income protection for dentists

Dentists have invested a great deal of time and money into building their earning power and their practices. Many dentists don’t realize there are multiple tools available to protect their income and earning power. Since many dentists are also business owners, solid income protection often requires more than one type of disability insurance policy.

Dentists Have Demanding Jobs

Dentists help people maintain their oral health, which is not always an easy job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says 127,600 of the 146,200 dentists in 2021 were general dentists – the ones who offer routine and preventative cleanings and exams. These dentists also handle filings, root canals, and tooth extractions. Other dentists are specialists – the BLS says 6,000 dentists are orthodontists (they fix misaligned teeth and provide braces), whereas 6,300 are oral and maxillofacial surgeons.

Whether they’re drilling cavities, fitting braces, or performing surgery, dentists need a steady hand and a good eye. A disability could keep them from performing the daily duties that are integral to their work.

Since disability income insurance provides income protection in the event of an injury or illness, it’s important for dentists. However, as there are different types of disability insurance products, dentists may need more than one policy.

Disability Income Insurance Policy Options for Dentists

The BLS says some dentists work as associates for established dental practices. However, many have their own businesses or operate dental practices with one or more partners.

Dentists who work for larger companies may have access to employee benefits, such as long-term disability insurance, but a substantial number of dentists are self-employed. They need to secure their own benefits, including disability income protection insurance.

An individual disability insurance policy provides the type of disability coverage dentists need. Like group long-term disability insurance, individual disability provides monthly benefits to replace a portion of the policyholders’ regular income if they experience a disability that prevents them from working, as per the terms of the disability policy. However, unlike group long-term disability insurance policies, individual disability insurance policies are fully portable, meaning they’re not tied to a specific employer. This makes individual disability insurance the ideal option for a self-employed dentist or one who’s thinking about opening a practice sometime in the future.

Disability Protection for the Practice

For the thousands of dentists who own their practices – either on their own or with a partner – individual disability insurance may be insufficient. On top of a disability income policy providing individual protection, dentists may need disability policies designed to protect businesses.

Individual disability insurance replaces a portion of the individuals’ personal income, allowing them to keep up with mortgage payments and other expenses. However, what happens when a business owner – such as a dentist who owns a small practice – is unable to work? Revenue may stop, but overhead expenses won’t.

Business overhead expense insurance covers certain overhead experiences during a period of disability, usually somewhere between 12 and 24 months. The policyholder can use the benefit to cover rent, utilities, property taxes, employee salaries, payroll taxes, equipment-related expenses, accounting fees, and other covered costs. For many small business owners, this coverage may determine whether the business can survive a period of disability.

Other important coverages to consider include bank loan disability insurance and buy–sell disability insurance. Bank loan disability insurance covers required bank loan payments during a period of disability and can be a smart investment for business owners with loans. Disability buy–sell insurance can fund a disability buy-sell agreement, making it an important succession planning tool.

Disability Income Insurance for Employees and Partners

Even at a small practice, dentists usually need a support team. For example, a tiny office might have a dental hygienist and an office manager or receptionist. A slightly larger practice might have another dentist and dental hygienist.

When thinking about their disability insurance needs, dentists should also consider the needs of the other people at the practice. In fact, buying insurance for everyone at once can be beneficial because it can qualify the policyholders for a multi-life disability insurance discount. Groups may also be interested in guaranteed standard issue disability insurance, which has minimal underwriting requirements.

When Should Dentists Purchase Disability Income Insurance?

Dentists should not wait to purchase coverage. Although young dentists might not be worried about disability, they are still at risk. Disability can impact anyone, no matter how young and healthy they seem. Waiting too long may mean dentists don’t have coverage when they need it. They may also face underwriting difficulties if they apply for coverage after they’ve developed health problems – disability insurance companies may reject their applications or charge them higher premiums.

To ensure they have disability insurance benefits when they need them, dentists should buy disability insurance early and review their needs regularly.

Some key times to think about disability income protection are when dentists:

  • Start earning an income. Dentists should buy disability insurance as soon as they have an income to protect. Even if they have long-term disability insurance through an employer, they should consider purchasing individual disability insurance as a supplement. This is a good way to increase monthly benefits and will mean they have portable coverage that can follow you wherever you go.
  • Graduate with student loan debt. Many dentists have substantial student loan debt from dental school. Look for disability insurance riders that help with student loan payments in addition to the regular monthly benefit.
  • Switch jobs. Dentists probably won’t stay at the same practice for their entire dental career. If switching practices will means losing an income protection policy, they may want to own their own policy, which will follow them anywhere.
  • Open a practice. A practice is a big investment. Dentists can protect it with business overhead expense insurance and bank loan disability insurance.
  • Enter into a partnership. A disability could force a dentist or partner to leave the business prematurely. A buy–sell disability agreement outlines how that situation will be managed and funded with buy-sell disability insurance.
  • Increase your income. A dentist’s income will likely increase over time. When this happens, they should increase their monthly disability insurance benefits. If individual disability insurance policy includes a future option rider, they can increase coverage as their income increases without undergoing more medical underwriting.
  • Expand your practice. Overhead costs will grow with the practice, so they may need to increase their business overhead expense insurance coverage.
  • Hire new employees. Employees will probably want disability insurance, too. Consider whether a multi-life discount or guaranteed standard issue policy makes sense.

The number of dentists is predicted to grow over the coming decade – and all these new dentists will need disability insurance. This is a great opportunity for insurance agents who want to provide income protection insurance. Learn more about the dentist disability insurance market.


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