Private, Public and Corporate Dentistry – The Recent Graduate Experience

Curious about the differences between private practice, public dentistry, and corporate dentistry?

Its important to find which is the best match for you, but also something that seems to be completely overlooked in university.

Dental Head Start had the pleasure of speaking with a spread of recent graduates working across private practices in rural and city settings, public dentistry, and corporate dentistry. We asked all the questions we wish we had answered when we were students, and have compiled them below for you. Each answer includes the responses from multiple graduates to give a range of views within each category

How did you find the mentorship in your setting?

Public: “Within public health, I would say it’s similar to private. You will have some clinics that are more open and able to provide mentorship, whereas others may not have the facilities or means to do so. Personally, I have found mentorship to be a big focus of working in the Hunter New England area health service. New grads are a big part of recruitment every year, and I support new graduates at work as well as being supported by more experienced and senior clinical staff.”

Private rural: “I personally have found  my practice to have provided me with a good level of mentorship. My practice is very busy, meaning it can be hard at times to catch a senior dentist for help and advice. Nevertheless, whenever I have needed help or guidance it has been available to me.”

Private city: “I’ve been lucky enough to find a private practice with a great mentor. My principal dentist has experience as a clinical educator and is more than happy to answer any questions I may have. I’m also able to observe procedures like implant crown impressions or anything that might be useful for me to see and grow as a practitioner.”

Private corporate: “I have found I’ve had no mentorship whatsoever. I have friends who are also working in corporate dentistry who have had some mentorship from senior dentists, however it seems corporate dentistry is not the best place to go in search of mentorship for new/recent graduates.”

What are your regular working hours? Do you have enough/too many hours?

Public: “8:30am – 5:00pm or 8:00am – 4:30pm. With a monthly rostered day off, I also do additional Saturdays from 9:00am – 4:00pm either fortnightly or monthly.”

Private Rural: “My regular working hours are 8:30am-5:00pm, 5 days per week with one Saturday per month. I often wish I could reduce my days from 5 days to 4, to create a greater work/life balance. Some weeks I feel like all I do is live to work.”

Private City: “I started working 9-6 Monday to Friday but picked up Saturdays in April of this year. Five days per week was a fantastic starting point and I thought I could manage six days however the mental fatigue that came along with the sixth day was something that quite surprised me. My bosses encouraged me to drop the sixth day and have given me the option to open up a sixth day whenever it suits me.”

Private Corporate: “I set my own hours, within the practices opening times of 8:30am – 5:30pm. Because of this, I feel I have the hours that best suit me, working 5 days a week most weeks.

How flexible is your work schedule for holidays/courses/sick leave?

Public: “With adequate notice I can request annual leave or request conference leave (we get a small allocation each year, which is approved at the managers discretion). Sick leave is also allocated, which takes a big stress off and easy to take a day off when I need to.

Private Rural: “Compared to most other industries/professions, my job affords a huge amount of flexibility. I do not have a limit on the number of weeks per year that I can take off, and if I am sick or need leave for CPD purposes there are generally no questions asked. When comparing my job to those of many of my colleagues however, I feel my workplace is quite strict and overly bureaucratic regarding the approval process and ability of me as the provider to alter my hours at my own discretion.”

Private City: “Whenever needed, they give me the flexibility to take a day off, whether it be forced by sickness or by choosing to have a weekend away, I definitely didn’t expect them to be so accomodating.”

Private Corporate: “I have almost complete flexibility, with my hours and days. I work with two other dentists, and provided the clinic is staffed with a dentist the other two are free to make their own hours.”

What do you feel you are the most experienced in due to your setting?

Public: “Diagnosing acute pain, as I will have 3-8 short assessment patients every day. I am also confident with most extractions, management of anxious patients and those with chronic health conditions.”

Private Rural: “Fixed prosthodontics is by far my strongest area. I also feel I have had strong exposure to endodontics, regularly performing molar endo.”

Private City: “Recalls and exams, to emergency extirpations, root canals and crowns and even basic orthodontics. I’ve been able to gain experience in a range of areas of dentistry.”

Private Corporate: “General restorative dentistry, and in my case I have managed to gain extensive experience in endodontics as I am the only dentist at my clinic interested in taking on endodontic cases.”

What do you feel you are the least experienced in due to your setting?

Public: “Posterior endodontics and fixed prosthodontics.”

Private Rural: “Removable prosthodontics, as the other dentists in the practice have little interest in this area. Frankly, I am quite glad there is not a large focus on removable pros, with all of my work going to a prosthetist. If I had the desire to increase my removable pros workload, it would be entirely possible.”

Private City: “Oral surgery is perhaps the single area where I’ve felt my experience to be a little lacking.”

Private Corporate: “Removable prosthodontics, as we have an in-house prosthetist.”

Do you feel more stress than you are comfortable with? Does this make you want to change your dental setting?

Public: “I do experience stress and sometimes I think I persevere with it too much and need to remember to slow down and reduce its sources. Probably I find seeing anxious patients for multiple days in a row to be very draining, and I can reduce this by spreading out bookings. If my stress comes from the dental setting, I know I can ask for changes to be made to help minimise it, however I feel very well supported in my role as well as independent.”

Private Rural: “Occasionally the stress of an overbooked day, difficult procedures and difficult patients does get to me. I feel like I sometimes need to take a step back, re-evaluate and then return clear minded. In saying this, I am entirely happy working in the private rural setting and wouldn’t change my setting at this point in my career.”

Private City: “Some weeks are better than others. There are weeks where everything goes your way and work feels easy and comfortable. Then there are others where nothing seems to go to plan and its these days that the stress feels overbearing. I struggled with this earlier this year, often overthinking different cases after work, before bed and at times even waking up thinking about something that I need to do. I’ve accepted that this is a normal part of the learning experience, and those around me have reassured me that it gets easier. It’s definitely improved as the years gone on.”

Private Corporate: “I am stressed at times, but no more than I believe I would be in a different dental setting.”

What do you see as a fair or common range of pay for new grads in your setting?

Public: “I am on a salary, which increases with the years I spend with the service and progressing to higher “Dental officer” positions. I also receive a rural bonus and “overtime” rates for Saturdays with the public clinic. I know I would earn a lot more in private practice, but I am very satisfied with my work/life balance.”

Private Rural: “Commission. Myself, and almost all of my colleagues that I know of working in the same area are on a 40% commission rate.”

Private City: “I’ve experienced both salary and commission. While being on salary helped ease stress and also case selection by only taking those on within my means, being on a commission has definitely been more profitable. I’ve been sure however to remind myself that money comes and goes and that getting the most out of my first few years is its what is most important.”

Private Corporate: “Generally, a commission rate of 35% is considered good, my commission rate is on a sliding scale, depending on my total billings. The cost of individual item numbers in corporate dentistry is generally substantially lower than in private practice, however in my practice we have a very high supply of work meaning the lower rates are negated by having a higher production rate.”

Got questions for our recent graduates? Comment in the section below and we’ll do our best to answer!

We appreciate comments, likes and most of all we’re stoked when you share the article with someone who may benefit from it! A big thank you must go to the incredible Dentists who helped with this post. Thanks to Drs Mark Bechara, Katharine Dal Santo, Brendan Scott, Poon-Yu Khut, Andrew Chau and Louise Hanrahan.

James is a recent graduate dentist working in private practice in regional NSW Australia. Read more at www.dentalheadstart.com/meet-james/

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