Howard Speaks: If You Won’t Be a Specialist, You’ve Got To Be Especially Good by Dr. Howard Farran

Howard Speaks: If You Won’t Be a Specialist, You’ve Got To Be Especially Good 

by Howard Farran, DDS, MBA, publisher, Dentaltown magazine

My favorite joke right now: “I’m such a productive dentist, I can do in a single hour what it would take an endodontist eight hours to undo.”

Don’t be that doctor! A dentist who’s excellent at high-market procedures like endo and implants has the best chance for success. If a patient comes in and you can extract a tooth and place an implant, or do a root canal, buildup and crown, you’re going to be a baller who’s solving real problems for patients. You’ll also be making a lot more money than dentists who refer out their endo cases and can’t do implants.

Specializing will maximize your income
I always say that being a specialist is going to bring you the biggest financial reward: There’s less competition at the top, and whoever’s the most expert is going to be in demand. The market for the best is always going to be premium, whether you’re talking plumbing, automobiles or dentistry. That helps explain why the average net income for specialists is $320,000, while the average net income for GPs is $197,000. (Practice owners earn $245,000 on average, while employed dentists earn about $145,000.)

Even insurance reimbursements are higher for specialists; insurance companies routinely pay specialists more than what a general dentist would receive for doing the same procedures. That’s because specialists have the best track record for great work—the fewest number of re-treatments (and expensive lawsuits). In fact, nowadays many DSOs aren’t letting their general dentists tackle molar root canal procedures anymore, because if they fail, the cases need to be re-treated by an endodontist.

Studying will maximize your proficiency
But let’s say that, like me, you’ve got your heart set on general dentistry and not a specialty. As a young dentist, this is your chance to learn from more experienced doctors and mentors on how to improve your clinical skills. Bone up on your basics, as Dr. Jason Cellars explains in his article here: While he was still in dental school, Cellars asked many practicing doctors which skills they thought new dentists needed to improve, and their top answers were prep speed and occlusion.

This is also the time to hone your practice management and interpersonal communication skills. I used to believe patient management was a “soft skill” but nothing is further from the truth, because your success depends on your ability to effectively communicate with patients. If you can connect with them, you’re already halfway there and you haven’t even given them a treatment plan!

In his article here, Dr. Rami Salha recaps the biggest opportunities for learning that he had as an associate dentist, and how he applies them as a new practice owner himself.

Dentaltown will maximize your connectivity
I created Dentaltown with the idea that no dentist should ever practice alone, so I hope you take advantage of everything that our magazine and website offer.

  • In every issue of Dentaltown magazine, doctors share case studies and other clinical content, while industry experts discuss practice management, ethics, marketing, personal finance and more.
  • Our more than 500 AGD-certified continuing education courses cover everything from implants to silver diamine fluoride. Many are also free to view, so you can learn more about the topics that are most important to you even before you take the tests to earn CE credits!
  • Our online message boards are open 24/7, allowing dentists to ask questions, share answers and connect with peers from around the world.
This special edition provides just a snippet of what’s available to new dentists on Dentaltown. Please be sure to check out all the offerings online at We’re here to help you thrive and succeed!

Sally Gross, Member Services Specialist
Phone: +1-480-445-9710
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