Dentists have unique financial planning needs. Financial advisors specializing in serving dentists help them make smarter money moves to achieve their goals and enjoy a comfortable retirement.
While dentists, on average, rank among the highest-earning occupations in the United States, expenses can often take a considerable bite out of the total compensation they take home.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for dentists in 2021 was $163,220. But from these earnings, dentists often have sizable student loan debt to repay and costly insurance policies to maintain. And many dentists also own and operate their own practice, which comes with the overhead and expenses of renting office space, purchasing supplies, and staffing costs.
A financial advisor specializing in serving dentists understands their unique financial planning challenges and can recommend effective strategies to help dentists overcome obstacles and achieve their goals throughout their careers and retirement.
You’ll likely find dozens of nearby financial advisors well-suited to help you reach your money goals with a personalized plan. But it may be more difficult to find a local financial advisor who specializes in serving dentists.
Fortunately, many financial advisors offer virtual services so you can meet online no matter where you (or they) live. This means you can choose to hire a specialist financial advisor who lives hundreds of miles away if you decide their knowledge and experience working with dentists is a better fit to help with your unique financial planning needs.
Financial Planning for Dentists
💡 In the Q&A below, you’ll gain insights from financial advisors who work with dentists to help them make smart decisions and enjoy life more today while preparing for a comfortable retirement in the future.
🙋♀️ Do you have questions not answered below? Use the form on this page to submit your questions, and we’ll update this article with answers from the financial professionals and educators in the Wealthtender community. You can also contact the financial advisors featured in this article directly to set up an introductory call or ask your questions by email.
💸 Smart Money Insights for Dentists
This page is organized into sections to help you quickly find the information you need and get answers to your questions:
- Q&A with Financial Advisors Specializing in Serving Dentists
- Get Answers to Your Questions About Financial Planning for Dentists
- Browse Related Articles
Q&A: Financial Advisors Specializing in Dentists
Four Questions with Cecil Staton, CFP®, CSLP®
We asked Athens, Georgia-based financial advisor Cecil Staton to answer a few questions about financial planning for dentists based on his specialized knowledge and experience.
Q: How do the financial planning services you offer dentists distinguish your firm from other advisory firms?
Cecil: Our service model enables dentists to maximize life beyond the chair. Arch Financial Planning, LLC understands the unique challenges of needing a drill in hand to earn an income. Managing your time as a practice owner, practitioner, and personal life is where our actual value shines.
For associate dentists, I help them review their compensation packages to ensure the percentage of collections they receive is competitive. Next, I help them structure their student loan repayment strategy appropriate for other goals such as starting a dental practice, growing their dental practice, and purchasing their dream home.
As you transition from an associate dentist to a practice owner, I guide you through the unique challenges of becoming a business owner. I coordinate your business entity’s clinical income structure, corporate entity structure, and benchmarking management of overhead expenses.
Q: What is a common financial planning challenge unique to dentists that you frequently encounter when working with your clients? How do you work with them to overcome this challenge?
Cecil: More than 60% of associate dentists want to start their practice or buy equity from their current employer. Achieving this goal requires typically taking on additional debt beyond your current student loan debt. I have guided dentists who fit this profile in managing all these life decisions and helping them feel confident about becoming practice owners.
While some dentists prefer to remain solo practitioners with a small staff, others want to grow beyond themselves. I guide you through these decisions and benchmark your progress relative to other dentists by reviewing your profit and loss statements.
Get to Know Cecil Staton, Financial Advisor for Dentists:
Q: For dentists who are unsure whether or not they should hire a financial advisor at the current point in their lives, what guidance can you provide to help them make a more informed and educated decision?
Cecil: Your highest and best use of your time is with your drill in hand, not researching student loan repayment strategies or how to start and maintain your practice. Arch Financial Planning, LLC enables you to regain the time you’d spend worrying about these things and feel confident in your decisions.
Not all advisors are created equal. Many are generalists and don’t specialize in the unique challenges dentists face. Your advisor must hold certifications such as the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Certified Student Loan Professional (CSLP). If not, they may be missing the core competencies needed to serve you. Lastly, they should specialize in dentists and other medical professionals within their financial planning practice.
If you’re considering hiring an advisor and they ask about your revenue rather than your collections, that should be a big red flag. Your financial advisor should understand your profession and speak its language.
Q: Is there a particularly memorable experience or a moment you recall with a dentist client when you first decided you wanted to specialize in this area to address their unique financial planning needs?
Cecil: The most rewarding part of my service model is helping dentists gain confidence in their financial plans. For many, this means they’re confident about starting, growing, or expanding their practice.
The most memorable experience I have is seeing the transformation of an associate dentist I started working with a few years ago. This associate dentist worked for a practice owner that kept dragging their feet when the conversations about equity ownership took place. The associate earned a high income by making over 30% of their consistent $1,000,000+ collections each year.
Even with this high income, the associate dentist wasn’t confident in their career trajectory. I helped guide them through the process of starting multiple practice locations and feeling optimistic about their career and life goals. The associate is now a practice owner and credits our relationship with the confidence to pursue this dream.
Resources to Help You Choose a Financial Advisor
Dentists must be licensed in the state in which they work. Licensure requirements vary by state, although candidates usually must have a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry/Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree from an accredited dental program and pass written and clinical exams. Dentists who practice in a specialty area must complete postdoctoral training.
Dentists typically need a DDS or DMD degree from a dental program that has been accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Most programs require that applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree and have completed certain science courses, such as biology or chemistry. Although no specific undergraduate major is required, programs may prefer applicants with bachelor’s degrees in science, such as biology.
Applicants to dental schools usually take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). Dental schools use this test along with other factors, such as grade point average, interviews, and recommendations, to admit students into their programs.
Dental school programs typically include coursework in subjects such as local anesthesia, anatomy, periodontics (the study of oral disease and health), and radiology. All programs at dental schools include clinical experience in which students work directly with patients under the supervision of a licensed dentist.
As early as high school, students interested in becoming dentists can take courses in subjects such as biology, chemistry, and math.
All dental specialties require dentists to complete additional training before practicing that specialty. This training is usually a 2- to 4-year residency in a CODA-accredited program related to the specialty, which often culminates in a postdoctoral certificate or master’s degree. Oral and maxillofacial surgery programs typically take 4 to 6 years and may result in candidates earning a joint Medical Doctor (M.D.) degree.
General dentists do not need additional training after dental school.
Dentists who want to teach or do research full-time may need advanced dental training, such as in a postdoctoral program in general dentistry.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Dentists must be licensed in the state in which they work. All states require dentists to be licensed; requirements vary by state. Most states require a dentist to have a DDS or DMD degree from an accredited dental program, pass the written National Board Dental Examinations, and pass a state or regional clinical examination.
In addition, a dentist who wants to practice in a dental specialty must have a license in that specialty. Licensure requires the completion of a residency after dental school and, in some cases, completing a special state exam.
Communication skills. Dentists must communicate effectively with patients, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and receptionists.
Detail oriented. Dentists must pay attention to the shape and color of teeth and to the space between them. For example, they may need to closely match a false tooth with a patient’s other teeth.
Dexterity. Dentists must be good with their hands. They must work carefully with tools in small spaces to ensure the safety of their patients.
Leadership skills. Dentists, especially those with their own practices, may need to manage staff or mentor other dentists.
Organizational skills. Keeping accurate patient care records is critical in medical and business settings.
Patience. Dentists may work for long periods with patients who need special attention, including children and those with a fear of dental work.
Problem-solving skills. Dentists must evaluate patients’ symptoms and choose the appropriate treatment.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dentists, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dentists.htm