Dentists Veto Mandatory Retirement Age

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Dentists veto mandatory dental retirement ageDentists don’t want anybody telling them when they have to retire. In this dental survey, only one dentist in 10 supported the idea of a mandatory retirement age for dentists.

The European Court of Justice has ruled in favor of Germany’s law mandating retirement for dentists and firefighters past a certain age, finding that it does not constitute age discrimination. The court further stated that any age limit on practicing dentistry must be applied to all dentists, even those in private practice. [Read more]

Overall, survey respondents felt that if there were to be a required retirement age, it should be 75. However, of those who believe there should be, the average answer was 70 years old.

Here’s what dentists had to say:

  • “Dental continuing education should be required. Patients know when a practitioner’s abilities are diminishing, as do dentists themselves. Liability concern should prevent dentists from procedures for which they no longer have the skills.” (Mississippi dentist)

Who is the government to decide?

  • “Dumb idea. Who would make that decision — some governmental bureaucrat? On what grounds? Should there be a mandatory retirement from life itself, too?” (California dentist)
  • “Get the government out of our lives! Next they’ll have us all wearing uniforms and telling us where we can live.”
  • “Sounds like government control sending us into the abyss of socialism. Less gov’t control is better.” (Florida dentist)

In defense of Europe's mandatory retirement

  • “In Germany and in Europe, there is a mandatory retirement age for workers/employee, so why not for dentists? I do not think it has to do with competence, but rather with social economy and spot for young dentists to practice.” (California orthodontist)

Some older people are still young

  • “My partner is 79 years young and he has no plans to slow down at all!! He practices 4 days every week, and he is a machine!!” (Alabama dentist)
  • “I am approaching my 76th birthday and 48th year in practice. I still am able to deliver superb dentistry including full-mouth and cosmetic dentistry cases, but I just see patients three days a week. To me, retirement is a nasty word.” (California prosthodontist)
  • “I am about to turn 70 this year, and I feel my skills are better than they have ever been. I take lots of
    dental CE
    and feel I know so much more about dentistry than most younger recent grads.” (New York dentist)
  • “I have a 91-year-old stepdad who plays tennis 3 days a week, still does home improvements, drives his car everywhere and is still sharp as a tack. Old age and what you are able to do is a very variable thing that you really can’t put a number on!” (Arizona dentist)
  • “I am 78 and still practicing full time, I had 3 uncles that practiced into their late seventies, and two cousins that stayed until they were 85. One was a WWII hero that lost his leg in battle and still went to dental school. I will match my skills with any dentist. My point is, as long as you can
    perform, keep your knowledge up to date, and love and enjoy what you do, then keep at it as long as the desire is there. I am lucky: I have two partners and a wife that is a retired flight attendant with lifetime passes. I have the best of both worlds.”

Competency checks

  • “A simple
    evaluation of current work is very easy to do today. Just have a dentist present pictures and radiographs of current work as a competency report.” (New York prosthodontist)
  • “There maybe should be some additional testing in those dentists over 75-80. We have one in our city that I believe is 88… His patients are not getting proper periodontal care and I’m concerned about the dentistry provided.” (California dentist)
  • “As any student of aging knows, there is huge variability. Periodic testing at all ages would make more sense. That would require that everyone stay up to date. Arbitrary age limits are grossly unfair.” (Dentist anesthesiologist)
  • “A dentist should not be required to retire unless he has demonstrated that he is not capable of practicing.” (Massachusetts dental educator)

Trust dentists to retire when it’s time

  • “After a professional lifetime utilizing diagnostic and treatment skills, each dentist will self-asses to refer cases beyond his skill level.” (Wyoming dentist)
  • “The doctor should know when it is time to hang it up.” (Texas pediatric dentist)
  • “Dentists should develop a retirement plan which will enable them to stop working if they so desire. With a good plan in place the dentists can work and stop when he or she feels it is necessary.” (General dentist)

Why are dentists being singled out?

