November 2, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
University of New England
Florida National University
University of Illinois at Chicago
Spokane Community College
University of Michigan School of Dentistry
The Ohio State University
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s
NADL- National Association of Dental Laboratories
Dona Ana Community College
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
University of New England
College of Dental Medicine
Oliver Keefer DDS: Several skills may help to highlight a dentist's abilities when looking at a basic resume. These skills may help demonstrate an experience level with many unique dental procedures, including expertise in molar endodontics (root canals), dental implant surgical placement and restoration, and familiarity with removable prosthetics (dentures and partial dentures). Previous training and exposure to digital dentistry (CAD/CAM in particular) are often considered a positive, as it helps to show the dentist is current with the most recent advances in the field. Completion of a post-graduate level program beyond the standard four-year dental education, such as an Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) or a General Practice Residency (GPR), is another factor that may help bolster a dentist's job opportunities within a competitive applicant pool.
Oliver Keefer DDS: As with many other career fields, communication skill is a major factor in a dentist's ability to excel. High levels of effective communication allow a dentist to treat various patients and work in a small-team environment with dental auxiliary staff. A dentist should be comfortable dealing with anxious patients while showing compassion, empathy, and patience daily. If they can lead other team members as well as have an understanding of delegation of work tasks and responsibilities, they will be more likely to build a strong clinical team. Finally, strong time management habits and basic business skills will make a dentist more likely to become a productive and effective clinician (and potential small-business owner).
Oliver Keefer DDS: The technical skills are introduced while in dental school and are honed over many years of practice. A newly graduated dentist should be competent in common restorative procedures (fillings, crowns, etc.), have a general understanding of basic surgical technique (tooth extraction, gum surgery, wound healing, etc.), and treat patients who require removable prosthetics. A new dentist should also be comfortable treating children and geriatric patients. Dentists will need excellent treatment planning and radiographic interpretation knowledge, and satisfactory hand skill that allows for detailed, precise, and exacting procedures. Although not a technical skill, dentists need to think analytically and methodically, with experience reading and understanding scientific and clinical journals.
Oliver Keefer DDS: Owning a private practice often leads to the most income potential but also carries more risk and responsibility for the dentist. This career choice requires the dentist to possess excellent clinical skills and be comfortable running a business and leading/managing other employees and staff. This was a common path for dentists in previous decades, but the group practice model has become much more common in the dental field over the past twenty years. Within a group practice model, a dentist may find a suitable work-life balance and still earn a healthy income without the burden of being a sole provider in a small clinic. Rapidly rising student debt levels have also affected how a dentist chooses to practice upon graduation, and some dentists may find themselves delaying the purchase or start-up of their own clinic as a result. Dentistry is still an attractive and rewarding career, and income levels are strong compared to many alternative career options.
School of Dentistry
Scott Radniecki: The short-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on new dental graduate employment are substantial. For many patients, dental care was neglected over the past year. Many dental offices are still in a recovery mode and are not yet ready, or busy enough, to add an associate or additional dentist. Jobs that were possible a year ago may have disappeared. Practicing dentists who may have been considering selling their practice and retiring may be prolonging their retirement date. Many of our current senior dental students are getting part-time offers of 3-4 days/week instead of 5 full work days. Starting salaries or guarantees are lower than in years past. With delays in construction and budget-cuts, many corporate dental offices have fewer available jobs, many of which go to newer graduates. It's hard to know what the long-term effects of the pandemic on the dental profession will be.
Scott Radniecki: A "good job" right out of dental school depends very much on the individual and what they value: some of our graduates join a private practice as an associate, some buy an existing practice, some work in public health or join the military, while others go to residencies to specialize. Every dental job is quite unique unto itself. The three main criteria I encourage students to evaluate when looking at a job opportunity are: 1. Will I be busy enough to improve my skills and make enough money to pay student loans? 2. Is the dental treatment philosophy of the office I'm considering joining similar to mine? 3. Are there opportunities for growth, mentorship, and future ownership?
