How To Start A Dental Practice: The Complete Guide

The career of keeping people’s smiles (and their teeth) in tip-top shape is an exciting, rewarding, and lucrative one. So, it’s a great time to consider opening one. But if you’re not sure where to begin, this guide should help walk you through the process. 

First things, first:

Buying An Existing Dental Practice Vs. Building From Scratch

If you’re thinking about starting a dental practice, you have two main options: 

Buying An Existing Dental Practice

Buying an established practice may give you more credibility than starting from scratch. Additionally, you can inherit the patients, staff, and goodwill, which can be a huge benefit of this approach.

There are many reasons why a dentist might decide to sell their practice including retirement, relocation, or financial reasons such as poor finances due to poor management skills. If this is something that interests you then ensure to complete a dental practice valuation.

Valuation:  Dental practice valuation is an assessment of the value of a practice based on several factors such as its location, cash flow, equipment, patient base, etc. If you’re looking at buying an existing dental practice then this will help you know if it’s worth investing in or not.

Building From Scratch

Starting from scratch is an exciting opportunity to build something from the ground up. It’s also a challenge that not everyone is up for. With so much involved in starting a new business, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the details and possibilities that go into building a successful dental practice. And this is why most people decide to buy an existing practice.

Steps To Starting A Dental Practice From Scratch

Decide What Type Of Practice You Want To Start

The next step is to decide what type of practice you want to start. There are several different types of practices that dental professionals can choose from, including solo practice, group practice, and corporate practice. 

Also, decide based on specialization. Are you interested in general dentistry or would you like to specialize in a specific area? If so, then you should know that some specialties are more lucrative than others. For example, some dentists specialize in root canals or oral surgery while others focus on cosmetic dentistry like tooth whitening or smile makeovers.

Ultimately, the type of dental practice that is best for you depends on a variety of factors such as your personality, lifestyle preferences, and financial situation.

Create A Business Plan

A business plan is a written document that describes your business. It should include your business concept, market analysis, management team, and financial projections. 

A business plan would help you with the following:

  • Create a roadmap for your dental practice
  • Defining your target market and competitors
  • Researching the market to determine if it is profitable or not. 
  • Identifying opportunities, and risks to your success.
  • Identifying competitors, customers, and suppliers.
  • Estimating expenses and revenues.

And most importantly…

  • Get financing for your dental practice. A bank or lender will require you to submit a detailed financial plan before providing any financing to start a dental practice. The lender will use this document to evaluate whether you are capable of running the business and making monthly loan payments on time.

Secure Financing For Your Practice

You can find funding for a dental practice in several ways, including:

  • A loan from a bank or other financial institution;
  • A loan from family and friends; and,
  • An investment partner who is willing to fund the business up-front and then enjoy future profits with you (e.g., “equity financing”).

Remember, this venture is capital-intensive, and cutting corners wouldn’t work. You’ll require upward of half a million dollars to cover all your needs when you want to start a new dental practice

Find The Right Property For Your Dental Practice

The most important thing is to make sure the space is convenient for your patients. You also want to find a place where people can access it comfortably. 

Acquire Equipment And Staff For Your Practice

It’s important that you have the right tools for the job and it’s also important that they are of high quality. There are many different types of equipment out there but I want to touch on some of the most essential pieces of equipment for a dental office. They include:

  • Dental patient chairs.
  • Stool.
  • Hydric box.
  • Sterilization equipment. 
  • X-Ray.
  • Spittoon (Cuspidor).
  • Dental operating lights.
  • Operatory cabinetry.
  • Handpieces.
  • Stationeries and record books.

When it comes to staffing requirements, there are two main factors to consider: the number of patients you plan on seeing each day/week/month (called “volume”), and what kind of services you plan on offering (such as general dentistry). 

Obviously, the larger these numbers are and the more services offered the more staff will be required for everything to run smoothly during business hours.

The following are tips to help you attract and hire the best talents:

  • Be clear on the skills you need, and be specific about the number of people required to fill those jobs.
  • Post your job openings on the internet, in newspapers and magazines, or through professional associations.
  • Create an attractive job description that will entice candidates to apply for your position.
  • Ask for references from previous employers (if applicable).
  • Ask applicants to complete an application form with information such as employment history, educational background, etc., before they may be considered further for an interview.
  • Consider hiring locally.
  • Prepare a salary/wage package, and other benefits that are competitive with other similar practices in your area.
  • Set up interviews over the phone or in person with only those candidates who meet your requirements for education level and experience

One more thing:

Provide support and training for your staff regularly so that they can continue to improve their skills and build their confidence in delivering quality care for patients.

Obtain Necessary Permits, Licenses, And Fulfil All Mandatory Legal Obligations

The permit and other legal approval you’d require to run a dental practice will vary depending on location, but there are a few requirements that apply across the board:

  • Register your business name and address. Specify whether you’re a sole proprietor, LLC, or corporation
  • A permit to practice dentistry.
  • Registration with the DEA (The United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
  • A tax ID number.
  • A business license.
  • Dental insurance policies.
  • Occupational Health and Safety obligations.

In addition to state requirements, some municipalities may have their own rules about how long it takes for them to approve your application, so be sure to take this into account.

Create A Marketing Strategy For Your Dental Practice

The most important part of any business is marketing. Whether you’re a dentist or an accountant—if you don’t market yourself properly, no one will know about your services and therefore no one will hire you. 

Here are some things to consider when creating an effective marketing strategy for a dental practice:

  • Identify your target market. Who are your potential patients? How do they shop for dental care? Where do they get information about dentists? What other factors influence their decision-making process?
  • Define your customer journey. What steps does someone go through when deciding whether or not to visit your office? What information do they need at each stage of this journey? How can you guide them through it in such a way that helps them make the right decision at each step along the way?
  • You need to evaluate the competition in your area and see what they are doing. This will give you some insight into how you can stand out. Plus, you can learn from and improve on their advertising strategies.
  • Decide on which mediums are best suited for reaching your target audience effectively. For example, if most people in your area read newspapers or watch TV news programs on local channels, then those would be good places to advertise your services as well as social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
  • Create a website for your practice that includes all of the necessary information like hours of operation and insurance accepted. Don’t forget to add testimonials from satisfied patients as well as pictures of your practice’s interior and exterior so potential clients can get an idea of what it’s like inside before they schedule an appointment with you.
  • Develop a newsletter or blog where you can share interesting dental health articles while also giving people additional resources.
  • Be Unique. One of the most important things you can do is to be unique and different in your marketing efforts. Don’t just copy what other dentists are doing, because they will have already done it and it won’t work as well. 
  • Provide stellar services.
  • Ask for referrals.

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