Life after dentistry: Yes…it IS as good as it seems!

I could not be more excited about today’s guest blog post!  I recently met a fellow dentist-turned-blogger who is now living the dream.  He shared some thoughts and encouragement on The Pros and Cons of Dentistry, and I was so intrigued by his story, that I had to have him write his own post.  So I welcome Rick, my guest blogger, who has given me another reason to smile today.  Check out his story about how he left dentistry and where it took him.  I know you’ll find it inspiring!

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I was very pleased to happen upon Lolabees’s website a few weeks ago.  The topic of this blog is something very personal to me, as I know it is to any other dentist who reads it.  Indeed, I had sort of forgotten just how personal it was until I started scrolling through her pages and reading her articles, as well as the readers’ comments.  All the unpleasant memories—and the physical symptoms that accompany them—came rushing back.  Like many of you, I continued to practice long after I had realized that it wasn’t for me and the resultant effects touched every aspect of my life.

I don’t know what I can contribute that Lolabees hasn’t already covered, but I suppose I can recount an edited version of my own story in the hope of inspiring even one more person who is just a little too fearful and not quite miserable enough to make the leap.

I graduated in 1991 and I was in the game for over seventeen years. My school debt was “only” 50K, and I was able to pay it off in 7 years.  Meanwhile, I bought a small home when prices were very low, lived modestly, and saved my money—so I guess in the back of my mind I was always looking for a way out.  But “life” happens and we put our dreams aside, right?

Like many others have said, I kept waiting for it to get better thinking that the next milestone would get me past the feelings of regret and desperation.  “If can just get better/faster with my root canals/crowns, I’ll be more relaxed.” “If I can just pay off my school loans, the pressure will ease up.” “When I cut back to four days a week, it won’t be so bad.”  Etcetera.  I slowly began to realize that it was never going to get better…until I retired one day, which seemed so far off.

Fifteen years passed in a blink, and then in 2006 a large national dental corporation (I won’t mention the name, but they’re a good company) offered to buy our practice.  The timing was just right, because a year later the economic crisis would have probably changed the deal and we wouldn’t have gotten the same price.  But the contract required that I stay on as an employee of theirs for two years, which I did, semi-reluctantly.  However, once I circled that date on the calendar, I immediately felt better.

Finally in September of 2008 my commitment was satisfied, so I walked away the very next day—or ran away as fast as I could, was more like it.  I took off for about six months….traveled to Europe for three months, and then came back to Florida and rented a small condo on the beach where I read books and drank Mojitos every day for another three months.  Believe it or not, even that gets boring after a while…AND there was still the slightest doubt that maybe I should keep practicing.  After all, I had invested a large portion of my life on my dental career, right?  Fear is a tough opponent that dies hard.

So I got a part-time job working for another dentist two days a week.  Nice office, decent pay.  I thought that the six months away from the job would give me some clarity.  And it did.  After being back just a couple of weeks, I knew that I wasn’t going to last.  I stuck it out for a few months, but my heart was never in it.  I finally found the courage to say “Enough!” once and for all.

I really loved my time in Europe, especially Italy, so I went back again.  The simplified version from this point is that I arrived in Rome, met a girl, got a job teaching English, and decided that’s what I wanted to do.  These days I maintain a blog, write articles for other websites, scratch out an occasional eBook, and now my wife and I have started a small tour company in Sicily.  Do I make the same money as before?  Not even close; not even 1/4.  But while my “standard of living” is now lower, I would argue that my quality of life is much MUCH higher. In theory, I work more hours now than I did as a dentist.  However, as the saying goes, “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

So the big question is…do I regret it?  Regret being a dentist?  Not really. I never liked the job, but I worked with some great people and made a good living.  Do I regret quitting?  No, not for even one second.  In fact, I wish I would have done it ten years sooner—but it brought me to where I am now and gave me the means to chase my true dreams, so I guess it worked out as a means to an end.  But when I was practicing, I remember that not a single day went by when I didn’t ask myself, “How can I get out?  And when?”

If that’s where you’re at, then I would suggest that you do it sooner rather than later.  It’s scary, I know, because dentistry offers stability and financial security. But it isn’t worth your soul, in my opinion.  Don’t let fear control your life.  There are many other ways to make a living, believe me.  Yes, it will take some new groundwork, which requires a bit of time.  And you might not be driving the same car or taking expensive vacations, but you’ll be happier knowing that you’re not a slave to a career that you were never suited for.

