Practice Options

As you prepare to graduate from dental school, you will need to decide whether you would like to continue your education in a post-graduate or residency program or if you would like to start working. There are benefits to both options and it is a personal choice as to which is the best route for you.

Post-graduate programs

According to a 2016 survey of dental school seniors by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), 33.8% of students go into a post-doctoral dental program. The following are benefits of continuing your education through a post-graduate program:

  • Pursue a specialty. If you would like to specialize in orthodontics, pediatrics, oral surgery or any of the other various specialties, you are required to complete a post-graduate program in your area of specialty. The length and practice setting varies by program. Read more information on finding and selecting a program.
  • Expand your general dentistry training. Residents in general dentistry (AEGD or GPR) often receive advanced training in other areas, such as endodontics and oral surgery. Residents may complete rotations in other specialties.
  • Gain proficiency, speed and confidence in the procedures you perform under the guidance of an experienced faculty member.
  • Experience living in a different area of the country to determine if that’s where you would like to practice permanently.
  • Develop communications and treatment skills with patients, other faculty and dentists.

Private practice

Over half of graduating students go into private practice. Of all new dentists in private practice, about 42 percent become associates in an existing solo practice, 23 percent are employed in a group practice, 14.5 percent are employed in a corporate-owned practice, 15 percent purchase or establish a new practice and 4 percent are independent contractors, according to ADEA’s 2016-17 Snapshot of Dental Education. Some of the benefits of going right into practice include:

  • Start to earn a paycheck right away and begin paying back your school loans.
  • Expand clinical experience and opportunities to build a patient base.
  • Learn the craft of dentistry without having to take a large financial risk.
  • Ample job opportunities since majority of job openings are for associates.
  • Experience at multiple practice setting options, especially if working as independent consultant at several practices.
  • Flexibility to live and work where you would like.
  • Employee benefits such as paid continuing education, insurance, vacation and membership dues in organized dentistry.

Alternatives to traditional practice

Some new graduates choose a non-traditional career path and work in settings, such as community health clinics, academia, hospitals, insurance companies, the military, government facilities, etc. Find more information on these alternative career paths.