Dentistry has emerged from the pandemic stronger than ever—a point the stellar practitioners in this year’s 40 Under 40 made repeatedly as we sought their insight about the future of our profession.
By RICK COHEN AND CHUCK COHEN
DO YOU WANT to know where dentistry really stands—and, more importantly, where it’s headed? There’s no better group of doctors to poll than our annual 40 Under 40 honorees. These high achievers (a mix, as always, of generalists and specialists) represent the most successful, ambitious, forward-thinking and skilled practitioners nationwide. That’s why, for the twelfth year running, we’re sharing with you their smartest, most prescient thoughts and insights.
If you’re a student or recent graduate, these doctors’ journeys are a road map to midcareer achievement well worth following. If you’re among their peers, this issue offers the chance to catch up with dozens of colleagues at once. If you’re an older doctor, meet the people who might soon be in the market to buy your practice.
We thought the pandemic might have left more lasting scars on dentistry. Not so. These doctors entered the profession fully prepared to face challenges like rising tuition costs, increased competition and a rapidly changing health care landscape. None of that has dulled their enthusiasm or optimism, and for good reason. Old doors close, new ones open, and today’s doctors are adept at uncovering opportunities.
Case in point: Our 40 Under 40 are largely going it alone as practice owners, sometimes creating their own models for taking advantage of economies of scale for the greatest benefit to their practice. It’s not that they’re anti-DSO, necessarily, but rather pro-independence. As one doctor told us about his “old school” career path: “Every one of my colleagues—including myself—who have [chosen to be an independent practice owner] are doing quite well.”
That’s not all. The definition of retirement is shifting, with more doctors gravitating toward entrepreneurship as a hedge against the physical toll dentistry takes. Some are even finding fulfillment in the administrative and analytical aspects of practice ownership. “What gets measured gets improved,” one doctor explained. Said another, “I find [administrative work] interesting and challenging.” Likewise, marketing—once a dirty word in health care—was cited as a source of enjoyment, and why not? Done with integrity, it’s a creative process that makes a genuine, meaningful difference.
Happily, for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, we were fortunate enough to join many of these doctors in person during our annual 40 Under 40 event and photo shoot in Manhattan. It was particularly energizing to forge personal connections with these remarkable individuals, and especially encouraging to find them so excited about the future of a profession that profoundly touches so many lives.
For today’s top doctors, dentistry is clearly much more than a rewarding intellectual and entrepreneurial challenge. It’s a labor of love. This year’s 40 Under 40 win by embracing it with their whole hearts and minds.