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Rick Zullo is an American writer, teacher, and relentless Italophile.  He was born in Chicago, raised in Florida, but always dreamt of Italy.  After a 17-year career in dentistry, he left the United States to live in Rome where he met his wife.  He is now writing a series of eBooks, as well as a blog (rickzullo.com) which strives to decipher Italian culture for the English-speaking world.  You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter

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60 thoughts on “Life after dentistry: Yes…it IS as good as it seems!

  1. Wow….speachless
    And now I really wonder how a dentist who loves his job feels like?
    I mean I know that I kinda dislike it, sometimes hate it with all my gut, sometimes I accept it, sometimes I feel so bored, sometimes so scared etc.
    So my question is how should I feel IN DETAIL with a job I like?
    What are the “symptoms” of that?
    ‘Cause now I can’t tell how it’s like to like something….hmm weird.

    1. Hi Alina. I think I can answer that question, actually. My first job after dentistry was teaching and I loved it. I woke up excited to go to work in the morning and at the end of the day I felt satisfied, not stressed-out. Sure, there were some long days when I was physically tired, but never emotionally spent. Another clue: when socializing, I actually enjoyed talking about my job, whereas when I was a dentist it was always a topic of conversation that I purposely avoided. When I was a dentist, I NEVER read journal articles unless I absolutely had to for some reason. My job as a dentist was just that: my job, a means to a paycheck, and it was never really part of my “life.”

      I acknowledge that I was very lucky and all the stars aligned for me at the right moment. Others aren’t as lucky, being saddled with mountainous debt and family obligations. A huge pay cut was something that I could afford and making that choice felt liberation, not scary. But again, others might have to take a longer view if they’re trying to get out while facing bigger obstacles than I had. Still, the biggest obstacle for ALL of us is our own fear.

      1. I’ve re-read the story and my question.
        And now I have another one- why didn’t you like dentistry after all? What were the reasons?
        For me I think it’s that I wasn’t born to be in the medical field of any kind.I had a fear of working with the human body which I was told it will go away after practicing more, but somewhere in me I still have the same fear even though it’s true it has diminished.Also I never had a passion for studying the human body and nevertheless about dental materials;I think dentistry is very technical to me and I am not the “technical” type.
        Any ideas?
        I always ask myself what was I meant to be.

        1. Hi Alina, For me it was a little different. I actually really enjoyed my natural science education leading up to dental school…biology, chemistry, physics, math. And I really had no problems working on the human body.

          But yes, as you said, there was just too much detail, while at the same time, the work is so imprecise. In other words, you can do a perfect job, and sometimes the work still fails. Other times, things seem to go badly, and the work lasts forever.

          Another factor was the monotony–SO boring!

          Perhaps the worst part, though, was always dealing with fearful patients who were often in pain…their collective anxiety is contagious and it made me a very tense, irritable person.

          Then there are the business concerns that sometimes conflict with the patients best interests in today’s “sales-oriented” environment. That was something that I didn’t sign up for 25 years ago, yet today it’s the standard mentality. Dentists have all kinds of excuses to justify it (“If I don’t crown their teeth, someone else will!!) but really I just see way, WAY too much overselling in today’s dental offices. “Perio” programs are the worse of these practices in my opinion. A 22-year old with some mild. localized gingivitis is presented with a $600 “soft tissue management” proposal? Really?

          So, I guess all the above. But that’s my personal opinion. Everyone has to do what’s best for their own sanity.

          Good luck!

          Rick

    2. I guess its the opposite, sometimes you need to be happy about it, other times excited, sometimes nothing at all, I think thats a good one, a neutral feeling about your job and what you do with spikes up mostly, but not being down with a couple of spikes up to boredom.

    3. Hi Alina,
      Great to hear from you. I think Rick’s advice is a great way to gauge that. It was the same for me– I will also add that very early on in my career I did catch myself actually thinking that I hated it and wondering how I could change jobs. I ignored/denied those feelings for a long time. I do think that feeling bored or scared may not indicate that you are unhappy in your job. Those feelings are very natural in any job. Ultimately I think that it’s like being in love– when you know, you just know.

    1. Hi Blue. I’m sure it was familiar to you as it was largely taken from my response to your question a few weeks ago. But I think that there will be a follow up to this post later, so hopefully there will be some new things that I haven’t shared yet. Ciao!

  2. Great chronicle, one that on several levels, resembles Lolabees’ own journey. I agree that fear is an opponent that dies [very] hard. I’m hoping to morph the fear into a motivator.

