Why to not choose dentistry

There are lots of really good reasons to become a dentist, and those are covered in my ‘Why to Choose Dentistry’ article. However, there are also lots of reasons why you should not become a dentist. These are listed below.

Amount of Schooling

Being a dentist requires a huge commitment of time and money. You will be in school for three to four years to get an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. Then, there is another four years at a dental school. And if you want to specialize, as in something like endodontics or orthodontics, it could be another three years. This can add up to between 7 and 11 years of school. If you choose dentistry through all this time, your friends and colleagues will already have established their lives with jobs, homes and incomes.

Debt Accumulation

You can also expect to accumulate a significant amount of debt. Here is a table showing the debt that most dental students owed upon graduation. You can expect to owe anywhere between $100,000 and $300,000. You will be paying ~6.5% interest on most of this money during dental school, and when you graduate.

Average dental student debt from all schools

Table shows average dental student debt from all schools, (source ADA website)

Competition and Hard Work

Dental school is getting harder and harder to get into. The path is becoming more competitive, as more students try to get in. You have to expect now to have a better GPA in college and get better scores on the DAT test. Because of the challenge, there is the chance that you may find out that dentistry is not right for you or that you don’t have the grades to compete and make it into dental school.

For this reason, I would recommend choosing an undergraduate degree that you enjoy- something that makes you happy. That way, no matter what happens, you will end your four year bachelor’s degree with something you can use in your life.

Also, during the four years of dental school you can expect lots of hard work. It is stressful and will keep you very busy. You can click here to see what dental school is like.

Expensive Practices

Starting up a practice is expensive. If you think graduating with $100,000-300,000 in debt is bad, wait until you decide to buy or set up your own practice. This can cost anywhere between $300,000 and $500,000. You will have to make sure you can get loans, and there is a lot of stress associated with this type of an activity. You can also go out and work for another dentist, but sometimes finding these positions can be challenging.

Additionally, when you first graduate from dental school, you are going to be slower than a seasoned dentist. This will make it harder for you to earn more money and will make paying off all of your loans even more challenging.


Common instruments used by a dentist

Common instruments used by a dentist

Repetition of Job

Another reason to not becoming a dentist is because of the repetition of the job. Dentists do a lot of the same things over and over again. You will have to make sure this is right for you, that you can handle doing lots of the same activities over and over again each day.



Difficult to move

Another challenge is that it is difficult to relocate or move. Once you establish or purchase a practice, it is very expensive to move around. You become situated in one area and may spend the rest of your life living there.

Managed care

We cannot predict the future, but it is wise to consider what could happen. Managed care is spreading worldwide and may grow into dentistry. Managed care is when organizations like an insurance company or the government manage health care. One of the joys of current dentistry is the ability to own your own practice; managed care could potentially change this. Managed care hasn’t completely moved into dentistry, but in the future it could possibly happen.

Physically Demanding

Dentistry is hard on your body. Expect to sit in the same position, staring in small, tiny spaces all day. It is really hard on your back, hands and shoulders. Lots of dentists have back and shoulder problems. You will spend a lot of time washing or rewashing your hands and wearing latex gloves. People can develop back problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, or latex allergies. During my work I have experienced back pain and shoulder pain. A few of my colleagues are already seeing chiropractors or physical therapists.

Sharp Instruments, Needle Sticks and Contagious Disease

Some of the sharp instruments used in dentistry

Some of the sharp instruments used in dentistry

Most people don’t realize it, but dentists work with very sharp instruments in dentistry. There are needles, scalpel blades and high speed diamond tipped burs. It is rare, but like any job accidents can happen.

There a multiple blood borne disease which your patients might have, like HIV (AIDS) and Hepatitis C. If you stick yourself with a bur or needle which you used in a patients mouth, you become at risk for getting these life threatening disease.

The risk of needle-sticks is low, and the risk of having a contagious patients is low, and even if it happens the risk of actually getting the disease from a minor prick is low. But it still can happen which makes this another down side of the job. If a dentist catches one of these blood borne disease his/her career is over.

Emotionally Demanding

The patients you work with aren’t usually happy and will express unease or discomfort in visiting you, which can create a significant emotional demand. People hate waiting, hate going to the dentist and hate pain. You have to sort these mixed emotions out and try to help them. All while managing a stressful schedule as you work, trying to please people and get your jobs done.

