So many of us have heard this – 'You are a dentist, you must be minting money!' For a running clinic with a successful practice, this probably rings true. But how many of us have this picture perfect scene in our lives?
Do all dentists really earn well? How much does a fresher dentist earn per month? These are some of the questions a lot of young dental graduates wonder about. Nearly more than 26,000 dentists graduate from 300 dental colleges every year in India. As the number of dental students graduating every year is increasing, the demand of dentists required per unit population is decreasing alarmingly. To top it all the dental awareness among the public also doesn’t seem to improve at an exponential rate.
Often, we come across patients previously treated by roadside ‘so called dentists’ or ‘quacks’ as they find the prices charged by professional dentists sky-high. There are no strict rules or punishments for such quacks.
Working hours are long and most of the clinics don’t even provide a weekly off to their employees. This results in a lot of hard work, usually at a meagre salary which is usually insufficient to financially run the whole month comfortably. Some places pressurize the dentists to generate income which eventually forces them to resort to unethical practices, making the patients lose confidence in the dentistry profession. All this only increases the frustration of the young aspiring dentists.
5 years of toiling away in dental school seems non fruitful to a lot of freshly graduated dentists as traditional dental school teachings are outdated compared to updated materials and techniques in clinical practice. Clinic management and soft skills are not taught at graduation or post graduation level. This results in young dentists end up losing confidence and feel dejected. All of a sudden, their dream bubble post fresh graduation bursts and reality seems bitter. Not as rosy as expected anymore! There are a number of newspaper articles today stating suicide cases of young frustrated dentists, articles titled poor pay drives dentists to BPOs and alternative careers.
Earlier the career trend was to garner a job as a teaching faculty in dental colleges and carry on with private practice as well. A massive chunk of dentists aspired to specialize in the specialty of their choice and take clinical practice a notch higher. But of late, teaching faculty jobs have diminished to practically nil and the key issue faced by young dentists in order to start a clinical practice is the requirement of adequate funding and space.
Apart from the financial crunch, there are many added barriers which makes a dentist think twice to start an independent practice. Some individuals may not be permanent to a place. Hence, will not be in a position to start their own practice. A lot of graduates do not have the confidence to start their own practice. To acquire the required skills and experience, they necessarily need to work under a senior specialist. Even attending various continuing dental educational programs tutored by a senior specialist helps. Apart from this, there is a lot of competition as every lane has at least 10 full-fledged practicing dental surgeons.
A lot has to be done to eradicate the current calamity at hand. The seniors of dentistry must do their part in uplifting the young dentists. Kindly offer decent pay to the freshers! When you employ degree holders as 'locum' or low income staff, you are actually disrespecting your own profession. The concerned dental and government authorities must make further job opportunities for the newly graduated dentists. A minimum pay scale must be set below which none of the dentists should agree to work.
There is also a lot of research studies regarding the requirement of dentists for the rural population. But majority of the dentists want to settle down in the semi-urban or urban setting depriving basic dental care to the rural areas. Hence, there is an urgent need to channelize dental care to the abandoned rural population. This will not only provide employment prospects for the fresh graduates but also benefit the rural population in terms of oral health.
As accurately said, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Nowadays a lot of other avenues are opening up for the young dentists. Pharmaceutical and insurance companies are keen on hiring fresh graduates. When I started out, I felt that as a dental graduate I must only work as a dentist. But there were offers pouring in from the cosmetic industry- Trichology and cosmetology clinics. Dentists passionate about writing have the opportunity to blog and write dentistry related articles. Extension of marketing into digital marketing has made it possible. Hospital administration jobs offer good potential to candidates looking into hospitality management. Therefore, there is a lot of scope of branching out to other fields. Many dentists are choosing to migrate to other countries as well. Hence, we must be open to the idea of broadening our horizons. that’s all!
Despite the crisis at hand, one must always remember that it is the tough times that bring out the best of us. It is imperative not to lose hope. Hence, these challenging times will definitely help the young graduates to strive harder in order to enhance their knowledge and skills. We can either choose to see it negatively or in a positive light. Choice is upon us to decide. I am sure there is room for everyone to do their best.
Good luck to all in their endeavors…