Letters: Dentists' earnings
April 18, 2016
I read with great interest the article "Health Policy Institute: Dentists' Earnings Remaining Stagnant
" in the Jan. 18 issue of the ADA News. How astounding! Let us dissect and analyze the uncomfortable reasons for this. I thank Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., for his honesty. If the schools keep producing and flooding the market with new dentists, even the blind can see that incomes will not rise. Supply and demand, remember? In addition to this, we have done our job so well that there is not such a great demand for our services. This author has been in practice for over 40 years. Whereas I have seen 30-40 decayed surfaces every year, I now see perhaps one each year, which has largely been helped by sealants. I realize after speaking to several dentists at the Greater New York meeting in December 2015, that there are dentists from Wyoming and South Dakota who have huge incomes from dentistry. However, there are so few dentists in these areas, that this is an extreme anomaly. In addition to which, I realize that their populations are not overflowing. For the dentist from cities with a population of over 500,000, be careful, if you sneeze, you will hit five to six dentists close by. Practically speaking, we cannot expect dentists to move to these very frozen areas.
Many schools have changed their names to honor a benefactor, and that is nice; however, it will not give the entering dental student any better rung up the income ladder. In addition to all of this, there are some "educators" who charge large fees to educate young dentists in exotic procedures with techniques that the average consumer cannot afford, even with financing help.
Now, to address the Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis that dentists topped the list of best jobs in 2016: We wonder who led this faulty analysis by this agency? Yes, low unemployment and for some a healthy work/life balance is a priority. As far as orthodontics is concerned, which tops the list, it seems that this is the one field where incomes will rise, since orthodontics deals with facial development, although the use of clear braces has altered the orthodontic landscape.
So, where are we going with this profession, which gives justified awards to people whose pictures are in our journals that we continually see? To the point, I believe that we have to cut down to one-half of the graduating students. Their debt is enormous, and it will be years until they can make up their debt and pay for the new machines that are foisted upon them by aggressive salespeople. I also believe that some of these benefactors, who have their names on the dental school buildings, could subsidize the tuitions for some of these students. In addition to all of this, since the economy looks so bad, many older practitioners who would have retired at 65-70 years of age, are choosing to continue working, and therefore they serve to pick up some of the crumbs in this scenario. Of course, the insurance industries realize this and cut down the reimbursements of dentists almost at their will, again because the dentists will accept almost anything to remain competitive. Not a very comforting thought.
In sum, while dentistry remains a noble, well-respected profession that should be pursued by those who "love to do what they do best and also are good in what they love to do," it is a cautionary tale, albeit a somewhat pessimistic tale, to those who may choose dentistry without the knowledge that dental incomes may remain stagnant for the foreseeable future.
Marvin Grossman, D.D.S.
Port Washington, New York