Dentistry, just like any medical profession, experiences constant changes, improvements, and innovation. And sure, all of this serves the betterment of dental care all over the world. However, with the need of being constantly in line with innovation and change, dentists experience numerous challenges in the profession.
In the following paragraphs, we’ll take a look at the biggest challenges of dentistry nowadays. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
The Main Challenges of Dentistry in 2023
Challenge #1 – The COVID-19 Pandemic
Going to the dentists has never been more challenging than in the past year. Because of the coronavirus and its transmission model, patients have become the main source of infection for dentists. It is well known that the mouth and throat are the best place for the virus to multiply and transfer, which is why we’re wearing masks.
But, when the dentists work on fixing a tooth, the patient’s mouth needs to be open during the procedure. This can potentially expose the dentists to the virus directly. Sure, there are new sets of rules and procedures for dental care during the pandemic. The dentists need to wear full protective equipment during dental procedures.
So, dentists are nowadays dealing with a major issue of receiving patients and taking the risk of transferring the infection. They need to keep their practices always clean and disinfected, more than ever, change tools, wear more protective gear, and space out appointments. All of this can lead to a lower number of patients, which itself brings issues like lower income and higher expenses.
Challenge #2 – Student Loan Debt and Cost of a Private Practice
It is no secret that medical and dental care students come out of school with an incredibly high student loan debt. And, for the majority, the debt can create a lot of issues and cause decades of stress and financial burden.
Dentists, in particular, need to find extra motivation to overcome the student loan debt in order to open their private practices. Now, being costly and expensive on its own, opening a private practice is sadly a difficult choice and challenge for dentists with a student loan debt. Upon thousands of dollars of student loan debt, dentists still require thousands of dollars for private practice as well as the instruments, machines, and staff.
A survey from The Wealthy Dentist looking into the biggest challenges dentists face nowadays showed that the no.1 problem for the surveyed dentists was paying off the student loan debt.
That is why many dentists have to find work alternatives to get in a position where they’re paying off their debt but also managing to save money for a private practice. As one can imagine, this challenge carries numerous other challenges as well; from financial burden, stress, mental health issues, to an overall issue with work and dissatisfaction.
Challenge #3 – Finding New Patients
Now, even if a dentist has managed to go through all the financial issues and managed to open a private practice, there is still a major challenge to overcome; finding new patients.
Even though every single person in this world needs a dentist, it can be hard to attract new patients, especially if the practice is new and yet has to prove its reliability and work quality. Building a steady client base and managing to get new clients regularly can make or break a dentist’s private practice career.
Dentists in this sense have a lot of responsibility in providing excellent care from the get-go, but that alone is sometimes not enough. Some dentists had to hire marketing agencies to build their brand and have it reach people in their community and farther. Considering that this would create additional costs can add to the stress of financial issues dentists have to face at the beginning of their career too.
Challenge #4 – Time Management and Consistent Client Care
Let’s imagine that a new dentist has managed to overcome the challenges of acquiring new clients. What would be their new challenge? Time management and the need to provide everyone the same quality care would be the answer.
When dentists start receiving new patients, their service often becomes rushed. They start spending less time or provide lower work quality because they need to fit all of the clients into their schedule to keep everyone happy.
This could lead to the need to hire new staff and dental professionals, which leads to more costs and higher investment in the practice. Or, it could lead to a significantly worse service, which would then lead to fewer patients and lower income.
Challenge #5 – Staying Ahead of The Competition
Alongside all of the aforementioned challenges, each dentist needs to always be better than the competition in order to keep and acquire patients, and possible investors.
However, staying ahead of the competition is always costly. In the sense of dental care, it often comprises obtaining the newest equipment and technology required for premium dental care. That can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars on an annual basis for a high-end dental practice.
Not to mention that patients are required high-end work from every dentist. So, if the dentist doesn’t provide the specialty, quality, and technology, they might not only stay behind the competition but also potentially lose clients.
All of this can be rather stressful, especially if the dentist is dealing with student loan debt or any financial issues regarding the private practice.
Let’s not forget that the current pandemic sets the tone for a certain form of dental care, which requires personal protective equipment and constant update and replacement of the used equipment. If the patient doesn’t feel safe due to the lack of protective equipment, for example, they are more likely to change dentists.
Challenge #6 – Health Issues
It is no secret that dentists deal with a lot of mental and physical health issues. Maintaining health as a dentist is one of the hardest challenges. For example, the majority of dentists experience serious back, shoulder, and leg issues like chronic back pain, shoulder pain, and knee issues. All of this is caused by the extended seated position which comprises unnatural body placement and long-term steadiness during work.
Furthermore, a lot of dentists deal with mental health issues as well. The stress of maintaining financial stability, managing time, and clients can take a toll on one’s mental health. Dentists deal with a lot of emotional buildup, anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. Dentists are the most suicidal medical professionals as well.
Not to mention that dentists are always at risk of contracting an infectious disease coming from the patients. Some of the diseases, alongside coronavirus, include HIV, Hepatitis B virus, M. tuberculosis, etc.
So, Should One Become a Dentist?
Considering all of the aforementioned challenges, it might be hard to convince anyone that being a dentist is worthy of time, money, and mental health. However, one would also be surprised to hear that almost 70% of dentists still encourage college students to become dentists. Sure, there are a few dentists who would advise against this profession, but the majority seem to find it worthy and rewarding.
If you’re worried about, let’s say, the financial issues, it is safe to say that dentistry is among the highest-earning profession, so you can be sure to deal with the student loan debt quickly. Sure, some factors need to align for this to work out in the best-case scenario. And, alongside financial stability, one needs a lot of luck to succeed in this business and meet or stay ahead of the competition.
Nevertheless, if you’re passionate about dentistry and you want to help people above everything, then you should definitely pursue your dental education. It is never too late to change your mind or adjust your career to your liking.
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These have been the top 5 main challenges dentists are dealing with nowadays. We hope the provided information was helpful in painting the picture of what it means to be a dentist in 2023. If you’re a dentist reading, let us know what you think about these challenges in the comments section. Share your experience and advice for the future generations of dentists. And, if you’re a student, let us know what your concerns are about becoming a dentist. We’ll make sure to read everything and respond timely.