Top 10 things you need to know when starting a dental practice

starting a dental practice

Starting a dental practice will be one of the biggest yet most rewarding decisions you’ll ever make in your professional career. 

To help you succeed, I’ve put together a list of the top 10 things you need to know before starting a dental office from my new book DentalEase – the essential guide to building the stress-free and profitable dental practice of your dreams.

I hope this list is as useful to you as it has been for thousands of other dentists. To help you reach your dream dental practice goals even quicker, I’ve made the first chapter of my book free to download. 

  1. REFINE YOUR VISION – This might be easier said than done, but refining your vision is the first step to make sure you are genuinely ready to start your dental practice. Before you make any decisions, take some time to determine who you are, what you want to focus on, and what you’re passionate about. Use this time to evaluate what you like and what you don’t like. Using your time in this way will help you make better decisions and act with purpose, so you don’t waste time or money.
  1. SET GOALS – When starting a dental practice, do not limit yourself, your team, or your business by setting your goals and standards too low. As you start to envision your new office, create a business plan with actionable steps. To do this, make sure you create a positive office environment, offer patients the best possible services, and give them referrals. be sure to learn new trends, invest in technology, and utilize efficient, time-saving strategies. Ensure your patients have a positive experience because your reputation is everything, and it will pay dividends in the long run.
  1. LEARN ABOUT YOUR PATIENTS – Clearly define your ideal patient. Once you’ve done this, find an area with a lot of them. Know who your patients are and cater to their wants and needs. When you find a location where your ideal patients live, it will make it easier to attract them to your practice and, in turn, will help you succeed in starting a dental office.
  1. KEEP A RECORD OF YOUR LIKES AND DISLIKES – Take notes about business policies, procedures, IT systems, HR services, and management of employees, as well as what does and does not work. Take an inventory of your likes and dislikes of the operatories, equipment, sterile, lab, and the waiting room, in addition to the office design. Once you’ve noted what you like and dislike, you can then decide what to implement into your clinic.
  1. TALK TO SUCCESSFUL DENTISTS – Having a mentor is probably the best thing you can do after leaving dental school. Find a dental practice owner that you get along with and ask them if they are willing to be your mentor. Take them to breakfast or lunch and ask them if you can take notes as you talk. Take advantage of the vast knowledge that is often so freely given when a colleague is asked.
  1. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF – It’s okay to decide you don’t want to be an owner and prefer to work for someone else. There are all kinds of unhappy dentists who own their own clinic. If they could take away the business aspect of owning a practice, they would genuinely be happier and enjoy their work so much more. Some dentists realize that they are not cut out to be an owner far too late after making the huge investment of an office and already hired employees. Some have even quit dentistry altogether because they felt so overwhelmed with the business side of dentistry. Don’t let that be you – be honest with yourself before starting.
  1. KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE – Once your vision is set, remember that every project will have challenges, no different from treating major cases. When a problem occurs with a patient or a treatment doesn’t go as planned, you don’t walk away. You keep the best interests of the patient at the forefront and move forward. It is no different when you take on your new project. Understand that some challenges will arise, whether they involve leasing, buying, purchasing a building, assembling your team, scheduling setbacks, cash flow, or having personal/family issues. Keep these things in perspective, but do not ignore red flags. 
  1. AVOID BECOMING COMPLACENT – If you have worked as a dentist for many years and have started feeling less interested in working or if production and referrals have fallen off, understand that this is typical. All of us can easily become complacent and get into a rut without even knowing it. Should this happen, look around and evaluate what you are feeling and what is happening. This is the first step to changing what is bothering you and helping you get back on track.
  1. BE FLEXIBLE – As important as it is to have a vision and set goals, it’s equally important to be flexible when things don’t work out the way you had hoped or imagined. Maintain communication with your significant other or trusted professional and discuss matters in detail. Do not be so bull-headed that you move forward without adjusting your goals or business plan when needed. Not adjusting your goals can be very costly in long term.
  1. ENJOY THE JOURNEY – What is certain is that when you enjoy what you’re doing and are fulfilling the passion deep within you, you will succeed, you will enjoy it, and it will not feel like work. It will become an enjoyable, effortless extension of you, so make sure you take a few moments to enjoy the process because starting a dental practice should be fun! 

A few other questions to consider before starting a dental practice:

How to start a successful dental practice?

Starting a dental practice is a big decision, but there are many ways to make sure you are successful. The best thing you can do is think like a business owner whose product is delivering dental services. As soon as you begin thinking like a business owner and operating as a business, your entire perspective will change and help you become a successful owner.

Is it hard to start your own dental practice?

There’s never been a better time to start your own dental practice than right now. Dental ownership is steadily declining among all age groups making it a perfect time to jump into the business. On top of that, according to the American Dental Association, dentists continue to earn a very healthy income, with the average dental general practitioner earning $180,000 annually. 

What percentage of dental practices fail?

Compared to other businesses, new dentists have among the lowest, if not the lowest, business and subsequent loan failure rate of any business. The last published numbers put this failure rate at 2.1% during their first five years of ownership for new dentists, whether purchasing an existing practice or starting from scratch.

To learn more about starting a dental practice, make sure to download the first chapter of my book DentalEase – the Essential Guide to Building the Stress-free and Profitable Dental Practice of Your Dreams. The chapter is free to download and will give you even more insight into how to start your dental practice.

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Top 10 things you need to know when starting a dental practice
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