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Mandibularis

How much will I really make?

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Dear dentists out there,

 

I'm a 4th year Canadian dental student, currently in a bit over 300k in debt. I pursued dentistry because of my interest in it and also because of the fact that it'll give me a comfortable and balanced life. I put myself in this huge sum of debt with the expectation that I will be fine, and once I start a job, I can start paying it off quickly. However I hear a lot of conflicting things out there, and I honestly don't know what to believe. Some people tell me I'll be lucky to make over 100k in my first year working in Canada, and others tell me that I can comfortably hit 200k first year out if I work full time (not overtime, but fulltime). I know that there's several factors like how many hours per week you work, how much you bill, where you work, how fast you are, etc. but there should be an average ballpack for a newly graduated dentist. I'm almost feeling hopeless about the fact that I've spent a decade in university, with the expectation of a worthwhile financial reward, only to come out with a huge load of debt that's going to take over my life for years and years to come. I expect to work in a Canadian city, full time (5 days a week). I am currently married and my wife is pregnant, we are expecting some time in February. So as you can imagine, finances do concern me. I have bills and responsibilities. If you're a dentist and you've landed a decent full-time job in Canada and don't mind sharing your experience financially, I would really appreciate honest answers on what to expect after graduation. 

 

Thank you

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4 minutes ago, Mandibularis said:

Dear dentists out there,

 

I'm a 4th year Canadian dental student, currently in a bit over 300k in debt. I pursued dentistry because of my interest in it and also because of the fact that it'll give me a comfortable and balanced life. I put myself in this huge sum of debt with the expectation that I will be fine, and once I start a job, I can start paying it off quickly. However I hear a lot of conflicting things out there, and I honestly don't know what to believe. Some people tell me I'll be lucky to make over 100k in my first year working in Canada, and others tell me that I can comfortably hit 200k first year out if I work full time (not overtime, but fulltime). I know that there's several factors like how many hours per week you work, how much you bill, where you work, how fast you are, etc. but there should be an average ballpack for a newly graduated dentist. I'm almost feeling hopeless about the fact that I've spent a decade in university, with the expectation of a worthwhile financial reward, only to come out with a huge load of debt that's going to take over my life for years and years to come. I expect to work in a Canadian city, full time (5 days a week). I am currently married and my wife is pregnant, we are expecting some time in February. So as you can imagine, finances do concern me. I have bills and responsibilities. If you're a dentist and you've landed a decent full-time job in Canada and don't mind sharing your experience financially, I would really appreciate honest answers on what to expect after graduation. 

  

Thank you

Not a dentist but I know lots of recent grads and experienced dentists. I've heard figures ranging from 120-220K in Ontario. It really does depend on where you work, how many hours, high-yield procedures, fully-booked schedule, etc. I doubt their is a concrete answer to this but if you expect to be banking the first few years out, I'd rethink my expectations. You should make low 6 figures, maybe more depending how comfortable you are with procedures, whether you associate in a busy practice, etc. Tbh, I think this salary thing is overblown and dentists still make good money compared to other professions and I personally think you'll be fine with finances.

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 many friends of mine are dentists or finishing up to be dentists in the next 1-2 years

from what ive heard, first year you can make 120-150k if you work full-time 50 hours and willing to commute a little bit which is great imo

good luck and congratulations! :

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I’ve answered this question many times and the best answer is ‘it depends’.  There are too many factors to consider to give a reasonable estimate.  

I will tell you about me personally.  I work mostly in Toronto in one office and do occasional additional work trips in northern Ontario.  Between my regular job and the side job I worked every week in 2018, generally 5 days a week but sometimes more.  

My gross income, after deductions, was about $160,000.  That’s before taxes.  

The biggest drag to my income is lack of business and poor reimbursement for social assistance patients (mainly a problem in Ontario).  

Were I fully booked with full-fee patients, I could have cleared $250,000 and taken a few vacations to boot.   But the reality is what it is.

I can’t compare myself to other dentists because I do not know anyone else’s details.  I assume that I’m actually doing better than the average Toronto associate dentist in my general age/experience range (many of whom are foreign trained). But that’s just a guess.

I won’t lie that burnout is a problem when you have to work more and more to meet a minimum acceptable income.  I also have a family now and a mortgage to pay.   Fortunately for me, my student loans were very low and paid off very quickly.

 

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1 hour ago, Ostracized said:

I’ve answered this question many times and the best answer is ‘it depends’.  There are too many factors to consider to give a reasonable estimate.  

I will tell you about me personally.  I work mostly in Toronto in one office and do occasional additional work trips in northern Ontario.  Between my regular job and the side job I worked every week in 2018, generally 5 days a week but sometimes more.  

My gross income, after deductions, was about $160,000.  That’s before taxes.  

The biggest drag to my income is lack of business and poor reimbursement for social assistance patients (mainly a problem in Ontario).  

Were I fully booked with full-fee patients, I could have cleared $250,000 and taken a few vacations to boot.   But the reality is what it is.

I can’t compare myself to other dentists because I do not know anyone else’s details.  I assume that I’m actually doing better than the average Toronto associate dentist in my general age/experience range (many of whom are foreign trained). But that’s just a guess.

I won’t lie that burnout is a problem when you have to work more and more to meet a minimum acceptable income.  I also have a family now and a mortgage to pay.   Fortunately for me, my student loans were very low and paid off very quickly.

 

Would you say that you would be worried about your finances if you had a large student loan on top of the mortgage, etc.?

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It's possible to make up to 200k (or higher) even with a heavy mix of social services patients if you see enough in a day as in a busy practice. However as ostracized said, the income trajectory varies for each dentist. There is not much standardization in pay as in medicine. Determining factors are: associate vs owner , patient volume, social services vs full fee patient mix, your speed, your skillset (i.e. variety of procedures you do) and finally probably one of the most important factors, your ability to communicate and effectively present treatment (i.e. patient acceptance). 

