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Life after clinical dentistry: How I found a rewarding new career

Sept. 6, 2022
When the pain she experienced got to be too much, Dr. Laurel Gans knew she had to leave clinical dentistry. But nothing else paid as well—until she found her current position.

It was not easy to leave clinical dentistry. It took me nearly a decade of higher education to earn my doctorate. When I was a student, I missed family gatherings, social events, and countless fun weekends to focus on studying. I spent my 20s drilling plastic teeth and memorizing anatomy lectures and pharmacology. I thought my determination and hard work would pay off via a long, stable career practicing dentistry. That is not what happened.

I am not one to give up. I was convinced I could find a way to practice dentistry without pain. I wanted to help people and make a difference in my community. So, I tried new loupes, physical therapy, occupational therapy, working in different positions, and even a microscope. While these methods provided some relief, practicing full time still left me with severe back and wrist pain.

I cut back on my hours after paying off my loans and putting away some money. I practiced a few long, intense days per week and took the rest of the week off to heal. Although the pain was still there, I enjoyed my work; I loved treating my patients. I had a good, stable income and a flexible schedule.

But I knew I couldn’t continue like this long term. Even with reduced hours, my injuries never got the chance to fully heal. It was becoming clear that my body was not built for dentistry. I have an identical twin who is also a dentist. After practicing just five years, she was injured and required wrist surgery. I began to look for nonclinical opportunities, but they were few and far between.

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I received a job offer from a dental insurance company. They wanted me to move far away from my family to sit in a cubicle and review dental claims full time for less money than I was making in practice two days a week. They didn't allow remote work and offered no opportunities for career growth. I decided to stick with chronic pain.

Moving on from the pain

It took a global pandemic to get me to walk away from clinical dentistry. The deadly, airborne virus was the final straw. It was time for me to move on.

I knew I wanted a full-time position that incorporated my dental education and years of clinical experience. I wanted an opportunity to grow professionally and learn about new aspects of the dental industry. I accepted the position of director of sales, marketing, and business development for United Dental Brokers of America (UDBA).

At UDBA, we help dentists and specialists with their practice transitions and associate placements. I’m able to use my experience as a dentist to guide dental professionals throughout their careers. Because of my background and dental connections, I can better match sellers with various private buyers and dental service organizations (DSOs) nationwide. I can help dentists and specialists find the right associates to join their practices. I love being able to use my knowledge and training to help people in a nonclinical way.

It’s imperative in dentistry to have both a micro and macro understanding of the industry. As a clinical dentist, I learned the day-to-day details of running a practice, treating patients, and managing staff. Now I use that insight to apply toward my expanding knowledge of the business side of dentistry. My experience allows me to have an in-depth perspective of both the practice as well as the business of dentistry.

Because UDBA is expanding, I can help other dentists and specialists who are interested in exploring nonclinical dental opportunities. I often receive calls from dentists asking about my experience, and how they can find nonclinical work in dentistry. I tell them we’re always looking to add dentists to our team as brokers.

Almost all our brokers are dentists and specialists. Most continue to practice dentistry while they broker practice transitions and place associates. UDBA brokers are motivated, hard-working dental professionals who enjoy networking in their communities. They strive to make transitions smooth and straightforward for sellers. Since I started with UDBA, we’ve added nearly a dozen brokers throughout the country and would love to add more.

I thought leaving clinical dentistry would mean leaving behind everything I had worked for. Now I know that I can bring my experience and knowledge to other aspects of the dental industry. Although I’m not restoring teeth, I’m still able to help people and make a difference.

It's never easy to make a life change. It took chronic pain and a global pandemic to get me to walk away from my career. But now I know I made the right decision, and I’m proud to be moving forward.

Author's note: If you would like to learn more about UDBA’s services or opportunities, email Laurel Gans, DDS, at [email protected]. You can also visit or on Instagram

Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

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