A large percentage of Dentists follow a traditional career path and join or open a private practice. Working in a group or solo practice is a great career choice. It allows you to gain experience and develop your skills, but working in private practice is not the only way to go. There are also additional career options for dentists, which you may not have considered. Whether you’re a new graduate just considering options or are an experienced dentist interested in something new, consider some of the non-traditional practice settings listed below.
Public Health Dentistry: If you want to reach a large number of people, one interesting path some dentists take is working in Public Health. County, state, and federal agencies, such as the United States Department of Health and Human Services, may hire dentists to work in public health.
The type of work public health dentists do may vary, based on the agency for which they work. Typical responsibilities may include developing Dental health policies for different populations and conducting dental health surveillance programs. Some public health dentists provide services, such as dental education, to underserved populations. Dentists interested in public health dentistry may want to consider a public health dental residency or fellowship. Although not mandatory, dual degree programs are also available, which combine a master’s degree in public health with a dental degree.
Dental Research: Experienced dentists who are looking for a new challenge may want to consider working in research. Dental research offers opportunities for dentists to be involved in various types of procedures and technology that impacts a large patient population. For example, researchers may be involved in developing new ways to improve patient care through the use of lasers or other technology. Dental researchers may find employment opportunities at universities and organizations, such as The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Dental Clinics: One unique opportunity for dentists is working in mobile clinics and community outreach programs. These dentists may be employed through government programs and non-profit agencies.
Dentists who choose this path may work with underserved populations, such as low-income patients, homeless individuals, or children. The types of responsibilities are similar to a dentist in private practice, including treating gum disease, repairing damaged teeth, and providing preventative care. Dentists who enjoy patient care but do not want the administrative responsibilities of being part of a practice may enjoy working in a dental clinic.
Academia: Working in academics allows dentists to combine patient care, research, and teaching into one job. Dentists who are employed as faculty members at dental schools have a chance to shape future generations of dental professionals. Since there are only so many dental schools throughout the country, there may not be a large number of opportunities in academia. Generally speaking, part-time faculty positions may be easier to find.
Hospital Dentistry: Although dentists most commonly work in solo or group practices, they are also needed in hospitals. Hospital dentistry involves providing dental care to hospitalized patients. In many instances, it involves emergency care to people who have medical conditions or physical limitations that prevent them from going to a dental office. Hospital dentists may have a wide variety of responsibilities, such as providing dental clearances for patients who need head and neck radiation, chemotherapy, or transplant surgery. They also provide dental consults for patients in the emergency room who have dental trauma. Hospital dentists also may go to the operation room to perform dental procedures on special needs children. Internships and residencies are available in hospital dentistry. As part of the training, hospital dentists learn how to provide dental care to medically compromised patients.