    1. HI Occam. Yes, you’re right about my journey being very similar to Lolabees’. I guess that’s why I’ve felt so connected to her blog and the people here who have contributed to the discussion. The funny thing about the fear is that once you get beyond it, you look back and ask yourself, “What was I so afraid of?” The answer, of course, is the unknown, the uncertainty. That’s what kept me frozen in place for 17 years. As the saying goes, “Most people would rather be certain that they are miserable than risk being happy.”

  3. Rick–left you a message on your website, but I’ll summarize it here. I can soooo relate to you. Went through the same thing (graduated from dental school a few years before you did), and an content with where I am now, but will be overjoyed in 4.5 years when I can hang up the had of my current “job”. After 10 years in private practice, I yearned for a change, and wanted to live in Europe. What did I do? Joined the Air Force. It’s been an amazing ride… especially the 3 years in Germany the 6 months in Qatar and now going on 2 years in Turkey. For that I am thankful, but I was happiest when I got into the admin side of things… and will hopefully finish my 20 years in that capacity.

    You talked of uncertainty and unknown when dealing with the quagmire of “discontent” when practicing dentistry. I felt that very same thing when it came time to decide to leave private practice and join the military. Most nerve-wracking time in my life. So glad I did it–looking back it was merely a paper wall I had to pass through.

    Once I retire, my plan is to stay “OCONUS”, as we say (overseas) — my passion is travel and Europe holds a certain fascination.

    Thanks for your entry–really enjoyed it!

    1. Thanks Lori! Yes, I enjoyed reading your story, too. I’ll respond more thoroughly via email, but sometimes it takes me a while…I less free time to answer email now that I’m not a dentist anymore. 🙂 Anyway, it sounds like you found a great compromise and now you’re very close to fully military retirement. Brava!

      1. Yes, you are right and In my case, I also blamed it on teachers and dental school itself, stuff like “when I am out, I will be free of all that extra stress” and when you are out you find out school was actually pretty cool (even when its hell on earth) and a its probably dentistry itself that give you the stress, plus now you have to actually produce money for you and others. And as you say you keep telling yourself that when you get better at procedures you will be fine, but I still see guys with 40 years of experience struggling with a cavity on a bad day or a bad patient, or an extraction that just wont come out and he is already with blood on his gloves and since he is the surgeon, he needs to keep at it till he finish. So sometimes its not a thing about dexterity. Lol

        1. Right on all accounts. Now that you bring it up, I remember quite a few “untruths” being preached by instructors, too. Not to mention a good bit of hazing…at least at my school. It’s like they were trying to weed out those who didn’t have what it took, I guess. In fact, they held back several students, and at the end of four years only 2/3 of our original freshman class graduated.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Jack. When Lolabees asked me to write a guest post, I wan’t sure how hard it would be to write about this topic. But once I sat down at my computer, it all just came pouring out. In fact, she had to edit some of it out, which might be presented in a later post. Anyway, glad you enjoyed it.

  4. You described dental schools right there, and thats why I admire dentists, dental school is not an easy task, they are trying to break you, and some people manage graduate broken, they just go with the motions and their heads down and ego loss open up the doors of graduation, I mean I used to see a lot of people failing at it, but only persistance made them suceed even if took them two more years, they are now dentist. I also saw people who were terrible at dentistry but they kissed so much teachers assess that they end up as dentists. I also remember the best at it, that were humilliated just cuz the instructor didnt like them, perfect preparation and the guy would find a reason to make them fail, “yes, thats all perfect and well done, but where is the dental dam” in an incisal preparation, or the most beautiful composite ever made and “You didnt showed me the cavity, take it off” I mean if you dont scream at the guy at this stage is that they already broke your spirit. I saw a lot of people crying because of power hungry instructors and not just wimpy people, tough guys with tears in his eyes.

    1. Sounds like we went to the same school…ha, ha. Yes, I was one of those who “succeeded” merely because I kept my head down and kept at it. Freshman year someone gave me this advice: “Ideally, when you stand up on that graduation platform in four years, you want all the instructors to turn to each other and say, ‘Who was that guy?'”

      1. I learn it the hard way when I became an instructor punch bag cuz I was in a bad day and the guy crossed me. BUM!! The guy started chasing me around even when he was not my instructor, making my life miserable, there was a time when all prosthodontics needed his aproval, you can imagine the amount of materials and time I wasted cuz my work was never enought, I even made him disaprove stuff prepared by a specialist. So I learned that the guy will always reject my two first tries. So I managed a way around it, I started showing him stuff before the actual final impression for him to reject with actual errors. But that was also more work, but at least the patients didnt suffer more impressions. I hated him. I find out the other day the guy keeps giving people bad times and that my methods dont work now, he is more experienced I guess. Poor students.

