Are Dentists Allowed To Earn Money While They Are On A Disability Claim?

Joseph F. Pantoja, CLU®, MBA, CLTC
Regional Director, Treloar & Heisel, Inc.

Sustaining a disability does not translate to giving up work forever. A question we frequently encounter from dentists is: “Can I make money in a new occupation if I am totally disabled from dentistry?” 

If you’ve wondered the same, here’s our answer. It depends on the definition of disability in your underlying disability income contract (meaning your insurance policy), along with other factors.

True Own Occupation is the name of the game.

We typically recommend insurance policies from companies that offer dentists a true own occupation definition of total disability. Basically, if your insurance contract is written with a true own occupation clause, it says that if a person becomes disabled and is therefore unable to fulfill the material and substantial duties of their regular occupation (the occupation or occupations they are engaged in just prior to the start of the disability), they can generally go into any other occupation they want after their disability and the insurance company will not reduce their benefits by any income they earn in their new field. 

Let’s give you an example to make this real. Say you are a full-time dentist in clinical practice, and you have an accident that prevents you from using your right hand in the way you need to at work. You were wise to buy disability income insurance when you started practice, and you were advised to purchase a policy that had a true own occupation definition. To remain in the field you love and have invested in so deeply, you secure a faculty position at a dental school. The insurance company will likely pay you your disability income benefits, as stipulated in the contract, AND you get to earn money as a professor. 

Buyer beware: Not all insurance contracts are created alike.

There are only a handful of insurance companies that offer a true own occupation definition of disability for dentists. This means you need to be an educated consumer and do your homework in terms of understanding the fine print in your contract. Even better: work with an advisor who is knowledgeable about the financial services needs of dentists throughout the course of their lifetime. It makes sense to work with someone who understands your specific needs. 

Let’s say you do suffer an injury and go on claim. Then what?

We hope this doesn’t happen to you, but should you need to go on claim, provided you were appropriately insured, you would likely receive benefits for the duration of time you selected when you initially purchased the policy. If you don’t know what this is for you, go back to the contract to see what kind of a benefit period is included. Typically, benefits are payable until age 65, 67 or 70. If you are now in the market for disability income insurance, make sure to carefully consider how long you would want the insurance company to pay your benefits if you are disabled.

About Treloar & Heisel

Treloar & Heisel is a financial services provider to dental and medical professionals across the country. We assist thousands of clients from residency to practice and through retirement with a comprehensive suite of financial services, custom-tailored advice, and a strong national network focused on delivering the highest level of service. For more information, contact Treloar & Heisel at 800-345-6040, or visit

Treloar & Heisel and Treloar & Heisel Property and Casualty are divisions of Treloar & Heisel, Inc. Insurance products offered through Treloar & Heisel, Inc. The definitions provided in this article are for general and informational purposes only and are not binding. Please refer to the policy definitions for the binding contractual definitions of these terms. 21-105