5 Questions Dentists Ask About Associateships

Dr. Smith had served patients for 30 years in a vibrant community. As he approached retirement, he started thinking about his exit plan. We discussed his goals and answered critical questions, and he eventually decided to bring on an associate and work towards a buy-out agreement. We used our network to find Dr. Johnson, a talented young dentist.

Before we started the search, Dr. Smith had a few questions. Here are five that we’ve heard in many of our discussions with our clients:

How are dental associates compensated?

Dental associates are typically paid on a commission or salary basis by the dental practice. The exact payment structure can vary depending on the specific practice and the agreement between the associate and the practice owner.

Commission-based payment structures typically involve the associate receiving a percentage of the revenue from the patients they treat. This compensation can range from 25% to 40% of the production revenue, depending on the procedures and type of practice.

Salary-based payment structures involve the associate receiving a fixed salary, typically negotiated as part of the employment contract. The compensation can be based on various factors, including experience, skill level, and patient volume.

In some cases, dental associates may also receive bonuses or incentives based on their productivity or other factors, such as patient satisfaction scores. Ultimately, the payment structure for associates will depend on the individual practice and the specific agreement between the associate and the practice owner.

What’s the best way to find an associate for my practice?

Finding an associate that fits your practice may take time, and rural practices often take longer than urban ones. It’s valuable to use multiple efforts, which may include:

  • Advertise the Position: Post the job opening on your practice’s website and social media accounts, and also consider advertising the position on dental job boards, such as DentalPost or Indeed. Posting increases the visibility of the job opening to potential candidates.
  • Ask for Referrals: Ask colleagues, dental school professors, and local dental societies for recommendations. Referrals can be an effective way to find a qualified candidate who has been vetted by someone trustworthy.
  • Attend Networking Events: Attend local dental conferences, seminars, and events to connect with other dentists and potential candidates. You’ll meet people face-to-face and better understand their skills and experience while building your network.
  • Add LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a professional networking site that can be an excellent resource for finding candidates. You can search for candidates by location, experience, and skills and post job openings to your profile.
  • Partner with professional services: To find a qualified candidate, consider working with a dental recruiting firm or practice transition specialist. Organizations like DDSmatch, have access to a large pool of potential candidates and can help you with the hiring process from start to finish.

Utilizing these methods increases your chances of finding a qualified dental associate who may become a future owner.

What do associates consider when choosing a practice to join?

Dental associates are usually in the early stretch of their careers and weigh many factors when choosing a practice to join. Here are a few considerations that may influence their decision:

  • Location: The practice location carries weight with associates. They may look for practices in areas with a reasonable commute, in good school districts, or near their home.
  • Practice Culture: Associates may also consider the culture of the practice before joining. They may prefer practices with a friendly and supportive environment where they feel welcomed. People often buy what they feel, including associates.
  • Compensation and Benefits: Associates often look for practices that offer competitive compensation packages, health benefits, and retirement plans. They may also consider other perks, such as paid time off, continuing education opportunities, and bonuses.
  • Clinical Opportunities: Associates may seek practices that offer various procedures and opportunities for growth in clinical skills. They may also look for practices that use advanced technology and equipment.
  • Mentorship: Associates may prefer to work with experienced dentists who can provide guidance, mentorship, and support as they chart their careers.
  • Reputation: Associates may research the practice’s reputation online, check out their website, and ask for referrals from colleagues to ensure they join a reputable practice.

Ultimately, the decision to join a practice depends on the individual preferences and priorities of the associate. Owners who understand the mindset of prospective associates enjoy the best chance of success and can craft win-win arrangements.

How many dental associateships lead to a buy-in?

It’s difficult to give a precise percentage of dental associateships that lead to a buy-in. This outcome depends on a mix of factors, including the practice location, size, and financial health, along with the goals of the associate and practice owner.

However, dental associateships often lead to a buy-in opportunity for the right candidate. The employment period allows both parties to assess the associate’s fit with the practice and their commitment to its long-term success. This process may involve gradually transitioning responsibilities and patient relationships over several years to eventual ownership.

According to the American Dental Association’s 2021 Survey of Dental Practice Owners, approximately 22% of dental practices offered their associates an ownership or buy-in opportunity. This number has increased recently as more dentists commit to exit planning. However, this is only a rough estimate and may not accurately reflect the experience of every individual dental associate.

How much value can an associate add to my dental practice?

A dental associate can add significant value to a practice prepared to integrate a new team member. Most owners hire an associate to increase their capacity, serve more patients, and boost  profitability. Increases may also occur because the practice can offer more services with an associate’s support.

For example, the owner may enjoy comprehensive implant dentistry, but they’re too busy to fit in longer procedures. An additional dentist can help balance the load and open more capacity for high-value services. Likewise, an associate may enjoy a specific service that the owner doesn’t often do, like endodontics.

Value builds in other ways, too. With more dentists on staff, patients may be able to get appointments more quickly, and they may feel more comfortable seeing having a choice of providers under one roof.  An associate can help relieve some of the workload from other staff members, allowing them to focus on other tasks such as patient follow-up and administrative tasks.

Explore your possibilities today.

Over time, Dr. Johnson took on more responsibility and proved he fit with the practice and community. Dr. Smith sold him the practice after a few years, and the associate-turned-owner continued to provide high-quality care and introduced new technologies and techniques. This win-win scenario helped both doctors enjoy the next phase of their practice journey.

A practice transition takes many shapes and forms, and there’s a scenario that fits you and your goals. Don’t forget to review last month’s article about how buyers and sellers reach win-win. At DDSmatch, we’re here to help you design a strategy that delivers your vision for a fulfilling career. Contact us today to start the conversation!

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