Clinical Freedom

When I graduated from dental school, I’ll admit, I was nervous!  I was now free to do all the fillings, crowns, extractions, and root canals I wanted.  No “QC” or quality control checks.  No stopping halfway through a procedure, waiting in a line with other students, following a clinic instructor around–so he could evaluate my treatment.

Now don’t get me wrong, I had wanted this freedom for a long time!  I had spent years of my life in the hallowed halls and clinics of my dental school earning this degree and this freedom–freedom to practice dentistry on my terms!  But this new found freedom wasn’t exactly dental bliss.

Here I was seeing these “real world” patients and it was all on me.  I had decided to start a practice from scratch right out of dental school.  The area where I wanted to practice didn’t offer any partnerships or associate/buy-in opportunities.  I also thought I really wanted to do things “my way” and not the way some other dentist had been doing them.

Here’s what I quickly learned.  Clinical dentistry is incredibly challenging.  I know what you’re thinking, “That’s kind of obvious isn’t it?”.  And my answer is yes, on an intellectual level, when you think about the technical steps to do a high quality two surface composite, you can’t help but realize that clinical dentistry is challenging.

But here’s what I wish I had understood.  When it’s all on you–no back up clinic instructor, no pulling out the “hey I’m just a dental student” card–and the patient expects perfection–it’s more than just the technical steps of the filling that can wear on you!

The patient has emotions.  The patient has a history.  They aren’t coming to you like they did in dental school because it’s more affordable and with an understanding that it’s going to take a long time.  The patient demands, and often unreasonably expects, perfection.  You have to be prepared to not only perform the clinical procedure but to manage the patient’s expectations, the patient’s emotions, a team of employees, have systems in place for collecting money, etc.

Be prepared.  Dental school will give you a great foundation in fundamental clinical care.  Take the time to get real information about real world dentistry!  You will enjoy your “freedom” after dental school much more.

Dr. Marcus Neff, DDS

Dr. Neff is a co-author of the book “So You Want to be a Dentist?: What you Must Know to Succeed in Dentistry”.  The book can be purchased at, the iBookstore,, and many other digital retailers.

Avoid Student Debt Completely

That fancy hat comes with a huge pile of debt.
That fancy hat comes with a huge pile of debt.

I got a great email the other day!

It was entitled

Student Loans: Another Reason to Avoid This Debt Completely

It’s by Rachel Cruze.  She’s Dave Ramsey’s daughter.  She has a great website you can check out here or you can connect with her on Facebook

Rachel explains that people have become so accustomed to paying for college with student loans that they don’t even know how to get an education without taking on debt!  She poses the question “…what would people do if they suddenly couldn’t get an easy money student loan to go to school?”

From the email:

Imagine the shock resulting from a recent announcement by JP Morgan Chase—America’s largest bank—that the company will stop issuing student loans altogether. Thasunda Duckett, the CEO for auto and student loans at Chase, explained it this way: “We just don’t see this as a market that we can significantly grow.” In other words, there isn’t enough money to be made in student loans.

What does this tell us? The lenders who are still in the game are there to make money. They aren’t there to help you fulfill your lifelong dream of earning a college degree.

And if you think “Well that’s a private bank–all they care about is making a buck.  At least Uncle Sam has my back!”, you would be wrong.  The government wants to get paid, with interest too.  And they will get their money.

You can’t file for bankruptcy on a student loan

and if you go long enough without making payments, the government can take the money you owe right out of your paycheck. Harsh as it sounds, student loans have never been about helping you get ahead as a student. They’re just another money-making machine. And with countless students unable to keep up with payments after graduation, the impact they’ll have on our generation is bound to get worse.

What is Rachel’s advice? Avoid student loans completely. Go to a school you can afford.  That’s simple, and some might say simplistic, advice but it rings true!

As someone who took on over $250,000 in student loan debt (yes, as in a quarter million dollars) just to get an education to become a dentist I have real life experience dealing with massive debt.  And that’s just my student loans—not equipment debt, start up debt, a mortgage on a dental building or any personal debt for a house or a car.  Today’s dental student could EASILY have $300,000 to $400,000 in student loan debt alone.

My Advice

My advice? Only take on student debt if you really know what you want to do and what the return on investment will be–what kind of money will you make? Don’t just go to dental school and become a dentist because you want the title “Doctor” or you think the lifestyle will be fun.  It’s important to spend the time to get clear about what you want out of life and pursue it with passion.  And a dental education may not be necessary to get where you want to go.

-Dr. Marcus Neff DDS

Dr. Neff is a co-author of the book “So You Want to be a Dentist?: What you Must Know to Succeed in Dentistry”.  The book can be purchased at, the iBookstore,, and many other digital retailers.