        1. Hey enjoyed reading your posts, actually came to this page while studying for finals after typing “benefits of being a dentist” into google, trying to get some inspiration…Yes many dental professors are @$$ holes!!! And the thing is the very things they will criticize you for things that are meaningless to other professors. I was once given a failing grade for “starting the prophy” as he put it, this was after trying to check in with him multiple times for an hour and being told each time he’d be right there when in fact he was simply circulating amongst some girl students (hey i cant blame him), but it wasnt like I had just decided to prep a bridge or lay a flap and get out some bone burs, the ironic thing is that I’ve been since asked by other faculty why I haven’t already started the prophy, lol, my classmates have had worse experiences. Yea dental school sucks, def can relate to ur lab ordeals! In first year some faculty simply would not sign off on our waxups until you showed it to them 3-4 times, until finally I would just go back to my seat chill out and go back 15 min later with the same waxup, and it would get signed off!!! Ive def been waiting for the day to get outta this place, and the thing is 4 yrs ago it was like the sole purpose of my life to be here, I would have done anything. I just hope I dont end up like some of these megalomaniacs who set out to make others feel worthless. ok Im ranting take care, nice blog

        2. ohh yea…forgot to add, dont even get me started on the amount of ass kissing going on by other students. I often ask myself, do these people wake up, look in the mirror and tell themselves, “I’m gonna be the fakest most spineless version of myself I can be”? but faculty dont seem to mind…maybe tey just think they are looking in a mirror as well

  5. This read was very interesting – I think I have similar feelings towards dentistry already and I only graduated in 2011 so only practising 2 and half years and I hate it already! It is very refreshing to hear that you have done something else with you life that makes you happy!! At university I always thought the stress of exams was enough but now I come home from work in the evenings and feel like I am still worrying over how many targets I’ve got to reach – so I plan to finish in 6 months and go travelling and decide about whether this is really something I want to carry on with!

    1. Hi Nicky, that sounds like a really good idea. Time away to clear your head will give you some fresh perspective. There are ways to make the job a little bit more bearable, but you have to remember that nothing will fundamentally change for the next 40 years or so. Make sure that you’re OK with that before committing to it for the rest of your working life. Best of luck…cheers!

      1. I think that things have changed a good bit since I was first practicing. It sounds like dental school instructors are still the same, unfortunately, but the marketplace has certainly changed, and not for the better in my opinion. We’re seeing more big corporations buy up practices and hire “employees” instead of doctors. But perhaps the bigger, more disturbing shift has been in the “salesman” approach to dentistry. Getting your teeth cleaned now is like buying a car….the salesman is always trying to upsell you. And when it comes to healthcare, this is particularly disturbing because patients place a great deal of trust in their doctors. If you try to sell me a more expensive car than I want, then it’s my fault if I fall for that. But if you tell me that I need a crown, what choice do I have but to take your word for it? Throughout my 17 year career, I saw the criteria for prescribing crowns dramatically change and I’m not convinced that motives for this shift had anything to do with patient welfare. And don’t even get me started on all the upselling going on with regards to hygiene/perio. Patients with a little localized gingivitis are frequently told that they need a more expensive “deep cleaning,” or “soft tissue management,” or some other nonsense. Is there occasionally a need for these treatments? Of course. But the criteria are getting progressively more aggressive and loosely interpreted in the name of increasing monthly production.

        1. Yes this is very true – our practice has just been sold to a corporation and there is definitely a shift towards selling treatments to patients which may not always be in the patient’s best interests and I think this is something that I am not completely comfortable with, especially as at dental school you are not taught about “how to sell” to patients, and if you aren’t “performing” the same number of private crowns or bleaching as other practices then apparently you are “under-performing”. I find it quite sad that things are only going to get worse and I have no intention for working for corporations – better to work in a practice owned and run by other dentists as they understand the importance of patient care.

        2. Yes, thats what is happening, and is also getting more difficult to practice the kind of dentistry every guy enjoy. Also is getting more difficult to have the kind of lifestyle a dentist is expected to have without publicity, without upselling, and without working more than you expected.

