job questions to ask as a dental school grad

by ann

I know I d do it all again even if it waswrong

Throughout dental school, we have a number of “Lunch and Learns” where people provide a free lunch in exchange for an opportunity to talk to future dentists. The food, even if it’s pizza again, is a huge draw for poor dental school students. (It’s also an hour where you can day dream about that long-awaited graduation day.) Once you hit third year the recruitment evolves into happy hours and fancy dinners. We aren’t being wined and dined every night but it’s always nice when we are. These events are primarily to discuss one of four things: dental products, financial planning, insurance and JOBS.

In order to consider the first three things, we need that last one the most.

It’s overwhelming because everything sounds great, especially when there is an open bar. To guide you, here is a list of questions to consider while looking for that first job. I have included questions for all types of clinic models from practices with one owner/dentist to dental service organizations (DSOs)/“corporate dentistry”. As of last week, I matched into a general practice residency so I can put off the stress of job hunting for another year; however, I have been to a number of these events to prepare nonetheless. Good luck in your search! Let me know of any other questions you would add to this list!


  • How do you advertise? Do you actively market or do you depend on referrals/word of mouth?
  • Who supplies the patients? Am I required to build my own patient pool or will patients be supplied to me?
  • Tell me about your patient base.
  • What is the average number of patients I would see in a day?
  • What are the most common types of treatment?
  • How often do you refer cases out?
  • Do you have specific specialists you refer to?
  • How many operatories are in the office? How many are hygiene chairs?
  • What type of equipment do you use in the office?
  • How would you describe the clinic’s culture?
  • What personalities flourish here?
  • What is the staff compose of currently (i.e., how many receptionists/hygienists?)
  • Do you have an office manager?
  • Who manages billing?
  • What is the staff turnover?
  • How is conflict managed in the office?
  • Who has left in the last five years and why?
  • Where do you see the clinic in 5 to 10 years?
  • What goals do you have for the practice?


  • How long have you owned this practice?/How long have you worked here?
  • What is your treatment philosophy? Do you expect your associate to have the same philosophy?


  • What is the average age of dentists who work here?
  • What would be expected of me as an employee?
  • What are you looking for? Ann associate dentist, a partner, a dentist who will buy the practice?
  • How do you define your ideal job candidate?
  • Are you expecting a new associate to bring in anything in particular to the practice?
  • Will I have any administrative responsibilities?
  • What are the greatest challenges of this position?


  • Will I have to work under another doctor’s treatment plan? If so, when can I start making my own treatment plans?
  • Would I be limited to certain types of cases (i.e. only doing operative)?
  • Who makes the decision in regards to the type of materials and  brands of materials used in the office?
  • Who decides what lab we use?
  • Are there opportunities for growth or advancement within the practice (example: If I work under a lead dentist, what is the progression rate for an associate dentist to become a lead dentist?)
  • What is the typical career path for this position?


  • Is continuing education offered?
  • If there is, what is offered?
  • Is there a contingency for the continuing education? For example, do I need to sign a contract for number of years prior to taking courses?
  • Can I decide what I would like to take?
  • If there is no continuing education offered, do you provide an amount for me to use for continuing education?


  • What is the average salary of dentists who work here?
  • What is the salary? Is it a base salary or is it based on a percentage of production or collections? Average for percentage is 30-35%. 
  • Is there a draw? A draw is an advance against estimated future earnings. 
  • Is there a guaranteed salary for the first few months of employment?
  • Who takes care of lab costs?
  • Is there a signing bonus? Are there any other bonuses based on the clinic’s profits?


  • How much paid time off is there?
  • How many vacation days are there?
  • What about leave (i.e. emergency, maternal, etc.)?
  • Are there medical benefits? What does it include? (Think medical, dental and vision.)
  • What about insurance? (Think malpractice, disability and life.)
  • Do you provide a 401-K or other investment opportunities?
  • Is there a buy-in option?
  • Are business expenses covered? (i.e. licensing, travel, moving expenses, etc.)


  • Why do you like working here?
  • What frustrates you the most about the people you work for?