Scott Radniecki: -The earning potential of a new graduate is mostly based on their skill level and efficiency. For an associate dentist right out of school, being able to do more complex procedures and being efficient with your time are the two key factors to increase earning potential. Also, having good report with patients and a great "chairside manner" help with patient retention, and in turn, income potential.
-I encourage all 4th year dental students to get the most out of their dental school experience and to push themselves to get more comfortable with complex dental procedures prior to graduation, such as: extracting wisdom teeth, implant placement, molar root canals, or periodontal surgery. Many students will do externships their 4th year or take continuing education classes to improve their dental skillset. Beyond improvement of your skills and efficiency, the greatest earning potential for a new dentist is to own their office, acting as both dentist and business owner. Owning your office can add work hours outside normal business hours, or take time away from seeing patients, though, which may not be the path chosen for all.
Dr. Yasser Khaled: I don't think there will be a long lasting effect of the pandemic on the graduates. That being said I believe there may be some short term effects including less patient experience which can be compensated by doing an extra year of training like a General practice residency (GPR) program or an Advanced Education in General Dentistry AEGD) programs
There is also the stress and decreased time of personal communication between the students themselves and also with the faculty due to the social distancing guidelines which has made the students feel lonely and isolated..
Dr. Yasser Khaled: I think a GPR or AEGD program or even some continuous education hands on courses can be really helpful.
Dr. Yasser Khaled: I think the most important advice for my graduating students is to be humble and treat thier patients nicely and have good bed side manners and make sure to have a nice rapport with their patients..This might seem to take more time but will pay off on the long term..
Florida National University
Mauricio Restrepo: The pandemic has put more than 450 million people in the United States of America on a pause mode and our students have been no exception! Our students have been in online classes for over 9 months and still are in hybrid classes, indicating that their graduations will be postponed until the practical content of their courses could be finally completed. In reality, I believe that the impact of the pandemic will be remedied over the months and the lives of our students will return to normal.
Mauricio Restrepo: Our students are sent to laboratories to begin their practice in the work force, mostly in entry-level positions, and gradually emerge to positions of greater responsibility, rank and salary.
Mauricio Restrepo: Dental laboratory technology, as its name implies, requires from the student a manual dexterity above the average, knowledge of prosthodontics and artistry, which makes them unique technicians, whose hands speak for them.
Dr. Joel Schwartz: The biggest trend in dental practice is reduced patient flow, and income. This will be worse for practices that have a patient base with low socio-economics.
A loss of income means a reduced staff, less need for supplies and additional services.
In term of public health:
a. Loss of patients leads to less routine care and delay in oral health treatments
CoVID-19, probably has impacted patients seeking routine dental examination. The result of this reduction in early assessment of oral health problems is an expected increase in more advanced oral health issues. This can include increased number of teeth and extension of dental caries while "gum" diseases are worse with more bone loss resulting in more missing teeth
b. Reduction in dental appointments reduces early oral diagnosis of oral health problems leading to worse quality of life but also more deadly systemic diseases (e.g., CoVID-19 infection, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease).
These problems lead to less employment hours and need for more income with an increase part-time employment.
Dr. Joel Schwartz: This question is not usually associated with dental students who rarely take a year off and it is not encouraged. This is in contrast to medical students who can take a year off between the basic science and pathophysiology year and clinical years. This is understandable because of the stress in the first two years of medical school.
Dr. Joel Schwartz: Any student but particularly students in medicine and science needs to be flexible in their goals. To achieve these goals requires achieving a variety of skills and knowledge in science and communication.
Spokane Community College
Department of Allied health
Kammi Whitmire: At this time, no. The number of dental assistants that are currently needed in our community far outweighs how many graduates we have here at Spokane Community College. If anything, the virus has shown us how much need we have in this area. I would say, however, that the rations of PPE have made it more difficult to place students in offices where they can complete clinical hours, but they have all graduated and are easily finding jobs.