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Based on what people close to me have said about their graduating classes, new grads have been averaging around 120k in the GTA (but I personally know someone doing more than double this, albeit on more days of the week) but many who work outside of the GTA earn 150-175k+ on average. I would say the sample size is quite decently large that it does reflect an adequate picture. Those who have a busier schedule after a year or two in can earn closer to 175-225k assuming they are not seeing too many HSO/ODSP/OW patients. In the GTA, some offices waive co-pays and/or have associates see quite a few ODSP/OW patients so this will bring the average down. If you can find a position where you are busy and you are reimbursed at or near the fee guide 95%+ of the time, you can definitely hit 200k as an associate.

Owning is a different story. Owning allows you to have a hygiene program which increases your revenue and your take home. Additionally, if you run an efficient office, your overhead will decide how much you can take home (but generally many people just take out enough from their corp and reinvest into the office and/or divert their earnings into other streams). You also can decide to keep more procedures in house and/or bring a specialist in which allows you to make a cut as well so the income generally for owners is going to be a significant bump compared to associates.

I personally know some of the posters on this forum who are practicing and they have decided to earn the amount they earn as a result of choice. They are happy with their situations as longer term associates. People who I know who are owners are also happy with their situation (financially as well) but know that they have more stress than their associate colleagues.

In dentistry, it's up to you as to how much you want to make and it's based on location, clinical speed, procedures you want to do, hygiene program, procedures kept in house, number of active patients, etc. There are no real averages and the sky is the limit. Hope this helps!

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OP, I understand the practical concern behind your question, but I think ultimately your question comes out of a need for reassurance. Will you still be able to live and provide for your family on the 'lower' end of the payscale as an associate? Sure you will. You won't starve. Not at all. The question of how much you can 'expect' to make in year 1, 2, 3, 10 years from now is not a question anybody can reasonably answer. 

It truly does all depend on how hard you want to work, what kind of dentist you want to be, where you want to live. No one is messing with you when they say that incomes are extremely, extremely variable. Dentistry is an odd duck in that sense.

I think everyone goes through these money/financial woes for the first few years of practice and then they strike some balance between how hard they want to work and what income they receive, once they begin to understand the grander realities of the field, what they are willing to sacrifice for income and what they are not willing to sacrifice for income. At some point everyone hits some sort of sweet spot where they think "If I earned more, that'd be great. But if not, that's okay too. I sure wouldn't want to do XYZ in order to earn more."

I guess I'm coming from the perspective of tough love here. I get what you're saying, everyone wants black & white. Everyone wants someone to say "Hey, guess what? You're going to achieve everything you want right now and the world will be your oyster," but even if people did tell you that, I don't truly think it would assuage your anxiety.

The assurance of "It's going to be okay" really does have to come from within. A faith/trust in the path and decision you've made. Everybody's ability to stick to their guns varies. I can say that as a dentist, you will be able to provide for your family. What I cannot answer is if you think the amount of work and stress you deal with will be 'worth' the financial reward you receive. Because that is the true question you're asking, but unfortunately it's a question no one can answer.

If you want nitty gritties, I think anyone earning 200k+ as an associate their first year out is either a) working like a dog (6 days a week) or b) doing some reaaaallyyyy shitty and/or unethical dentistry. But certainly, if you work long hours/many days, are at a busy office, and/or do high end procedures, you can earn a 250k+ income as an associate. There are way more people in the typical 120-175k range on a normal (4-5 days a week) work schedule. That is a good income. You can provide for your family on that income. You won't be buying a 5-bedroom house and a new BMW every few years, unless you want to put in the work to a) own a practice or b) work a lot harder. You have to decide for yourself if that's what you want to do for the income you want to earn. There are dentists who earn high 6 to low 7 figures, through any number of means, but there is no set 'path' to that end point, and not many people do it, or even want to do it.

If people want a more consistent, reliable, typical work schedule with a higher income right out of school, family medicine really is the way to go especially in the GTA. 

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Personally, I'd say expect to make what you put in. Let's face it, the GTA is saturated for almost every profession. But, if you have the desire to make big money, you'll be able too given the right work schedule and procedures. Ownership is the way to go if you want a bigger cut and salaries closer to 7 figures but be aware of the challenges (such as insurance reimbursement, higher cost of living and wages for staff, etc.). I've been part owner at two practices in the GTA for the last few years and its been stressful. The minimum wage increase really hurt our bottom line this year and we've had an increase in practices opening up around us. Now, there are 3 practices in our plaza, with another plaza being built across from us with another 3 planning to open there. I can also see the impacts of ITDs flooding the market, and its really increasing competition for associateships. But, at the end of the day I'm happy making substantially more than the average Canadian. I'm still paying off student loans, my practice loans and I have a mortgage. But it doesn't give me sleepless nights, although I can see how others would be worried. Ownership isn't for everyone and the risk/reward isn't really what I expected while in dental school so be realistic about your goals. A few classmates of mine thought they could make 300k+ within 5 years by opening up practices outside the GTA. Wasn't as easy as they thought and are stuck with practices that aren't getting patients and they have a large loan accruing interest. As an associate you don't deal with that type of stress so like cleanup mentioned, you'll be able to pay bills, live a really good life and have some luxuries so don't be worried OP. 

Also, seeing that cleanup has mentioned family med being great in the GTA, I have a friend who went to the states for the physician assistant program. He ended up staying there, opened up a few private practices and makes close to what I make here (accounting for the exchange rate). He only had two years of schooling and almost no student loans compared to me. If you want to make money, you'll make it in other fields in healthcare too, dentistry isn't everything folks!

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