a new building or remodeling an older space; how to adhere to government regulations regarding human resources issues and employees; and how to navigate the world of filing dental benefits for patients.

Personally, I used this resource to help with the initial design of my office as well as coming up with an employee manual. Furthermore, the CPS also includes articles that discuss items outside of work that are still just as equally important.

One section I highly recommend everyone check on a regular basis is the link that gives suggestions on achieving a work and personal life balance. As the owner of a business, I have found it very easy to be consumed by dentistry alone and not make time for your personal life. With all of these amazing resources under one roof, the ADA is truly aiding in setting dentists up for both personal and professional success.

To read Part 1, click here.

This blog post, reprinted with minimal edits and permission, originally appeared in the Virginia Dental Association journal. Dr. Cappy Sinclair is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and a 2009 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Sinclair currently serves on the Board of Trustees at the Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, as member of 3M’s Council for Innovative Dentistry, and as an ambassador for the Dawson Academy. He started his own practice Coastal Cosmetic Dentistry 3 years ago from the ground up and is more than happy to share his success and failures with fellow new dentists. He is a member of the American Dental Association and the Virginia Dental Association. To contact Dr. Sinclair, email him csinclair@smilevabeach.com.

Part 1: Taking the leap to practice ownership? These ADA resources can help

Let me start off by saying that opening my own practice from scratch was one of the scariest moments in my life thus far. I knew I had a good portion of dental knowledge amassed over the last few years, but what did I know about running a business? I could sit down and talk to patients about decay and occlusal wear; however, could I sit down and talk to a team about the goals of the practice and how to achieve them? What about how much my fees would be for my services, and what insurances I should take? How would I go about preparing my office for HIPAA and OSHA protocols?

Dr. Sinclair

Dr. Sinclair

Many of these questions I later found out could be answered through various departments and locations through the ADA’s resources. In this article, I will be discussing several of those resources that can be huge assets when you decide to make the leap into practice ownership.

ADA Benefit Plan Analyzer 

Shortly after setting up my own practice, I was contacted by one of the local representatives of a dental benefit plan. They wanted to know which carriers I would be in network with and also inquired about participating with them.

Since I was just starting out my own practice without any patients, I knew that participating with insurance plans would provide me with an influx of patients. However, I wondered what it would cost me down the road. Just as a refresher, if I became a contracted provider with this insurance company, I would be held to their fee schedule and would only be allowed to charge a patient what they had deemed an appropriate fee. For example, let’s say if normally I were to charge $1,200 for a crown but the insurance company only allowed a charge of $800 for their patients; then I would be looking at a loss of $400 in profit without even picking up the hand-piece. Looking on the opposite spectrum I also had to consider that by becoming a participating provider I may have an increase in 25 new patients a month as opposed to 5 without participation.

This arises the question of how do you know when it makes sense financially to participate with an insurance company? Well, good news, the ADA has developed a benefit plan analyzer that gives you information to see if participation with a certain insurance company makes sense for your office. The program will actually sync with your current system and give you a rating from one to 100—100 being in the best interest and financially speaking for the dentist to participate with the plan. There is nothing worse than starting a practice participating with 10 or 15 insurance plans only to be busy but not productive. It can be a very tough road to recovery from there, which is why I recommend you take a look at this program to help you make those decisions from both a capacity and financial perspective.

This blog post, reprinted with minimal edits and permission, originally appeared in the Virginia Dental Association journal. Dr. Cappy Sinclair is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and a 2009 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Sinclair currently serves on the Board of Trustees at the Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, as member of 3M’s Council for Innovative Dentistry, and as an ambassador for the Dawson Academy. He started his own practice Coastal Cosmetic Dentistry 3 years ago from the ground up and is more than happy to share his success and failures with fellow new dentists. He is a member of the American Dental Association and the Virginia Dental Association. To contact Dr. Sinclair, email him csinclair@smilevabeach.com.

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.”