    2. Hi Nicky,
      I felt the same way 2.5 years in, but I didn’t have the mindset at the time that I could actually change. Like Rick describes in the post, I kept waiting for the next milestone, sure that things would be easier. Forever I told myself that when I had 5 years under my belt, it would all be so easy and fall into place. That never happened, and when I hit 5 years, I was disappointed that things didn’t magically improve! It did get easier in ways, but my satisfaction level didn’t really change much. I do believe in sticking it out to some extent, but I also think that if you know it’s not right, then there’s no reason to continue to suffer. Traveling sounds amazing! You’ll have to let us know what you decide to do.

  6. One of my biggest issues with dentistry is that it has turned into “selling” rather than prescribing treatment that patients need. I have always been, and always will be uncomfortable with feeling like a salesperson. I have my own practice so I don’t have to follow any rules of a corporation but I still feel like there is pressure on me to push dentistry because you HAVE to produce in order to make money and this is what all the other dentists out there are doing now. There is a lot of pressure on dentists because of the debt they must go into in order to have this career. You start off your career in the red because of school loans and then if you want to start your own practice or purchase a practice you will have a significant loan for that as well. You could easily spend the first 20 years of your career trying to climb out of a mountain of debt before you actually make the money you are “supposed” to be making. The pressure to produce is enormous and you can never really sit back and relax because there is always something to pay or worry about.

    1. And the thing is, that if you are going to sell stuff, why sell cheap dental treatments, we were laugthing the other day with a friend about it, well, if I am going to be a salesman, I rather sell stuff that make me more money and that I dont have to make after I sell.

      And the funny thing is that a guy that buys a ferrari will always come out with a happy smile that no dentist can make, and the veneers guy go out thinking you scamed him, no matter what. Lol.

  7. @dental student learn to connect with teachers in a human way, well at least with the ones you can, there are really cool people, the thing is that they are one of us, they decided to stop practicing and decided to not have big practices, but they need to prove to the new guy they are still better, some of them just go over the top.

    Now that I think back to my school years I realice that a lot of those guys didnt owned practices and just were teachers, real intelligent people that are using their degree in a good way. I now remember one girl that never touched a patient and never helped any student with a patient, no matter what, her favorite phrase was “Well, I would help you, but you have to learn to be on your own” never touched any patient that way. Her job was basically to hold a mirror and see you treatments, she wasnt very picky, every treatment was good for her, god bless her, if I ever cross her again I will give her a hug, I used to think she was a loser back then but now I get it.

  8. You guys are an inspiration! I’m a young dentist (3 years out of dental school) and working in the UK. Have been unhappy in the profession since I started really (for all the same reasons as everyone here). I find myself wishing every day that I’d done something else at university…problem is I don’t know if I left the profession what else I could do now! I think that’s one of many reasons why I might never be as brave as you to actually make the decision to leave, that and the financial uncertainty/family disapproval that would surely follow. Still, thank you for showing me that it is possible!

    1. Thanks, Petie! it’s a great position to be in. I love Rick’s story– so inspirational! Although I didn’t choose the same path he did and my path has made me really happy, his path was always my dream. I knew 3 years in also. Don’t give up. You can do it. It doesn’t have to be in 1 giant leap. You can do it slowly, and the right thing will show up for you. Good luck and keep us posted!

  9. Hi everyone.. I’m so glad I found this website!
    I graduated in the early 90s in New Zealand, and have been looking at other career options since about 2010.
    After spending about 9 years working in the UK, I returned to NZ and have worked my way in to a pretty good practice.
    Unfortunately in recent years I have found myself increasingly unhappy with my career.
    Clinically I’ve always been okay, but over the last couple of years I’ve found the work increasingly more stressful.
    This is primarily because I’m basically at the point where I’m sick and bored with dentistry, and have been for a while.
    I try to keep the scope of dentistry as wide and as varied as possible, but basically I’m over it!
    I find myself getting depressed and agitated when I walk into the surgery in the morning.
    For many years I was happy with dentistry, learning new procedures, going to courses etc, but now i feel it just gives me a bad back and a headache!
    I really want to get out of dentistry, but I have no idea what I can do.
    Unfortunately I’m not in a great financial position, but on the positive I don’t have any dependents to worry about.
    I love travelling, and I did a lot of it when living in the UK.
    I have dreams about selling the house and taking 6 months off to travel around Europe and Sth America etc, but then I worry about what I can do when I get back. No house, no job, no income.. unless I go back to dentistry…
    Maybe I should ‘do a Rick’ and find a nice European lady to settle down with lol!
    Anyway, sorry about the rather depressing rant, but it’s good to know that other dentists have gone through the same situation.
    It’s very difficult to think about other job opportunites when we are really only trained for teeth!
    Any advice would be welcome, and thanks for staring this site Lolabees!