Kammi Whitmire: In dentistry, many of the graduates are required to learn quickly, type quickly, have good computer skills, and have very good interpersonal communication skills with all ages of clientele. Students seem to be lacking in communication skills more than the other areas, perhaps because of phones and computers decreasing time spent in face-to-face interactions.
Kammi Whitmire: On a resume, employers really want to see some previous work experience, good interpersonal skills, and character references (at least three).
Stephen Sterlitz: Although many offices report that they are not operating at the same capacity prior to the pandemic, that does not mean the demand for oral health care is decreasing. Concerns about the pandemic might provide patients with a reason to defer procedures to treat dental disease due to a lack of perceived urgency, it does not mean the cause of the dental problem went away. I anticipate that many patients who defer treatment for 12 to 18 months will eventually experience symptoms that will raise the priority of their care from a routine procedure to an urgent procedure. It is logical to expect the trend in the dental profession will get busier in the next 18 to 24 months treating the conditions that have been progressing during this pandemic.
Stephen Sterlitz: The pandemic disrupted dental education AND the practice of dentistry across the country. The characteristic that would stand out on a resume during these unprecedented times would be the applicant who actively sought additional training and certifications during the pandemic. There are professional organizations and private sources of continuing education that provide learning continuums and certificates of completion that can now be earned online. Whether it is dental implant training, diode laser training, or 100-hours of continuing education credit - the applicant who sought out additional learning opportunities to grow their skill and experience will be the applicant who differentiates themselves from the others.
Stephen Sterlitz: I am biased with this question because I am a retired Naval Dental Corps Officer. I feel the military, public health service, or rural dentistry programs provide the recent graduate with both the training they need to grow their experience and confidence as well as offer a practice opportunity without the pressures of the business aspect of the profession. The most important thing a recent graduate can do is get repetitions doing the clinical procedures needed to provide comprehensive dental care. Although many cosmopolitan markets are saturated with dentists, patients have a way of finding practices that offer exceptional care.
The Ohio State University
College of Dentistry
Homa Amini: Many dental practices had to close or operate at a limited capacity when COVID hit the U.S. This made it difficult for new graduates to practice at their full capacity. COIVD also limited access to dental care for children, and we now have a backlog of patients needing dental care. Pediatric dentists in my community are slammed. So in one sense, the job market is good for a graduating pediatric dentist who wants to start their own practice. Interests and rents are low which helps. However, the overhead cost has gone up due to increased cost of PPE (and other mitigating factors) and there is uncertainty around economy which may lead to lower dental spending.
For those looking for an associateship position, it may be harder to join a smaller practice that is not running at full capacity yet.
With the number of COVID cases rising, the full impact of COVID on dental workforce and dental needs remain to be seen.
Homa Amini: More than ever, new graduates need effective communication skills. COVID has changed the way we practice, which may be different than what patients expect. In addition to traditional skills, they need advanced skills such as technology awareness and quality assessment. For example, telehealth is gaining momentum, and teledentistry will be another tool in dentists' toolbox to help their patients. With COVID, there is the rapid emergence of new science and, at times, the overload of information. The new graduates need to be able to keep up to date with the latest guidelines and, at the same time, be able to sift through information that lacks evidence (especially when the national guidelines are not clear or missing and there is an overload of information on the internet without evidence to back them up). New graduates need to have good coping skills and be flexible. Currently, there is added stress due to the COVID pandemic and future uncertainties. Issues with dental staffing due to COVID quarantine can be challenging and stressful. Also, there is a lot of stress on patients and families to consider when providing dental care.
Homa Amini: Typically smaller population communities are good places for new pediatric dentists and particularly those that are geographically located in Midwest.
Homa Amini: They will practice smarter and have a broader sense of practice. Dentistry implemented many good infection control measures after the AIDS epidemic, and with COVID, there will be even more safety protocols in place.
