Should You Specialize?

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It’s that time of year again! Mazels and congratulations all around! Hooray for the dental grads of 2017. It seems like just yesterday that myself and my classmates were graduating from UCSF. We were on top of the world! Dentistry has clearly evolved since 2001 and if I were a new grad today, I am not sure that I would make the same choices that I made almost two decades ago.

Often, dental students ask me to advise them on whether to specialize or not. My response often hinges upon their expectations and goals. If you are looking to make more income, the answer is a definitive “no”. General dentists often make more income now, and they also don’t have the burden of incurring additional educational debt and delayed income opportunities. If you are passionate about a certain area of dentistry and can attend a specialty program without incurring any additional educational debt, I believe that to be a good opportunity.

Honestly, 80% of my 3-year ortho residency program at the University of Connecticut was a complete waste of time. I understand that the research/indentured servitude that residents provide helps to fund the university, but if I had to do it over again, I would only attend an entirely clinical program. I did appreciate the opportunity to work with numerous skilled faculty members, and to have had the advantage of finishing hundreds of cases from start to finish. I also obtained a strong, fundamental, bio-mechanical foundation. We did not incur any additional educational debt as long as we completed our master’s thesis.

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