    1. Hi Kiwi! You asked for advice, so you’re gonna get it! Ha! I think you’ve got the right idea. Go abroad, find a lady, and settle down there. 😉 As you see from Rick’s story, your dream of leaving it all to travel for 6 months can lead you to the right place. It may lead you to your dream life, but you might also be able to find that in places where you least expect it. So if the fear of what you’ll have to face after those 6 months is holding you back, look for it in other ways.

      In my case, I worked with a career coach for a while, and then I was still so stuck and depressed that I saw a therapist to help teach me techniques to get past the fear that was keeping me stuck. I spent a lot of time working on myself, and I think that’s what allowed me to change. Then I went from being very closed to any options I might have to being very open and aware of what else I could do. But I think the key is doing something small every day that will push you in that direction. Then you’ll eventually have a lot more clarity. It took me 3 years from the time I decided to leave, so it wasn’t overnight, but it did happen, and that’s what counts!

      Keep us posted on what you decide to do!

  10. ANOTHER Kiwi here 🙂
    Really glad I found your blog and also to read everyone else’s comments. I’m 15 years into practicing now. A couple of years ago I moved with husband and family to the largest city here for my husband’s work. It has been really hard to re-establish myself yet again. Basically my earnings are crap so the financial side isn’t really holding me back. I think I’d be a lot happier in a smaller place but that isn’t possible unless I was no longer with my husband. I think there’s an excess of dentists here and it would be really risky to try and establish the sort of practice I’d really like (or any practice). Can’t find anything to buy, and now I’ve started worrying along the lines of “what if I bought and it didn’t work out”. I’ve still got about the same size student loan as when I graduated. I don’t think I could make a living out of any of the other things I’m good at.
    Still early days with trying to work out what to do 😦

    1. Hi Lorax! It doesn’t really sound like you dislike dentistry, but it sounds more like you dislike the lack of financial/business success you are having with it? Is that right? I know I never wanted to buy a practice because I always had 1 foot out the door, and I didn’t want to feel even more committed. I had the same thought– couldn’t make a living out of the things I was good at. And in some ways, I now see that I didn’t want to. I always thought It would be great to have some type of travel gig, but now, I just think it might take away the spark that travel ignites in me if I always HAVE to do it. I think you should explore and pursue what you like to do because it could lead you to something that would pay!

  11. Ditto, Ditto, Ditto!!! For me, I stuck it out (suffered) for 30 years before I retire this upcoming May 1st. I can’t concentrate I’m so excited. I even specialized trying to find “happiness”. It didn’t work. I can afford a nice retirement, although not as nice as my life while working, but I know the blood pressure will be better. I am so happy to know I’m not the only one out there who feels the same as me. I have felt like such a failure feeling this way, and stayed with it for that reason. God I can’t wait to wake up in a few weeks and not be a Dentist.

    1. Congrats, Dwight! That is awesome. You are going to feel like a new person… or maybe you’ll just start to feel like yourself again after 30 years. What are you going to do in retirement?

  12. This blog and all it’s comments are so inspiring! I have been contemplating a career change from Dentistry since more than a year now. I do really like Dentistry as a field but what comes with it is slowly burning me out. I can’t imagine being in clinical practice for the next 30 years! Every Sunday night I have this sick feeling that I go have to go to work the next day and listen and deal with patient’s complaints, unhappiness, pain and impatience. Don’t get me wrong, I have some really wonderful patients but the bad ones completely ruin my self esteem and my wanting to do good dentistry. I hate that there is so much negativity associated with being a dentist from a patient’s point of view. “I hate coming here”, “It’s hurts even more after the filling”, “I want only what my insurance covers”, “how much longer do I have to sit here”..all these things, day after day after, week after week, wears me out. Even in a group of people, I hesitate from introducing myself as a dentist because I feel somehow people will label me as someone who takes a lot of money and causing a lot of pain. I am blessed in that my family supports me in my decision for a career change. I am looking actively into pursuing a field which will still be in healthcare but where I don’t have the stress of clinical practice. It is extremely encouraging to see so many ex-dentists branch out into diverse fields. It definitely helps to know I am not alone and that I shouldn’t be fearful in taking that next step towards being happy!
    Lolabees- keep up the good work!

