For more detailed information, see the related key questions (+ answers) and resources.
The majority of us start our time in dental school with a vision of owning a dental practice at some point after graduation. Yet, we don’t give much thought while in dental school (for obvious reasons – credits, exams etc.) to what purchasing a practice or practice ownership involves. Rightly or wrongly, we assume that the dentistry will take care of itself and that the practice will run with a good team of people at the helm. Upon graduation, when we’ve decided it’s the right time to take the plunge and buy a practice, we search for the ideal practice. The truth is that the ideal practice only exists in our minds, we have to work in and work on the practice we are part of to make it ideal.
These comments shouldn’t discourage you from considering the purchase of a practice. Instead, you should embark upon a little self-reflection to find out where your strengths and talents lie and where you may need further training and coaching to empower team members to take on certain responsibilities.
Dentists, generally, do not have pension plans to fall back on and we all will eventually reach a stage where we don’t (or can’t) work as much as we used to. This is where practice ownership can be practical and an advantage because over a 25–35 year career in the industry, you can accumulate resources and build an asset to sell upon retirement for a good return-on-investment (ROI). It is generally accepted that owner dentists will make more money over the course of their careers than associate dentists. Just don’t discount the fact that while your formal work day may be from 9am to 5pm, your work as an owner often begins at 5pm and may go until 9am because ownership is hard work, especially at the beginning of practice ownership.
In this section, you will note that self-reflection and knowing your final destination will be important in determining the direction you want to take. As well, there are several support systems and decision-making criteria that will help you find the “right” practice fit. Additionally, you will come to understand what things to look for and evaluate when you are considering purchasing a practice on the market.
Why purchase a dental practice?
You really have 2 options when considering practice ownership—purchasing an existing practice or starting one from scratch. While there are obvious advantages to starting one from scratch and making it your own from day 1, it can be expensive and in this competitive environment, it may not be easy to sustain in the short-term. As a result, there are several reasons why dentists choose to purchase an existing practice:
- Cash flow is available immediately
- Well-established patient pool
- Experienced staff
- Proven location
- Opportunity and potential for growth
- Transition into ownership with mentorship from the previous owner