When we think of dentistry we immediately imagine the buzz of the drill, as well as the excavating, brushing and cleaning of other people's mouths the job entails. But what we hear less about are all the perks this career has to offer, especially for professionals who plan to balance a career with a fulfilling home life. From flexible hours, to job stability, and handsome salaries, it could be worth pursuing the field of dentistry, even if you have to take a little spit on the mask from time to time.
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There's no fretting about potential lay-offs in dentistry. "There will always be a need for dentists," says Justin Rashbaum, DMD, who opened and practices at New York-based Sculpt Aesthetics: Dental and Facial Rejuvenation. "There are many under-served areas in the country, and many offer generous compensation for dentists, even recent dental school grads, to practice there," he says. And because taking work home, or on vacation, is impossible, dentistry is family-friendly. "When my father graduated dental school in the 1970’s, there were fewer than 10 women in his class. At my 2008 graduation, more than half my class was female," says Rashbaum. That's likely because dentistry offers job security while allowing its professionals to practice part-time if they choose.
When a patient comes in writhing in pain, a dentist can immediately ease that for them, and that feels amazing, says Tony Cruz-McLeod, DMD, a resident physician at Brooklyn-based Kings County Hospital Center. He enjoys that when a patient is not happy with his or her smile, he can brighten, straighten, or whiten it. Or when there's an older patient who can't chew, he can fit their first denture, instantly making them look and feel a decade younger. "We have an obligation to serve our communities," says Cruz-McLeod, "and I am very proud and honored to do so."
It Pays Well
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In May, 2010, the average annual dentist salary across the nation was a whopping $146,920, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013. "Dentistry requires attention to detail, patience, and interaction with, and care for, other people," says Alina Krivitsky, DMD, who has a practice with her husband in Brentwood, CA and is a clinical assistant professor at USC's Ostrow School of Dentistry."But it also offers the benefit of a generous income" says Krivitsky, who started as a dental hygienist, attended dental school, then specialized in periodontics. "Those two to three extra years of education allowed me to double the general dentist salary."
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The beauty of dentistry, says Seung-Hee Rhee, DDS, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, is that you can set your own hours and choose the days you'll work. Rhee has peers who clock work hours from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., while also having peers who begin work at 6:00 a.m. and finish by 2:00 p.m. "I also know many women dentists who work part-time because they have kids and are raising a family," says Rhee. "Juggling work and family life is never easy. But controlling your own work hours helps." Plus, unlike with physicians, you're never on call and awakened at 3:00 a.m. by a pager.
- Justin Rashbaum, DMD; Sculpt Aesthetics: Dental and Facial Rejuvenation; New York, NY
- Tony Cruz-McLeod, DMD; resident physician; Kings County Hospital Center; Brooklyn, NY
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Alina Krivitsky, DMD; practice with husband in Brentwood, CA; clinical assistant professor; USC, Ostrow School of Dentistry
- Seung-Hee Rhee DDS, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry; Nwe York, NY
Julie D. Andrews is a writer and editor living in New York City. Her articles have appeared in print or on the websites of "Prevention," "Glamour," "Fitness," "Shape," "Cosmopolitan Latina," "Elle" and "New York Magazine."