    1. Way to go! I think we’ve all felt those same things. Glad you found us here, and you’ll have to keep me posted on what you decide to do! You’re so lucky that your family is supportive– without that, it would be easy to just settle for unhappiness. Change is good. I think you’ll like it. Feel free to reach out if you find yourself needing some inspiration– it can be a long process. 😉

  13. hi guys,
    i stumbled on this blog as well after googling ‘i hate being a dentist’ lol. it’s been so inspirational reading this blog and people’s comments, we are not alone in this world after all! so i thought i’d share my story too…
    i’m a dentist from melbourne, australia, been practising for about 10 years now. i worked in the public sector when i first finished dentistry, and then in the private, and then wanted a new challenge and decided to go work in singapore for another couple of years, got burned out so took a year off to study mandarin in taiwan (where i was born), which was enlightening, but then, for financial reasons, i came back to melbourne where i have been working in private practice since. last year the economy took a nosedive and i really started questioning why i was in dentistry, and how i’d never really been passionate about my work, and looking back, i realised that all those career changes were really just me trying to find the exit! so the drop in patient load was actually a blessing in disguise! i started looking around online for other career options and i stumbled on a masters in public health, which was offered fully online, and it immediately peeked my interest. i guess i still didn’t have the nerve to detach completely, so i still wanted to be in the health profession, but not just being in a clinic seeing patients all day. i applied on a whim and then a month later, i found out i got in, and before i knew it i was back at uni! being back the second time round has been a very enjoyable experience compared to the first time. i think it just comes with being older and having more focus, but i found the study to be very invigorating for the mind compared to the day-in day-out humdrum of clinical work! i ended up doing some subjects on campus, and met all sorts of health professionals looking to expand their career horizons, (one of whom was a retired dentist incidentally lol).
    i managed to complete the course full time (1 year), whilst working full time as well (yes it was hell at times) and so i’m proud to say that as of yesterday, i finished my final exams (which i’m pretty sure i passed, fingers crossed xx)!
    so now, armed with a new degree, i have to sort out what i want to do in the next phase of my mission to leave dentistry. my course was focused on developing countries, so possibly doing some sort of consultancy/NGO work does appeal to me, preferably in asia. i’d probably like to go do some charity dental work for the latter part of this year as i wind everything up here. on the other hand, i have also been (for years now) trying to get a graduate position in the foreign ministry (to become a diplomat) which i believe is where my real passions lie. it is very competitive, but i feel like, now i have my masters and i’ve been doing a lot of intensive language courses/certificates to brush up on my chinese/french, i might have a competitive edge if i decide to apply again next year.
    anyhow, enough rambling, i guess my conclusion is the same: if you’re stuck in a rut, and even if you don’t know where you’ll end up, just start doing something different. as confucius said, a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, and studying has opened up so many ideas/opportunities for me, so i feel positive about what the future holds.

    so kudos to you, to rick, and to everyone else, good luck! will keep in touch 🙂

    cheers,
    peter

    1. Hi Peter,
      I’m so glad you did that search. I bet you never expected to find this! I love hearing stories like yours. Thanks for sharing it. Isn’t it funny how we unknowingly do certain things– I also can look back and see things I did that were strong indications that I didn’t want to be in dentistry. I just didn’t quite know it at the time.

      I totally agree– it’s just about taking that first step. It can open up your world to so many possibilities. Congrats on getting your new degree and having the courage to make a change. You will not regret it! Keep in touch and let us know how it goes. A lot of people will be inspired by you.

  14. Fantastic blog!

    I’m a Dentist qualified some 13 years and reading some of the comments really resonate with me! I’m pursuing some additional non dental qualifications so to add variation to my working life. But like has been highlighted by most here you can’t force yourself to do something that you don’t love short to medium term it’s fine but you’ll reach a moment when you’ll have had enough. Am so happy for those that have found an alternative and are happy, after all it’s happiness that’s most important in life!:) Feel free to get in touch.

    Finally massive thanks to lolabees for this great blog like a ex dental or those in that process to share there thoughts wherever they are in the world!

    God bless and Wish you all well guys and girls!:)

  15. I’m a dental medicine student – 5th (last) year. I have had so many doubts. I still do. Last year I was so scared and depressed, when I realized that it’s not the thing i want to do – it’s not my thing – i hate doing it – will never be good at it, and i don’t even want to be good at it – just give me the money and flexible hours. That was so stupid of me to get into it just for this ‘comfort’. But when youre 19 you don’t know what to do with your life. I went to vet medicine – 1 year – but it was so hard – i changed it to dentistry – I REGRET IT. I think about going back to veterinary. I love animals. I would see it as my mission. It’s something I’d love to do – help animals, travel around the world, be free. Being a dentist is so boring and stressful at the same time. It’s also very exhausting. I don’t find anything good about it. What do you think i should do? Do you think it’s possible to work park-time and study another thing? Or work part-time and work in the other field? It’s so sad that i already realized that it’s so not for me isn’t it?