  • “If this ruling is for dentists and firefighters, why not politicians and members of court? (Especially since they are the ones that made and upheld these ridiculous rulings) Why not physicians, nurses, restaurant workers, chefs, power plant workers, etc.? It doesn’t surprise me this news comes from Europe.” (Ohio prosthodontist)
  • “If you can be US president in your 70’s, why not a dentist?”
  • “Let’s make Congressional retirement mandatory.” (Florida dentist)

Physical skills inevitably deteriorate

  • “Most professionals take better care of themselves. Dentistry requires a degree of mental skill and eye/hand coordination that after age 75 is almost impossible to maintain,” (California prosthodontist)

Different types of dentistry require different skills

  • “It might be better to limit the kinds of procedures that can be done past a certain age. I know some great dentists who do great removable past age 70!” (Texas dentist)
  • “Not only do people’s skills vary, different aspects of dentistry demand different levels of skills. In addition to orthodontics, I practice dental sleep medicine (oral appliances for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea). I could practice the latter until they take me out on a stretcher.” (Oregon orthodontist)
  • “I think that any dentist at ANY age needs to realistically appraise his/her ability to deliver services at a high level, and be honest and fair to the patients that have placed their trust in them. I know quite a few dentists past the age of 65 who are not only good, but are brilliant and still fantastic clinicians. Some dentists reach a point where physical skills deteriorate, but can still be tremendous clinicians in areas such as TMD, where the needed skill is much more diagnostic/mental than physical.”

You can teach at any age

  • “One of my (ortho) professors from dental school has been working in the department until beyond age 80. He is still making a contribution, and is healthy and as alert as ever.” (California braces dentist)
  • “If the drive to be involved is still there, other ways are open to continue to contribute… like teaching.” (California dentist)

Some colleagues should retire

  • “We all know dentists that should have ‘retired’ at the age of 30! Some of us can go to 70 with no problems. It depends on the individual.” (Nevada dentist)
  • “Some should have never started.” (Arizona dentist)
  • “Age is a poor marker for retirement. Enthusiasm, skill level, attitude and level of physical health are all qualities which should be considered in evaluating retirement. I know several colleagues who retired in their fifties. They lost their passion or never really enjoyed dentistry. They should
    have retired even earlier.” (Idaho dentist)

Dentist mentoring is invaluable

  • “The wealth of knowledge and experience an older dentist has would be a loss to our profession if he/she could not mentor a new associate in a clinical environment.” (Pennsylvania dentist)

Being your own boss means you decide when to retire

  • “I own my own business, not to be told when to retire.. That IS the benefit of owning your business.” (Illinois dentist)
  • “We are small business people – we own our own practices. How could anyone set this? The patients will quit coming after they notice things.” (General dentist)

Many aren’t financially ready to retire

  • “Who will compensate for the loss of income?” (Wisconsin dentist)
  • “Yes, with mandatory retirement should come a mandatory defined benefit retirement salary.” (General dentist)

It’s an absurd idea

  • “Specialties vary. People vary. It’s insane to consider seriously.” (Colorado orthodontist)
  • “That’s ridiculous!! That is what Standard of Care is for.” (Florida dentist)
  • “It should not be allowed.” (New Jersey dentist)
  • “It’s ridiculous!” (Texas dentist)
  • “Making retirement mandatory because you have reached a certain age is nonsense. It should only be mandatory when you are dead.” (Indiana dentist)

The "Nanny State"

  • “Again here is the Nanny State application of supposedly ensuring a society protected by the government. We should by the same flawed thinking have outlawed President Regan, Linus Pauling, Pope John Paul 11, just to name a few current individuals that come to mind. Don’t you think that each individual adjusts what he does according to his expertise. You find out which endo cases you are comfortable with, which children should be referred out . These decisions vary, and not according to age, according to developed expertise and limits to that expertise with consideration to the patient’s best interest in mind..” (New York dentist)

Who wants to retire?!?

  • “As long as a dentist can work effectively, with skillful delivery of services, he must. One may go on to to supervise a team of skilled, devoted dental specialists or work for an an NGO voluntarily. Huge number of options… never retire! Only ‘tired’ dentists can retire, at any age!!”
  • “As long as a dentist is able to perform up the clinical standards of the state where he or she practices, the dentist should be allowed to continue to practice. I have not accumulated enough money to retire, so that’s not my option. Besides, retirement looks boring as all hell. I don’t want to sit around Starbucks swapping lies with a bunch of old people. I would rather keel over at the chair.” (California dentist)
  • “I would think one should be able to engage in activities as long as one’s health allows one to do so.” (Michigan dentist)
  • “Retirement from what? Day-to-day practice, part time practice, specific procedures requiring more dexterity then others, management position, teaching, etc… Mandatory retirement does not exist in any other profession.” (California dentist)


Note: Survey sample included 193 respondents.

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