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Greg Brown, 28, is a third-year dental student at Midwestern University (MU). The Richland, WA, native looked to dentistry as “an ideal blend of interacting with people, creativity, the healthcare field, entrepreneurship and work/family balance.”
Ellen Hoffman, 26, graduated this spring from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston. With her parents both in dentistry — her father is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and her mother is a dental hygienist — Dr. Hoffman has an undeniable dental lineage, though she says with a laugh that she had to overcome her “rebel child” instincts to pursue a dental career.
Becky Kendrick is a fourth-year student at UIC College of Dentistry who grew up in La Grange. “When I was young,” she explained, “I admired my dentist because we shared the same name, but as I got older and actively researched what being a dentist entailed, I found that dentistry is a profession that exquisitely weaves together interests that I have been developing my entire life: art, science and interpersonal relations.”
Bryce Larson, 28, grew up in Arlington Heights without a thought of pursuing dentistry, particularly without family members in the healthcare field. But after his freshman year at Ohio Wesleyan University, he spent some time observing his family dentist and was hooked.
Ben Youel, a resident at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, graduated in May from UIC’s College of Dentistry. The oldest of five and raised by two teachers in Crystal Lake, Dr. Youel, 27, is the only person in his family circle to pursue a dental career. “I chose dentistry because the dentists I saw growing up were more than ‘just dentists,’ he said. “They were community leaders, volunteer soccer coaches, supportive fathers, etc. I knew that I wanted to be a well-rounded professional, community member and father (some day). I decided that dentistry would be a great path toward that future.”
GB: I can definitely see balancing work and life as a large concern within dentistry for dental students and new dentists. I believe establishing a solid, return client base is as challenging as ever with how competitive everything is becoming in dentistry. There are many pressures to having a successful practice besides just providing quality dental care. Some of this stems from aggressive advertising: dentistry is being treated more as a commodity than healthcare with Groupons, billboard ads and discounts. I understand how increased prices and a struggling economy lead many Americans to look for the best deal, not necessarily the best care. Not that you can’t have both, but as with almost everything in life, you get what you pay for.
EH: I feel that the work/life balance has been put on hold since I started dental school. I'm hoping that after I find a stable job, it will improve somewhat.
BK: As with any dental student, facing the challenge of a work/life balance has been an ongoing battle, and we are sure to be much better at it than when we started dental school! Working hard right out of dental school is to be expected but more than likely we have been working hard all of our lives; entering the working world should not change our outlook or ability to establish balance.
BL: Balancing work and life might not be the top concern for dental students, but it is certainly a big issue, even just for the singular worry surrounding our debt load. As graduates, we face a huge debt load and have to start repaying those loans in the midst of finding a practice, settling into an associateship, maintaining relationships with family and friends, buying a house, paying off a car, etc. It would be easy to focus on work, lose sight of the other things in life, and practice countless hours just to pay off loans. In that sense, balancing work with the other things in life becomes critical to maintain health and sanity!
BY: I agree that work-life balance is important to dental students and new dentists; I believe it's important to all people. I expect dentistry to allow me to strive for this balance. Never in my life have I wanted to be just one thing, so I someday hope to be a dentist, a father, a husband, a coach and a community leader. We'll see if dentistry takes me there.
GB: One of the biggest issues I see in dentistry right now is access to care for many Americans. There are many barriers to care for patients, and this is only going to worsen. The way our healthcare system is currently structured, those who are in the most need of dental care do not have any means to receive it. With the exception of children, the Affordable Care Act largely ignores dental care for adults. This in addition to the fact that many states and employers have been scaling back on dental benefits is going to make regular dental visits and preventative care very difficult for many.
EH: I suspect the current changes in healthcare will seep into the dental world fairly soon. The paradox of our excessive loans and the underserved areas in the country will continue to be a problem. The economy in general will continue to have an effect on the dental community. We are a profession that strives so hard to be preventative, but when no one can afford to do that, we see the prevention opportunity slipping away.
BK: Aside from the huge issues of student loan debt and access to care, the transition into digital dentistry is a definite challenge now and will continue to be in the future. Technology is developing so fast and the merging of it into the office does not seem to be as quick. Dentists today did not grow up in this digital age and it is and will be intimidating to incorporate this into an office.
BL: I think that access to care will always be the biggest issue. Even the proposed solutions for access to care pose different problems: midlevel providers, Medicare and other insurance programs, even loan forgiveness programs all pose challenges to dentistry. Additionally, I think the ever-changing environment of healthcare will challenge the profession, particularly with a growing trend related to the idea of interprofessional health care, something we’ve been incorporating at Midwestern. The idea behind it stems from the overlapping roles for all health professionals and aims to improve the way care is delivered. As a result, the scope of practice for dentistry may change and the way we deliver care may change as well.
BY: I think the two biggest challenges for dentistry are the cost of dental education and the issue of access to care. It's tough to deny that financial realities are large motivators for new dentists (even if they aren't the number one motivator). This is definitely contributing to the evolving practice models. I'm also worried that the cost of dental education is so high that it may preclude people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds from pursuing a career in dentistry. This is where the cost of dental education meets the issue of access to dental care. The diversity of the dental workforce is tied to how effectively we can treat the diverse U.S. population. The public concern about dental access is really changing the profession. The push to increase access to care is changing our laws and policies, it's morphing dental education models and it's leading to alternative dental workforce discussions. Dentistry is attempting to lead the charge toward increasing dental access. However, it's a constant struggle to stay on the same page as policy makers and to guide the discussion toward an ideal outcome for our patients.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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