Getting off to a good start early in a young dentist’s career is important. Obtaining a dental license is just the first step in a long list of things that a new dentist needs to do after graduation, and unless you have a dentist in the family, it can be very difficult to make sure you are on the right path.

After graduation, you need to have a plan that puts you on a path to success. In general there are four options after graduation:

  1. Enter the workforce.
  2. Complete an AEGD or GPR.
  3. Complete a Specialty Program.
  4. Begin a service obligation (Armed Services or Civilian).

Today, we’ll focus on those who choose to enter the workforce immediately after dental school or completed an AEGD or GPR prior to joining the workforce.

The majority of students who enter the workforce become associate dentists. These associates are sometimes classified as employees and sometimes they are classified as independent contractors. All else being equal, it is superior to be a W2 employee. If you are a 1099 independent contractor, negotiate at least a 3% higher daily rate to account for the additional taxes you’ll be subject to. If you are a 1099 contractor, you need to discuss your employment status with your CPA who will be able to tell you how much of your paycheck you need to set aside for taxes.

As soon as you receive your dental license, purchase malpractice insurance and apply to obtain your DEA license. You do not need to wait to actually receive your DEA license to begin practicing dentistry, but you do need to have malpractice insurance in place. With a dental license and malpractice insurance, you are ready to secure employment and begin planning your career and retirement plans.

At this point in your career, if you have not yet purchased own occupation disability insurance, strongly consider doing so now. Full-time clinical dentistry is very difficult on our bodies and our ability to practice efficiently is highly dependent on our health. An accident that results in even a minor injury can significantly decrease our earning power, and few of us have the experience or the skills to earn a similar compensation in a different profession since we have invested so much time and energy preparing to be dentists.

If you are an independent contractor, open a business checking account in your name. Citibank provides free business checking for physicians and dentists. I’m sure many other banks do the same.

After you begin earning a living and have discussed your classification (W2 vs 1099) with your CPA, you should discuss tax planning with your CPA to take advantage of tax sheltered accounts such as an IRA, 401k, HSA, 529 plans etc. From here, maximize your retirement contributions as you evaluate your student loans…

[To be continued in part II.]

If you’re a new dentist that’s trying to find resources to get on the right path, doctors Paul Goodman and Greg Charles are hosting the first ever Dental Boost CE event in Philadelphia, PA next month (August 2018). The event is sold out, but virtual tickets are available so anyone can tune in to the live stream. If you buy a virtual ticket, you’ll also have access to the recorded version as soon as it’s released. You can learn more about the program at, but because I work with Paul and Greg often, you can save $100 when you buy the course here.