Paul Casamassimo: The dental workforce is increasingly a worker versus an owner model, and compared to previous years, a graduate can expect to work for another dentist or a corporate entity, rather than set up shop. This is an advantage because, in many areas, density per capita is already optimal, and beginning from scratch is more difficult. The opportunities for employment will be there, as this year's graduate may be riding the crest of the retiring baby boomer dentists. The ability to advance in the field is also still there in corporate or group practice employment pathways, so a dentist may have managerial opportunities that a historic solo practice might not have offered.
Graduating dentists will leave an educational system based on more limited traditional technical skills and enter a practice world that is more digital and technologically advanced and have to continue learning on the job. Teledentistry, integrated health records, more medically complex patients, the world of third-party payers, and more advanced dental techniques, like implants, await new dentists upon graduation. Continuous education will be a part of professional life.
Past generations of dentists entered a relatively stable system and simply needed to refine skills and gain experience in a set of clinical and management procedures that didn't change much over a practice lifetime. Like most aspects of society and work, advances meant to improve care and efficiency are now a part of the normal acceleration of the changing work environment. Team dentistry with different partners, new restorative materials, emerging biological and technological changes mean that the environment they enter, described above, is not only ahead of what they left in their training, but a moving target.
In addition to the demands of a technical surgical field, dentists now must be able to manage the disease without instruments, and understand how human behavior intersects with health and disease, as well as how cultural mores and health literacy work in individual patients. Precision dentistry, based on individual needs, will dominate patient-doctor relationships. A dentist is uniquely a surgeon and primary care health professional at the same time. A dentist is also a team leader, directing personnel in both clinical and administrative roles.
New dentists enter the system heavily in debt, with demands of family and other pressures that can affect their work lives. Their work lives are increasingly regulated and controlled by science and government. Marketing and quality measurement, including social media opinions, are a part of practice today and will increase. The days of "rugged individualism" in dentistry are coming to an end, and success will be determined by the application of management skills, communication, long-term outcomes, and demonstration of quality as well as the traditional benchmark of painless dentistry.
Paul Casamassimo: Teledentistry, integrated health records, more medically complex patients, the world of third-party payers, and more advanced dental techniques, like implants, await new dentists upon graduation. Continuous education will be a part of professional life-team dentistry with different partners, new restorative materials, emerging biological and technological changes. Dentists now must be able to manage the disease without instruments, and understand how human behavior intersects with health and disease, as well as how cultural mores and health literacy work in individual patients. Precision dentistry, based on individual needs, will dominate patient-doctor relationships. A dentist is uniquely a surgeon and primary care health professional at the same time. A dentist is also a team leader directing personnel in both clinical and administrative roles.
Paul Casamassimo: Midwest, smaller communities.
Paul Casamassimo: Yes, practices will have to use an enhanced type of infection control, be ready for exacerbations in infection from some other virus, have to have a disaster plan for the next problem (flood, fire, violence/looting), and some public skepticism on the risk of infection from dental care and their desire for remote dentistry.
Dr. Mary-Jane Hanlon: For dentists, they will need to understand more fully and become proficient quickly with the latest technology. While the academic institutions find it hard to keep up with technology as it is so expensive, the privacy practices and group practices out there are all over the latest technology. It provides ease of use, increased efficiencies, and decreased overhead costs.
Dr. Mary-Jane Hanlon: It is an area with access to care issues or a lower dentist for dentistry: patient ratio. For example, in New England, where I am from, while most of Massachusetts is flooded with dentists, we can't find enough young dentists who want to be in Western Massachusetts. It is locations like this and northern Maine and New Hampshire.
Dr. Mary-Jane Hanlon: Technology has been increasingly impacting dentistry for the past ten years. The most significant impact has been the past five or so due to improvements in impression taking, implant diagnosis, and treatment planning, and interacting more effectively and efficiently with our laboratories who fabricate crowns and dentures.
Bennett Napier: Laboratories, like many sectors, had to do layoffs or furloughs from March to mid-May. Most of our data show that June - early September were record months compared to 2019, which is probably based on patients' pent-up demand. Most labs are back to at least 85% of their March workforce's given production needs. Expect it will continue to climb over the next six months.
