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What if you couldn’t practice clinical dentistry anymore?

The possibility of ever having a disability no doubt seems at best a remote possibility to most dental students, new dentists and even practicing dentists. But, disability happens—not often, but if you are the one it happens to, it can be devastating.

Clinical dentistry is physically demanding in some very specific ways. Backs, necks, shoulders, wrists and hands that for some reason are vulnerable to injury may be challenged by a combination of position, repetitive motion, stress, and even leisure activities. Some impairments—a fine tremor, for example—would not be disabling for another kind of work, but may prove to be that for a dentist.

Some disabilities are temporary, and others permanent. The challenge for dentists who find themselves in this situation is to look for the possibilities in what may seem to be impossible circumstances. The ADA can help you with this!

  • Career Options 
  • Practice Transition or Closure 
  • Staying Connected 
  • Insurance 
  • Looking for Diagnosis-Specific Information? 

    Career Options

    Could a temporary dental placement service help you keep your practice open and viable while you make a long-term decision about it?

    • Some dentists have formed ‘co-ops’ to cover each other’s practices if the worst should happen. The ADA offers “Guidelines for the Development of Mutual Aid Agreements in Dentistry”, included in a booklet of practice management materials that can be ordered by calling 312-440-2895 or ext. 2895 on the ADA member toll-free number ($10 members, $15 non-members).
    • Your state dental society may have information about dentists who are available to do short-term practice coverage in your area.

    Who might be able to help you think creatively about ways to reshape your career so as to capitalize on your internal resources and the rich experiences you’ve had?

    • Does your dental school have a career placement service available to alumni that could be a resource?
    • What about calling your state dental society to see if they can help you network with another dentist with a disability?
    • Would you be interested in combining your dental background with other expertise you may have, such as in research and teaching, dental consulting for an insurance company or a dental manufacturer, or public policy development and administration on oral health care?
      • Visit the new ADA website "Alternative Dental Careers." This website provides assistance to ADA members and resources for contacting organizations, companies and agencies. It includes job search preparation tools, a personal assessment form, and career options in several categories. 
    • Would additional education open some doors for you?
      • No-interest retraining loans are available through the ADA Foundation. Get more information online or by calling 312-440-2763 or ext. 2763 on the ADA member toll-free number.

    Could you continue dental practice by using adaptive equipment or adapt physically through retraining?

    • Have a professional evaluation of your functional capacity or activities of daily living, and learn skills for adapting. Large medical centers have such resources or your physician can provide a referral.

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    Practice Transition or Closure

    The ADA has resources to assist dentists with a variety of practice transition issues.

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    Staying Connected

    Becoming disabled, even if you have to leave clinical practice, doesn’t mean you’re no longer a dentist! The ADA offers a Dues Waiver Form for continued membership to eligible disabled dentists. Completed forms go first to the local dental society for review and approval. Approved applications are sent to the state society. The state society then sends it for final processing by the ADA. Information on how to apply is available from your state association. Or you may obtain online the Dues Waiver form needed by your local society to determine your eligibility.

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    Insurance

    For information on a variety of insurance issues, see the resources available from the Insurance Matters section of this site. You may also call the Council Members Insurance and Retirement Programs at 312-440-2885.

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    Looking for Diagnosis-Specific Information?

    Diagnosis-specific information is now widely available through the internet.

    • National Library of Medicine
      The National Library of Medicine indexes thousands of medical and life science journals (PubMed).
      • Call the ADA Library at 312-440-2653 or or ext. 2653 on the ADA member toll-free number for assistance in using PubMed or in obtaining journal articles.
    • Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
      The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is a premier source for information on disability diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and support.
    • Arthritis Resources 
      Resources and additional links about arthritis.
    • Parkinson’s Disease Foundation
      The Parkinson's Disease Foundation is a leading national presence in Parkinson's disease research, patient education and public advocacy.
    • Many  medical schools have websites with information for the public. As an example, see www.mayoclinic.com.

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