Cancer doesn’t care how old you are. The drunk driver that hits you tomorrow doesn’t ask your age.  You have a documented risk of a disabling event happening at anytime during your dental career.  The effects of a severe illness or injury ARE always significant for a practicing dentist.  Your obligation to your patients, staff, and family can weigh heavily on your shoulders when faced with the inability to work.

Becoming disabled, even for a short period of time can be devastating for a young dentist.   You have yet to reach your peak earning years and may have a serious debt load already.   The financial pressures you face are significantly greater than previous generations.   Student loans and the ever-increasing cost of education have placed a high number new graduates in massive debt.  You likely do not own your own practice yet and even if you do, you likely have it financed to a high degree.

First things first. STOP whatever you are doing.  Concentrate on getting better and surviving this event in your life.  Focus on rehabilitation and recovery.   No condition is truly hopeless and you always will have options.   Use the time gained during your care/therapy to make smart decisions on your future.

The steps you take once you realize that you are facing a disabling injury or illness as a new practitioner are the same as a seasoned dentist.   See our posting on the ten steps to survive disability. TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY 

The only difference is the significantly increased sense of urgency to move on with your career.   You are young and just starting your career.   Having that dream ripped away, can be devastating.   Don’t dwell on what happened to you.   Concentrate on what it can do for you.   Yes, take advantage of your misfortune and look for opportunity in disaster.  The emotions and anxiety that all dentists face is the same regardless of age.   See our posting on the 5 steps to get back to work.FIVE STEPS TO GET BACK TO WORK

For those who still can, purchase a quality disability policy now.   If you wait, it may be too late FOR THIS ILLNESS; but not for another new illness that may strike years from now.    File for benefits.   If you return to work, that’s great.   Your policy will still be in effect as long as you continue to pay the premiums, and it will be there to guard your income if your condition deteriorates in the future.

As a younger practitioner, you have a significant advantage over senior dentists.  You are much more likely to pursue a more challenging career path.  You have the time and they don’t.  You have the time to receive additional education.   You have the freedom to move to a different part of the country.   You have the energy to work hard and succeed in new and exciting fields.   This is less likely for a practitioner who is imbedded in his community and has roots formed with his patients, staff, and friends.

Seriously look at the retraining programs offered by the ADA.  The degree of your impairment will dictate your eligibility.  In addition, look into dental education.  The profession always needs dental educators at all levels.   Experience is required, but please contact the deans of the programs in your area and explain your circumstances/misfortune.   You will be surprised at the response.   The profession has an obligation to take care of its members and it will.    Don’t overlook teaching in hygiene and dental assisting schools.

We have extensively reviewed many career options that a disabled dentist can pursue. Look at the wide variety of fields you are eligible to enter.  With a doctorate, you can even teach in the local high school and community college.   Look at the variety of consulting positions nationwide.   The sky is essentially the limit.  Be persistent and let your protective employee know your background/skills.  Seriously consider the wide variety of post-graduate dental education programs.  Many of these fields align well with the physical capabilites of a disabled dentist.

It’s never too late to start over, and your perseverance to just obtain a dental degree demonstrates your self-worth and true value to society.  We hope you can return to active dental practice, but if you cannot;  we still will be there to support your efforts to adapt to your condition and transition into a new career.  Do your homework and research your options in detail.  ASK QUESTIONS.   DON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER.  Get out there and seek opportunity in person.   No one succeeds exclusively by an online effort.   Talking to someone in person demonstrates your sincerity and true interest in any position.   You likely have strong social media skills and sites like LINKIN  may open doors.

Please diligently review this website for practical ideas. The ADA will be posting may of our ideas/checklists soon for others to use.  We will be behind your efforts 100% and don’t hesitate to contact our team for real free help and support.










One comment

  1. Hi,

    I really need assistance. I am applying to dental school this year and my vocational rehabilitation case workers don’t think a disabled person should be a dentist. I use a walker because my legs are damaged. Every thing else works. I’m a disabled veteran which makes me priority for such benefits (tuition help), but they are using my veteran status against me. The assumption is I’m dangerous (the stereotype of the shell shocked veteran). I’ve never been to combat. I’ve been shadowing/volunteering at the Phoenix VA dental clinic as well as St Vincent’s dental clinic for 8 months.


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