According to U.S. News and World Report, being a dentist ranks as #2 on its list of 100 best careers to have in 2018. To make the cut, a job has to offer a great salary (dentists were #9 on the list), a good work-life balance, long term security, and a low unemployment rate. Dentists find all those things in their profession, and the good news is there will be no shortage of available dentist jobs anytime soon. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the number of dentist jobs will grow by 21% between 2010 and 2020. Although this is faster than the average job growth rate, demand for dental services is also on the rise.
People are keeping their teeth for longer, and dental health is also becoming a bigger priority for Americans as research emerges showing the connection between oral health and overall health. This growing demand will be met with a lower supply of dentists, as an unprecedented number of dentists reach retirement age. The American Dental Association anticipates a drop in the ratio of dentists to Americans between 2010 and 2030, which means the need for dentists will only continue to grow.
Despite the profession’s bright future, the climate for practicing dentistry has changed. Education costs have risen dramatically, and today’s dental graduates have more student loan debt than ever before. This—combined with declining reimbursement rates—is leading many dental school graduates to reconsider the idea of taking on even more debt to open a practice. As a result, many new dentists are becoming employees themselves by finding work in dental research, community health clinics, or the dental public health sector.
Dental service organizations (DSOs) are also gaining popularity. Dentists typically work as employees of the DSO or a group practice group receiving business support from the DSO. DSOs appeal to many dental graduates by offering a generous salary and a steady flow of patients, without the administrative or managerial responsibilities that come with operating a business. Dental school graduates are joining DSOs in record numbers, and in the coming years, the percentage of dentists working for DSOs will only increase.