Bennett Napier: 3D printing is the technology of the day. The integration of 3D printing is coming fast, and total integration will likely occur within a 5-7 year timespan, compared to CAD-CAM milling, which took nearly 20 years for full integration. The aspect of digital dentistry (digital design, 3D printing, and milling) has attracted new individuals into the profession and also expanded the skill set for what labs are looking for when they recruit new candidates. It's generally exciting to start the occupation.
Dona Ana Community College
Dental Assistant Program
Martha McCaslin: New graduates from Dental Assisting Programs will need to know and understand infection control guidelines (upside down and backward!!), the chain of infection (and how to disrupt it), CDC Guidelines/Recommendations for Infection Control in Dentistry.
They also need to know that they will be required to wear more PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) than before, and must understand the importance of adequately donning and doffing this attire - to protect themselves and their patients, co-workers, and family members.
Martha McCaslin: Opportunities are boundless. They can find employment locally or globally, depending upon their desire. The field of dental assisting opens doors to working in a general dentistry office and dental specialties, VA Clinics, Indian Health Services, and a host of other employers.
Martha McCaslin: Technology in dentistry is evolving rapidly. I foresee this continuing and becoming an increasingly significant portion of dental assisting students' education. Many current uses have advanced dentistry ranging from digital radiographs to milling a crown in an office, from laser equipment to the potential for Artificial Intelligence and robotics. The prospects are endless. However, with that being said, there is still a HUGE necessity for the human element and contact in dentistry, so educating our students on communication skills as well as patient care skills is always of utmost concern.
Dr. Katie Dinh: If I am an employer looking to hire a newly graduated dentist, especially those who graduated during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, I would want to ensure that the associate dentist is competent. I would also like to know how the job candidate adapted to the interruption in their training, due to the pandemic, and their attitude toward the changes that need to be implemented by the government and the school. Attitude and professionalism are more critical to an employer than the work experience, specifically, when it involves new graduates. The employer understands that a new dentist's knowledge is limited to what they must complete while in school.
Dr. Katie Dinh: I would say enhancement in business acumen will be the skills recommended. If the graduate takes a gap year, he/she may not have the opportunity to enhance any dental skills or procedures. If he/she joins a residency program such as AEGD (advanced education in general dentistry), that does not constitute the person taking a gap year.
Dr. Katie Dinh: In my opinion, CAD/CAM and 3-D printing technology will become more commonplace in the area. CAD/CAM has been in development and application for the past decade, and the technologies involved have improved significantly, while the prices are becoming somewhat more affordable. Patients are also more aware of the available "same-day crown," and insurance carriers are more willing to reimburse. 3-D printing is still somewhat in its infancy, and the associated costs prohibit widespread usage. However, in 3-5 years, 3-D printing will become more important and prevalent as it may help reduce lab costs and labor costs.
Mario Alemagno: I do believe that there will. Infection control has always been a point of emphasis in all dental programs. The coronavirus has reinforced this with students and has made them respect the necessity of this imperative part of their education and, ultimately, their practice. This is not likely to be forgotten. On a broader level, it has taught them to be prepared and to adapt to changes that may take place in the way they perform their dentistry and how they run their dental practices.
Mario Alemagno: The coronavirus pandemic may have improved, what I believe, has always been a good professional field opportunity. The need for good dental care is everywhere. I don't believe any single place can be selected over another. Many veteran dentists were making their decision to retire or sell their practices with all the changes to PPE's and increased time-consuming infection control procedures that are now necessary. This makes it all that much more exciting for graduating dentists. The education the students now get prepares them for this. Knowing this makes them more comfortable in their future endeavors.
Mario Alemagno: Dentistry continues to advance, allowing dentists to be more effective, efficient, and to provide more options for the patients. I expect that 5 years from now, there will be things currently unavailable, making dental care better for both the practicing dentists and the patients. Treatment that once took weeks, can now be done in a few hours. This is a very exciting time for dentistry.