When you are lying in a hospital bed after your accident or illnesses, you will still be thinking about your dental practice. As dentists we have devoted a significant portion of our lives to the practice of dentistry.  Our entire life has been spent on developing a successful dental practice and caring for our patients.  It is understandable that you will be concern about your patients, staff, and practice when you can’t be there.

With the incredible economic and competitive pressures on dental practices today, dentists face an ever increasing load of anxiety even when they miss a week of work when on vacation.  When facing a severe illness or accidental injury, as a dentist you will need to make some critical decisions about your future. These decision will be hard and effect your patients, staff, family, and spouse.  The key to meeting the challenge is knowledge and preparation.  Look at each decision individually and you will come to the right conclusion.

The best way to prepare yourself for the tough questions that follow is to prepare yourself. By knowing the questions before they are asked, you have the time to really think about the answers best for you. The following questions will give you perspective.  Meet very difficult challenges with good decisions.  Make no mistake, you will likely have to answer these questions someday.  Maybe not now, but someday.  Formulate your own answers, and be ready for really challenging decisions.

Question One:   What are the goals of my life in dentistry?

A dental student will answer this question with the dreams of successful practice as a guide.  You can’t answer the following questions without answering this question first. Before you begin an important journey , you need to know where you are going.  Your early goal may be just graduating from dental school. As time goes by, setting realistic goals are important. They do not confine you, they set you free to look into other interests by allowing you to always keep things in good perspective.  A long career as a solo practitioner, group practice, or a full professorship at a university; all are worthy goals and give you motivation to continue your success. It’s your decision.

Question Two:   What do I do if I become disabled and can’t work?

Your chances of becoming disabled for at least three months or longer during your dental career are one in four. This 20-30% risk is real and may dentists never recover and are permanently disabled. Being prepared with good disability insurance and a solid written practice contingency plan are critical. We hope you will persevere and return work after your rehabilitation and recovery.

Question Three:    If I’m severely injured or ill, what will I do next?

When you can no longer practice dentistry due to an illness or injury, the next step is transition.  By transition, we mean continuing to be relevant and valued.   Moving on to new challenges will keep your life full and meaningful.   By exploring consulting, teaching, counseling, or volunteer work;  you still remain a valued healthcare professional.  Your options in transition are unlimited and diligently research what is available to you.  We just talked with a quadriplegic who now runs 5 dental radiographic centers nationwide.  This is unbelievable and admirable.   Fortunately it is rare, but will help you put things into perspective.   Every case is personal and individual, there is no “cookie cutter” answer as to when and what you do.   Take time and involve your family and friends in making a good decision.   Don’t fall into the trap of doing nothing.   After a time you must get involved and continue to be relevant in some capacity.

Question Four:   When do I sell my dental practice?

Selling a dental practice for most of us, is like selling our first born child.   It is an extremely personal and emotional decision. It may come after many hard years of persistent practice, or after just a few years because of an illness or injury.   Just because you dental home is sold, you can still practice and contribute.  Becoming an associate or employee may be a truly rewarding decision.   Mapping out a plan with advice and recommendations from consultants, family, and peers will lead to satisfying decisions on your future.

Question Five:    When do I retire from dentistry?

Unfortunately, too many of us will never make this important decision.  We know of many dentists who retire with a dental handpiece in their hand slumped over a dental chair.  This is not a fantasy scenario, and needs to be avoided.  Some dentists will be forced to retire due to loss of skills, disability due to injury or illness, or legal action by third parties. By referring to our first question, you may avoid some of these unpleasant outcomes.   By setting goals that include a tentative timeline, you will end up much happier. When you are facing death, we guarantee that you will not be distraught over not finishing one more crown or root canal.  We develop dental treatment plans everyday, make up a dental career plan for your life and look ahead.  Continue to volunteer and help others in some capacity. It will enrich the years after your retirement and reward you with confidence in your achievements.

If you are injured or ill, refer to our posting on the ten steps to take if you become disabled.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY We are ready to help and support you in recovery and transition. Remember you are never alone and as peers we are there to help along with your family and friends. You don’t need to answer these five questions now, just know that they are there and be prepared.

WE ARE DENTISTS HELPING OTHER SICK AND INJURED DENTISTS, WE CARE.

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