    1. I also found that dentistry was not as I expected. One of the best things about this field is that you CAN work part-time and explore other options. A lot of other careers don’t even have that to offer. If you feel you are not ready and equipped to walk away right now, I would do that. Do something small every day to move yourself in that direction! Just think– it could be even sadder to realize dentistry isn’t for you when you’re 25 years into the career and it’s even harder to make a change. Yes, it can be sad, but it doesn’t have to be sad forever, and someday you’ll feel grateful that you followed your heart. Good luck!!

  16. I am not dentist from the states but i am experiencing totally the same thing. Being a dentist is really stressed out…both mentally and physically.. I have been working for only 3 years and i just feel like i cannot bare it anymore. I really hope i can escape from it one day too.

    1. I felt the same way at 3 years! Then it was a lot of ups and downs over the next 7. Don’t give up on trying to find what you love. Life IS BETTER after dentistry. Good luck, Joannee!

  17. OMG! I really can’t express my happiness in words…there are so many of you guys out there..thought I was crazy..coz all my classmates love their job..Was considering further degrees hoping it would make me feel better about myself and gain some self ‘esteem’..bbbut I guess once you hate it …you always will..have to reconsider my options and take baby steps towards that ‘giant leap’..million thanks for having started this blog..:)

    1. Chuckyteeth– so glad you found this little community. I bet there are even more of us than what you see here. And as you can see, those of us have found change have all found it in different types of careers. How long have you practiced? Do you know what you want to do?

  18. Been practicing 5 years now..everytime I think of change,am reminded of the long hours of study, the efforts, the expenses and somehow drag myself back to work.
    I don’t know what else I could do.. I love reasearch and academics, so maybe I could work towards that..A huge question mark..that’s my future

  19. This is a really interesting website, I’m so glad I found it. I’m in a similar situation career wise, where I feel “stuck”, but actually am wondering if I should make a career change and go to dental school! I’m a 30 year old woman working as an environmental engineer, debt free, make a decent living, but sometimes the work is just so incredibly boring to me. I always excelled at sciences and art, I love school, I love learning, I always was interested in dentistry and have enjoyed going to the dentist, but never really seriously thought of myself as becoming one until the last few years. Your posts are a great help to me because at my age I don’t know if I would want to go through the time and financial commitment of dental school, to run into the same problems later on that you’re describing with not being content with some aspects of the profession. I kind of feel like I’m at the point where I don’t know what else I’d do if I wasn’t an engineer. Reading about your self exploration has been really refreshing, and I love reading the comments from others as well! Cheers!

    1. Thanks, engineergal! I’m glad you found it too and it’s great to hear from you! Believe me– I completely understand your hesitations. I felt the same way about going back to school for another career. I was 38 at the time and did not want to waste more time in more school only to feel the same way in the end. However, if it were a reality, I love school enough too that I could be a student forever! Good luck with your change and keep me posted on what you decide. Glad you’re finding some personal value in all of our experiences! Just don’t give up– you will find something you love even if it takes a bit of trial and error! Let me know if you have questions…

  20. Retired after 24 years and loving it for the past 4 months.Being a dentist and playing the role at all times in a small town is exhausting.I was worried about peoples’ reactions ,but most have been cool with it ,but I could care less now anyway.Most people have no clue what we go through.The ones that do kind of piss me off are the old dentists who tell me that I am too young to quit.I just tell them to kiss my ass and go back to their 2nd or 3rd wives.All you new dentists,just hang in there as long as you can and save and invest as much of your income as you can.If you can’t take it though ,you must get out of debt and then go do something else.You are not a failure for changing paths.We only go through this life once and you might as well enjoy it.All dentists should have each other’s backs and respect each other’s choices.

    1. Congrats, DJ! It is exhausting. So funny about the disapproval of other dentists. I’ve been surprised that a bunch have told me they’re jealous… although I’ve had my share of disapproval or even confusion. They can’t seem to understand. From others I’ve had the “you’re too young to quit,” but I think my favorite is when people (usually moms) look at me with pity, shake their heads, and say, “after all that schooling.” I just choose to laugh at it, but it can make you feel a bit self-conscious or defensive. I take it with a grain of salt because I know they don’t mean any harm by it, but it can be a slightly rude comment.

      I love your advice, and I agree. Life is too short to spend it the wrong way.
      What are you doing now that you’ve “retired?”

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