How to start a dental practice – The 10 steps before anything else

dentist showing patient how to brush

If you’re contemplating whether you want to open a dental practice or not, it’s essential to do your homework before making any decisions. To make sure you’ve done your due diligence, I’ve put together a top-10 list about how to start a dental practice that should help make your decision easier.

1 – Get Ready and Properly Plan 

The very first step before you do anything should be to make sure your financial house is in order. 

At the top of this list, ensure you have a strong credit score that will allow you to borrow money at favorable rates. 

Having a bad credit score will hurt your financing and therefore your ability to design your practice according to your vision.

It could also be a drag on your profit, potentially hurting your ability to reinvest in your practice down the road. 

2 – Save Money – No Big Purchases

Before deciding to invest in a new dental practice, it’s critical to avoid buying any big-ticket items like a new house, fancy car, or rental property. 

While it may be tempting to buy a big-ticket item right after dental school, it will significantly harm and, in some cases, delay your ability to borrow money. This will directly affect the amount of cash flow you have for the business making success more difficult.

This could become crippling to you and your dream. So, be patient. Purchase the house, car, and other big-ticket items after you have secured and closed on your dental office loan.

3 – Dream 

I repeat this several times throughout my book, but before you can begin figuring out how to start a dental practice, you need to dream big. 

Do this by writing down your vision, goals, and mission statement. Once you’ve completed this step, consider a name for your new dental practice so you can envision it. 

Take time to do this because once you establish a business name, it will be with you forever. I’d suggest choosing a business name that aligns with your mission statement and takes the future into account. 

Creating a business name early on will help establish your identity and allow you to develop a logo and theme. This will also help solidify your branding and marketing while maintaining consistency and congruency.

4 – Choose Wisely

Once you begin to build a team, make sure to surround yourself with people who are more knowledgeable than yourself. Your goal is to create a team that will look out for your interests and with whom you can ask questions and trust their advice when making major decisions. The best way to do this is to share your vision, budget, and needs with them. 

When building a business from scratch the employees you hire during your development years can have a great effect on the initial success the practice has and the time it will take to be profitable. Put effort into the hiring process to ensure you get the best possibe people you can. Make sure they have the correct training in dealing with customers, know how to use the systems effectively and have good knowledge in your services and their prices. Be sure to listen to your staff and patients during your first months and years to gain insite into their experiences with the business, the types of services you are offering and how you compare with other dentists in the community.

5 – Pre-Qualify

Even before you decide whether you want to open a new dental practice or not, start talking with lenders to see where you stand and what you qualify for.

It’s important to begin these conversations as early as possible and talk with several different lenders to know your options. 

Rates and terms are continuously changing. In the current economic climate, rates are extremely low, which bodes well for new dentists.

If you use a dental-specific lender, you may be able to buy equipment, build a new office, and set up your technology with no money down. Sometimes, you can get multiple dental-specific lenders involved to the point of not even needing any out-of-pocket money for a ground up. Most dental-specific lenders will lend up to 100% of your dream office. 

6 – Determine Your Needs

As part of figuring out how to start a dental practice, you will need to put together a team of trusted professionals to determine your office’s size, design level, and IT and equipment needs. 

A professional team will help you figure out your projected square footage, budget, and timeline. 

7 – Count the Cost

Once you’ve figured out how to start a dental practice, the next step is to figure out HOW MUCH it’s going to cost you. 

The best way to do this is to hire a trusted professional to help you determine how much of your costs will be out of pocket. 

As part of this process, make sure to do a “performance check” to estimate your monthly fees, maintenance fees, and other expenses. These estimates can help you calculate how much you need out of pocket. Allow for surprises in your budget. Construction or new opportunities might arise as the project is developed, and you’ll want to be ready for them. 

8 – Evaluate the Office and Building Objectively 

Being objective when you are excited to open a dental practice can be difficult, which is why I always recommend hiring a building inspector before building or leasing a property. 

The inspector should evaluate access, parking, structure, maintenance, power, mechanical, internet, phone, gas, water needs and overall location. I would also make sure to look at the office’s visibility.

9 – Be Yourself!

We’ve all been told this a thousand times. Still, you would be surprised at the number of people who try to pretend to be someone other than themselves. 

All too often, a dentist will take on another persona of what someone else wants them to be, thus losing their identity. 

Loss of identity can be devastating, resulting in an office that does not represent them. Do not lose your voice! 

10 – Be Unique! 

Just like it’s important to be yourself, it’s also essential to set yourself apart from other dentists and be unique. 

Patients will almost always take the cheaper option, but if you can set yourself apart and be unique, you’d be surprised by how many clients appreciate that. 

If you found this article useful you may also be interested in my post about Things You Need To Know When Starting A Dental Practice

To learn more about how to plan and create an effective strategy to start 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 first chapter is free to download and will give you even more insight into how to start a dental practice that you may only dream of today.

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