How much risk are you willing to take? As a dentist who is facing disability,  you must answer this question eventually. The risks are real but not readily apparent. Take a step back and think about the consequences of the decisions you are about to take.

First you must determine the risk in deciding that you are not disabled. If you continue to work, even if you are in pain or ill;  you must understand that your condition may get worse.  Eventually you may come to the point that you can’t even function through the pain. Your practice may suffer and your patients and staff will know there is a problem. Of course you may get better, but calculating the risk versus the benefit of working is critical.  You will always be required to keep your patient care within the standard of care. Failure to perform at that level may open you up to liability. Your malpractice policy company may hesitate in providing coverage if you practice when you are incapable/disabled.  Your disability insurance policy requirements may influence your decision.  If you work , they will assume you are fine. You may jeopardize an application for benefits at a later date.

What are the odds? To start with, you know that you had a 20-30% chance of becoming disabled over the course of your dental career. These are not great odds, but if you are gambler go ahead. You are not alone, 1000-2000 dentists become disabled each year in the United States. 20% of all dentists carry no disability insurance. They are already rolling the dice. Once you are disabled, you have about a 50% chance of returning to work someday. You may be out 6 months or 6 years. Your practice will quickly start to lose value and that fact must be a consideration in any decisions you make.

If you decide to stop working there are risks.   You will need to get someone to run your practice while you are gone, or just go ahead and sell it when it has its greatest value. This is a very personal decision but carries known risks. Returning to work after any period of time will be difficult.  Your age, financial status, and the event that caused you to be disabled to begin with are all factors that need to be considered. Restarting a practice will not be easy, but you have done it before. There is a legitimate concern that once you stop working , that you will lose interest in returning to work. This concern is valid and you will need to address it at some point. Don’t plan on retiring, as a skilled professional just plan on transitioning. Move on to a new field or adapt to your condition and become a valuable resource in something completely new.  This is risky and scary at the same time, but also exciting and challenging.

So are you ready to spin the roulette wheel? There are no wrong decisions here, only options, each with risks and benefits. Have confidence in your abilities and look for advice from your peers, friends, and family. MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR.



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