Do you know what you’re getting into?
The profession you are about to enter is hard – it’s physically and emotionally demanding. Very few of the people that you call customers will enjoy seeing you during the workday. You often have the obligation to comfort patients who are experiencing moderate to severe discomfort without the benefit of sedation. The perceived value of a healthy dentition is significantly less than we like to believe, and the average compensation of the general dentist is now stagnant but has been in decline since 2007.
Iâ€™m writing this because there is a new dental school opening in El Paso and this video of Anthony Bourdain opining on culinary school strikes a cord.
A handful of new dental schools have opened in the last decade. These new schools are interesting and probably cash flow machines. For instance, a class of 100 would provide a guaranteed cash flow of more than 6.5M if tuition was 65k per year. Four years after opening, they are looking at 26M per year in tuition alone. Couple that with campus housing, bookstore sales, supplies, patient care and all the other things associated with these facilities, and they are legitimate money makers for an institution. A strong argument can be made that there is no need for an additional dental school; especially a school in Texas. The shortage of dentists in West Texas is not due to a lack of a dental school. Likewise, the shortage of dentists in small towns across the US is not due to a nation-wide shortage of dentists.
If we need more dentists to practice in West Texas, dental schools need to accept more students from West Texas who show an interest in returning home to practice. Dentists do not necessarily live and practice in urban environments because these environments are more economical or appealing; we practice in these environments because it is where we are from.
Hereâ€™s a solution for West Texas. For the new dental school in El Paso, half the class should be from El Paso and the other half of the class should be from other towns in West Texas (the smaller the town, the more appealing the applicant should be). In 6-8 years, there will be more than enough dentists to support the West half of the state.
RIP Anthony Bourdain.
There’s a new dental school in El Paso slated to open in the Fall of 2021. Our profession seems to have the belief that if a school opens in a city, the region will see an influx of dentists that stay in the area after graduation. Has any research been done to prove that this hypothesis is true?
El Paso is an odd choice for a city to put a dental school in because the city is barely growing (0.03% from 2016-2017…https://www.opendatanetwork.com/â€¦/demographics.population.câ€¦). If West Texas was a desirable place to live, it would be saturated with dentists – just as almost every desirable metro and suburb have more dentists than the population needs.
My bet is that two decades from now, there will not be enough dentists in West Texas despite the school’s opening. There will be more dentists in Dallas, Houston, and Austin though.
In my opinion, the easiest way to increase the number of dentists practicing in West Texas is to actually accept students who grew up living in West Texas. The smaller the town, the more favorable the applicant. It will almost be impossible to convince a student who is accepted to this school to stay in the region when she grew up in New York City. The solution to access to care is to actually accept kids from the places that need the care, as students tend to move “home” when they graduate.