Dentist Disability Insurance: You Probably Won’t Read This…

Your ability to earn income should be protected – in the most meaningful way for you and your family. 

By: Todd Doobrow, CFP

Maybe you will read this…who knows what piques your interest? If you do stick with us, here is a crazy story for you.

I have a buddy who always dreamt of owning a very specific sportscar. Cherry red, lowered chassis, an engine so big it got more gallons per mile than miles per gallon. After years of working hard, saving his pennies, and negotiating with his spouse, he eventually had the means to make his dream purchase. He ran to the dealership to finalize the deal, dreaming of road trips and beach journeys. The salesman handed him the keys and the smile on his face was ten miles wide.

Then, as he was driving out of the lot, he got sideswiped by a drunk driver, and the car was totaled. Years of work down the drain with nothing to show for it but some twisted metal and a trip to the hospital.

How Does This Relate to You, the Dentist?

Could this be you – sans the car?  In many ways, it IS you.

  • First, dentists are usually very good at setting goals and working to reach them. When your friends graduated from undergrad and got jobs, you decided to keep going for four or more years to continue your education and become what you are. 
  • Second, you invested a significant amount of time and money into a very valuable asset – yourself. 
  • Third, you have probably learned by now that not everything that happens to us is under our control.  That big surgery patient calls out sick, the weather forces you to close your office for a few days, and your compressor goes down in the middle of an exam.  

Regardless of it all, what is the one single thing that makes any of this a worthwhile journey? What will help us repay our loans, afford the lifestyle we want, and take that next vacation? 

It is your ability to earn income. And that, much like my buddy’s car, should be protected as soon as possible.

Why Dentists Need Disability Insurance

If you graduate dental school and plan to work for 30 years, how much is that worth? 

Let’s assume, on the low end, you make $150,000 per year and never get a raise. That means your lifetime earnings amount is $4.5 MILLION DOLLARS. His car was about $250,000; which one is more valuable?

The logical answer is your career; yet we hesitate to protect our income while annually insuring our automobiles.

So how do we go about protecting our income? Disability Insurance. And yes, I know the last thing you want is another lecture on it, so let’s just have a friendly discussion. 

I get it, disability insurance is not a fun topic. You have likely had more than a few insurance salesmen try to convince you why you need to buy more or replace what you already have, with their product. 

Who to Turn to for Disability Insurance & What to Look for

Here’s a simple solution to the first question – ask if they are incentivized for you to buy one product over another. 

Then, no matter how much you like, or do not like, whatever their first offer is, just say you want to see other options. 

At this point one of two things is likely to happen:

  1. They get defensive because they need you to help them fill their quota and they try to sell you even harder
  2. They produce a list of other company solutions for you to review. 

I will let you decide who has your best interest in mind.

Disability Insurance Riders

Once you decide who to work with, there are a few options, also called “riders,” that we want to make sure are included in your policy.  (This only applies to individual policies, not group ones. If you work for a DSO or DSP and are covered by their group plan, that likely requires a more in-depth conversation.)

Most importantly, we need to make sure the base coverage (what the insurance company will pay you) is enough to pay the bills for you and your family through the benefit period (the length of time they will pay). 

FYI – if you pay out of pocket and do ever need a benefit, the amount you receive is tax-free so no need to account for that! 

The other “must-haves” include:

  • Own Occupation: Certain companies have stronger language for white coat clients, so be careful with this one.  In its simplest form, Own Occ states that should you get disabled and can no longer practice dentistry, you can do any other job and still receive your benefit payment.
  • Partial Disability: Unlike life insurance, it can be difficult to determine if you are disabled or not (companies even define “disabled” differently!).  What happens if, after an injury or illness, you can still work, but only see 30 patients a day instead of your normal 50?  In this case you are partially disabled and companies can help you make up the difference in income.
  • Future Insurability / Future Purchase Options: This allows you to be able to purchase more insurance in the future, only having to show financial justification.  The company will no longer consider physical matters and you can often exercise this simply by filling out a form.
  • Cost of Living Adjustment: Should you go on claim, this will increase your annual benefit often based on the Consumer Price Index.

In Summary

Much like a dream car, your ability to earn income should be protected in the most meaningful way for you and your family.  Also like the car, there are many options you can choose – some worth it, some maybe not. 

But whatever you decide just remember disability insurance for dentists is like car insurance – better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it! 

Keep Reading: Invest for the Future — Or FOMO?

Photo by RDNE Stock project

Todd Doobrow, CFP

Todd Doobrow, CFP

Todd Doobrow is an independent Certified Financial Planner® fiduciary and founder of Curato Advisory, who has worked with dental and medical professionals, and their teams, for more than a decade. Not only does he see the life of a dentist first-hand as his wife practices Periodontics and Implant dentistry, but he has entrenched himself in his clients’ practices with a voracious focus on financial efficiency. He can be reached at or 205.778.2020.