Demands of managing a business

The dentist has demands of managing a business. Along with being the main provider of your practice, you will also have to run it. This means you will have to do such things as hire and fire people, manage money, set fees, deal with frustrated customers, and avoid fraud and embezzlement. You are the business owner and the entrepreneur, but you are also the main employee. You will have to be able to balance multiple roles running a dental practice.

Lack of Benefits

If you choose to own your own practice you will not have designated benefits from an employer. The only benefits you are going to get are the benefits that you will give yourself. This means that if you aren’t able to save money early on and invest properly, you might end up working longer than people who have an organized retirement plan.

In any profession there are going to be challenges and problems, including reasons not to enter into that field. These are some of the big ones that I have observed from multiple dentists. Knowing the bad points is valuable and can help you make the right choice. But remember there are also lots of benefits and advantages in becoming a dentist.

12 Responses to Why to not choose dentistry

  1. Dave says:

    Do NOT go into the field of dentistry. You’ll make more money as a manager at McDonalds. I hate the profession after 25 years, it has caused me extreme emotional distress, and once you realize you hate it, you’re stuck. I would never take this path again if given the chance.

    • Ben says:

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the comment. If you’re willing I would love to know more about why you regret becoming a dentist. And I think my readers would appreciate your feedback as well. Its good to know the pros and cons from the start.

  2. CASHGATE says:

    in malawi dentistry is not a paying career, a lot of dental technicians are poor, poorer than primary school teachers, what a shame

  3. alex alonzo says:

    what is your opinion about orthodontics?
    this is my dream job my concern is time, debt and not getting accepted into the residency

    is is also physically demanding ?

    • Ben says:

      I work frequently with an orthodontist. She seems more busy than I do. Orthodontists usually see more patients than most general dentists in a day. They usually have more assistants helping them to get everything done. I would say that their work is physically demanding.

  4. Julia says:

    Hi, thank you for not sugar coating the dentistry profession. I’m in a slightly different situation. I’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree, have been working as a professional for 6 six years now, and am considering a career change. I’m only 16 credits short of the requirement to get into dental school (o-chem and physics) and have thought about going for it. With the idea of possibly specializing in orthodontics, is it worth it at my age to start now? I would be in my late 30’s by the time I was finished and practicing on my own. What do you think?

  5. Ashley says:

    Hi! Thank you so much for this website, it has given me a large amount of insight to the practice of dentistry. I am a high school student, and I am very interested in this field. I have had confidence issues revolving around my smile; I would love to help others become less insecure about theirs. Is there any way I can get my foot into the door of dentistry since I’m only a teenager? Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  6. Sterlen says:

    I’m currently an undergraduate student taking my prerequisite courses to apply for Nursing school. Lately, I’ve been researching dentistry and I feel like it is something that I could definitely see myself doing. In school, I have made my mistakes as far as poor grades. I do plan on repeats some of those classes to strive for an A.

    When applying to dental school, will those repeated classes hinder my chances of admission even if I do score a high grade?

    Also, is there any options to avoiding tremendous amounts of debt in dental school?

    Thanks for this article,

  7. Annie says:

    Hello! I’m a high school student and I am really interested in dentistry. But the worry is I already have frequent backaches and neck pain as a student now, and I’m currently seeing a chiropractor. So I am not sure if I can cope with these physical stresses if I become a dentist in the future. Also, it seems that a dentist faces a lot of health risks via needle-stick incidences. I’m quite afraid of these… How do you think the probability of getting such incidences is? And how do any dentist cope with such imminent dangers everyday of their work?

    • Ben says:


      This is a good, legit concern. Back and neck pains are a big problem. I know of a few dentists that have retired early due to these types of problems. Often they will go into teaching. But, there are protective measures which can help. Regular exercise, physical therapy, learning proper posture, and getting an ergonomic setup are some ways to slow the problems.

      As far as needle sticks go, it is quite rare. But, it does happen. Every clinic has protective measures, and even if it happens, the risk of getting the disease is low. Seems like every profession has its risks, but these are some good risks to consider. But remember, everything isn’t bad there are some great reasons to become a dentist, check out my Why to choose dentistry page.

  8. Sara says:

    Hello, my parents are dentists and they want to give me a dental education but I hate this profession! Could I start loving this job in the future?

    • Ben says:

      Sounds risky… have you tried working with your parents. I would not suggest that you go into something that you hate. There are too many other great professions out there. But since you have parents that are dentists you are lucky and can go work / shadow them. Find out if you enjoy it.

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