Life as a Radiology Resident and Beyond

As it stands these days, I am starting to approach the end of my residency.  I am getting busier and busier these days.  There are mainly four more things that I have to complete in order to finish.  Two exams, my thesis and the first part of the boards.  Once those are complete I am basically on track to finish my residency.  I get several on radiology pretty regularly that I would like to address.

The first question I get is what is life like as an oral radiologist?

Truth be told, life as a radiologist really isn’t “pre-determined” yet.  It is still a very immature field with many venues to take on.  You can go into research, teaching, or be a speaker in the private practice sector.  You can also open up an imaging center and get referrals or simply work from home and read scans and write reports.  So the field is wide open.  Personally I will opt for the last two mentioned.  I am not much of a speaker and working from home suits me well.  I am somewhat of a loaner.

 

How much money will you make?

This one is a tough one to answer. Honestly as far as money is concerned, I’m not really sure.  I know it is not as much as a general dentist makes right now.  It just seems that there are not enough reports going around out there.  As with anything in dentistry, it takes a long time for dentists universally adopt a new technology and a new specialty.  This is also the only specialty in dentistry where you do not refer a patient out, but simply a scan of a patient.  This means money out of the dentist’s pocket.  Unlike the medical model, dentists are simply not used to this type of referral.  Additionally, schools are a tough business to compete with.  They reduce their fees substantially which only makes it tougher to compete after graduation.

 

How is the job market?

Unfortunately, it seems that several of my graduating colleagues are complaining that jobs are very difficult to find.   Of course this makes sense with the current conditions.  As stated above, dentists are very resistant to change.  Also the AAOMR statement on CBCT scans needs to have a bit stronger wording as far as responsibility and having the scans read.  On the medical side, insurance requires scans to be cleared by a radiologist.  On dentistry, the AAOMR statement almost seems like “eh… if you are in the mood to have it read you can send it out”.  Of course, being in the field I absolutely disagree with this and hope that AAOMR can take a stronger position in the future to better reduce patient risk and at the same time provide better conditions that foster growth for its constituents.

 

Future looking brighter?  Maybe? I hope? Pretty Please?

I like to live on the greener side of things, so I might be biased in my opinion. Here is what I see.  Most of the graduating dental class is accustomed to using CBCT for implants or pathology.  Most of this same class is also accustomed to having reports provided by radiologists.  To the point where they depend on them.  This is a good thing and in line with the medical side.  It also bodes well for the future of being an “at home” radiologist.  Additionally, I am also becoming aware of the economics of CBCT machines.  They are expensive and several practitioners that I know who have them have complained that their cost simply isn’t worth it.  This to me means that a likely future will be that dentists will relegate CBCT machines to imaging centers.  Those centers will be able to calibrate and maintain the machines, patients will be referred to them for imaging.  Again, this bodes well for the imaging center model and again this is also in line with the medical side.  The rest of the career fields are readily available if you like research or teaching.

At this point I would say to make the future look bright for oral radiologists three major steps have to be taken in the industry.

  1. AAOMR needs to take a stronger stance on CBCT scans.
  2. Institutions should raise their prices to be mostly in line with private practice.  This is relatively standard for any residency program.  Why should radiology be any different?
  3. Insurance companies need to start covering CBCT scans as a necessary diagnostic method.  This is a reality of dentistry and will happen as CBCT penetrates further into the market.  I believe that this will only be a matter of time.