Critical Success Factors in the Field of Dentistry
The path to becoming a qualified dental professional is partially defined by the medical implications of the chosen career and partially defined by the business administration imperatives also directly related. The discussion here considers some of the key issues in defining critical success factors in the field of dentistry. Most specifically among them, the discussion addresses the characteristics of your dental education and how these relate to your success. Additionally, the discussion considers the issue of your chosen path to practice, offering an analysis of the challenges relating to establishing your own practice. The key recommendations that this discussion leads to relate to the process of dental education and the path that aspiring dentists will take to entering the practice. Regarding education, the discussion recommends extensive personal research into the kind of dental educational community where practicing professionals provide instruction and oversight. With respect to practicing dentistry, it is recommended that the aspiring dentist first cultivate experience working within an existing practice before starting a new and independent practice.
A career in dentistry has the potential to be incredibly rewarding. As a healthcare professional, the dentist has an opportunity to help individuals to be relieved of pain, to provide critical medical treatment to those in imminent need and to offer aesthetic improvements for those who require them. Additionally, dentistry puts you in a position to provide valuable insight into preventative measures, lifestyle decisions and health habits to individuals who might significantly benefit from such input. Working in a healthcare setting, providing treatment and providing critical informational and practical support are just a few of the defining characteristics of a complex and nuanced occupational path. But in order to qualify to serve in this capacity, the developing dental professional must engage in a decidedly challenging course of professional advancement. There are many factors that will determine your success in engaging this course. The discussion hereafter considers these factors with a focus on education and the path to practice, and offering some insights into those success factors that can ultimately shape one's dental career.
Among the key issues is your dental education. This is an absolutely critical dimension of your professional development. As with most professions in the medical sphere, dentistry calls for extensive training, on-site learning and a comprehensive knowledge of the anatomical, biological and general medical implications of the occupation. Most aspiring dentists will begin to gain this knowledge and its attendant skills during dental school,. Additionally, many aspiring dental practitioners will actually begin their preparations for this path as early as their undergraduate studies. As Santiago indicates, "to be accepted into a dental school program, you do not necessarily have to major in science in college, but it may help. Additionally, one must at least fulfill the dental school pre-requisites which includes many science classes. Recommended courses include biochemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and general biology." (Santiago 1)
For the critical success factors shaping one's dental career, there are certain steps one can take to improve career development. To this end, choosing the path to practice is also of critical importance. This is not necessarily a determinant of success so much as an indication that there are multiple paths to achieving this. Namely, you must determine whether you intend to work independently or within the scope of a broader healthcare system. The path that an aspiring or advancing dental professional chooses will shape the nature of the challenges ahead. Beginning your own practice comes with a wide range of challenges that may not be encountered by a dentist working in a hospital setting, working for an institution such as the U.S. military or serving in a public health clinic. Success will be shaped differently in each of these instances.
Key Facts and Findings:
Most dental education and degree courses are about four years in length. The common degrees earned during this four-year program include the Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) and the Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) According to Santiago, the length of time for completion is roughly the same. Therefore, the choice of which degree to earn is truly a matter of preference and will depend largely on the practical dimensions of treatment that you wish to be able to offer. Santiago goes on to indicate that the most basic requirements for admission into a dental school thereafter will include the acquisition of a bachelor's degree and successful completion of the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). Beyond these basic requirements, fierce admissions competition not unlike that related to college admission or application to a graduate degree program will impact the dental school that you ultimately enter into. Factors such as grades, test scores, letters of recommendation and performance in entrance interviews will shape the admissions process and determine the degree of latitude that you have in choosing the right dental school for your needs and professional aspirations.
Santiago also advises that there are steps which one can take preemptively to improve the chances of having this freedom of choice. Accordingly, Santiago, "to improve your chances of success and acceptance into dental school, [dental education professional] Tammy Davenport also recommends volunteering or working in a dental office in high school and college, to increase your understanding of the field and help you obtain real life experience that may even transfer into your coursework and testing." (Santiago 1)
Following education, you must acquire your license to practice. Each state offers its own licensing program and its uniquely administered set of standards. For instance, According to the Office of the Professions (OP), the state of New York administers licenses and provides the following specifications to those wishing to qualify: "be of good moral character; be at least 21 years of age; meet education requirements; meet examination requirements; meet experience requirements; and complete coursework or training in the identification and reporting of child abuse offered by a New York State approved provider." (1)
Once you have achieved this licensing, the opportunities for practicing are considerable. This is because there is a great demand for new dentists today and there is, additionally, evidence that this demand will only continue to grow in the coming years. Seizing this opportunity in the way that best suits your needs and professional aspirations will be a great determinant of success. As Santiago notes, "according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dentists are in demand in the workforce. The field is expected to grow by 16% through 2018, which is considered 'faster than average'. Three out of four dentists are solo practitioners. Therefore many dentists, about 30% or more, are also self-employed, as owners or partial owners of their own business, a dental practice. Very few dentists work in a hospital setting. According to the BLS, about dentists held about 141,000 jobs, and about 15% of dentists are specialists." (Santiago 1)
The growth in demand for private practice dentistry is especially compelling and causes us to consider the implications of starting one's own practice as part and parcel to defining success. This is an important point to consider because opening one's own practice substantially expands upon the professional demands and attendant challenges facing the dentist. In addition to the challenges that are inherent to the dental practice, which can include not just treatment but also the complexities of navigating insurance law and healthcare system bureaucracy, one who runs one's own practice must also function as a business administrator.
This is why the most successful private practice dentists are those who can assemble a staff with the skill, knowledge and experience to provide critical business management support. This includes management of a staff, coordination with insurance providers and even basic attention to issues of equipment maintenance, schedule coordination and office administration. Santiago indicates that there are common staffing demands that are somewhat standardized throughout the field of practice. According to Santiago, "a dentist typically employs a staff that includes dental hygienists and dental assistants who help provide the basic care such as teeth cleanings, x-rays, and flouride treatments." (1)
Beyond staffing demands, there is also, of course, the demand for capital in order to initiate a practice. This means that like most other businesses, the private dental practice must work to establish patient loyalty, to spread awareness of its presence in a given area and, even in advance of these steps, to ensure that the convergence of location, marketing strategy and operational scale are compatible with a given community. In other words, many dentists will find that their success is not strictly defined by their skills and functions as a dental practitioner but also by their capacity to oversee or delegate the oversight of a dental office. Choosing the right scale and scope given your resources and growth ambitions can be very important is shaping the path ahead.
Of course, as Santiago notes, a dental practice is like any other business. The ability to achieve consistency, stability and success depends as much on the ability to court and retain…