It’s a difficult, stressful and physically demanding job being a dentist. Given that it’s tiring and sometimes a bit boring (through repetition), I think there’s a strong case for doing less clinical dentistry but organising your clinical days carefully. So that when you do have your gloves on you are maximising your productivity and therefore your income.
How much time you can comfortably spend doing dentistry (and still have the energy for the rest of your life) is probably somewhere between 28 and 34 clinical hours a week. This will require some non-clinical time too and translates into four to four-and-a-half days a week. And then you need to go and look at the horizon for a while and stretch your eyes! In my experience dentists need plenty of holidays to rest and rejuvenate properly, at leat six weeks a year and preferably eight!
So, the amount of (or the value of) the dentistry you produce in those 28 to 34 clinical hours will determine how much you earn if you are an associate and contribute to how much you earn if you are a principal. (The fees that a principal earns go to the profit line in a practice much faster than fees earned by associates or hygienists.) Either way, the more productive, focused and fast you are as dentist, the more you will get rewarded. True in both NHS and private practices.
Here are two examples to make my case.
- The work-hard-achieve-not-very-much dentist
This guy works four-and-a-half day weeks plus a week day evening (around 40 hours a week clinical) and looks after a lot of NHS patients (around 2,500), which means that he spends around half his clinical time doing check-ups. In amongst all the check-ups he finds mostly single items of work to bring the patients back for, mostly fillings, the odd crown and a few partial dentures and some endos. He finds that he’s doing a lot of big fillings and likes to add a scale and polish to his check-ups. He grosses around £100/hour, £800/day and with five weeks holiday and a week of CPD courses, grosses £180k/year. He feels like his clinical life is really busy and he feels poorly rewarded for his trouble which, as an associate on a 50 per cent deal after lab, means he earns circa £85k/year before tax, circa £55k after tax or £4,600/month… He’s busy, busier than ever what with all the notes to write up to satisfy the GDC regulations and year on year his pay either remains static or falls due to falling fees (in real terms versus inflation) and increasing lab and compliance bills. He could work longer and harder but actually, 15 years into his career, he’s pretty fed up and, frankly, a bit bored. However, the mortgage needs paying, the kids need schooling, the holidays need paying for and, worst of all, his tax bill seems to be getting worse.
- The work-smart-(and-hard)-achieve-a-lot dentist
This guy works four day weeks including a week day evening (around 32 hours a week clinical) and looks after a modest number of patients (around 1,000), which means he spends around a third of his clinical time doing check-ups. He likes long check-ups so he can offer his patients options and he prefers to replace big old fillings with long lasting extrinsic restorations. Pretty much all his patients have regular hygienist appointments (he prefers to spend his time on high fee dentistry). He avoids single unit dentistry when he can as his treatment planning rationale is to get his patients dentally well and then maintain them, rather than doing dentistry piecemeal. He grosses around £180/hour, £1,440/day and with eight weeks holiday and a week of CPD courses, grosses £248k/year. He feels like his clinical day is paced perfectly, and that he is well rewarded for his trouble which, as an associate on a 50 per cent deal after lab, means he earns circa £112k/year before tax, circa £74k after tax or £6,200/month… He has three-day weekends, plenty of holiday and enough money to save and plan for retirement in his early 50s. Life and dentistry is good to him.
My point is that the key to a happy, long life as a dentist is to spend less time being a dentist! And that if you organise your days and your diary you can benefit from the joy of three-day weekends and plenty of holidays which will maintain your love for your work!
If you would like some help with earning more in less time, contact me for a chat.
m. 07770 430576