One of the biggest decisions you will make as a dentist is where will you practice dentistry? In dental school you learn about teeth and how to keep mouths healthy, but they don’t teach you how to run a small business. Whether you are just leaving dental school or making a life change, this brings up a very important debate: Start a solo practice vs. Buying/joining an existing practice.
Here are some things to consider before jumping in head first:
- Financing: Where is your financing coming from and how much can you afford to spend? On average, a new dentist will request a loan for $250,000-$500,000 for a startup office while buying an existing practice can sell between $500,000-$750,000. If you decide to buy an existing practice, it will cost more up front, but it comes with an established patient base and cash flow. Expect a startup to take at least a few years for the practice to begin to profit.
- Speed: Everyone has their own pace and comfort levels. As a new dentist, buying an existing practice that goes at full speed may be too fast for you. Coming on as an associate dentist for someone right out of school has the benefit of being able to consult with colleagues and being able to move at an appropriate pace for your skill level. If you are a seasoned dentist, however, it could be a perfect fit.
- Location: No matter if you are starting a new office or purchasing an existing one, location can make or break your practice. If financing is a factor, are you willing to relocate to find something in your budget? Depending on the population, you will want to consider the market saturation and the dentist to patient ratio for the area. Starting a new office in an overly saturated area is risky, just as buying an existing office can be. Ask yourself why the current dentist is selling. Is the practice struggling due to the location? Do you think it’s something you can resolve or should you consider an alternative?
- Patients: Depending on where you are planning on being located, your demographic will change. If you are wanting to establish a high-end, cosmetic dental clinic, your patient base will look very different from someone looking to start a Medicaid-accepting office. It’s very important to research the demographics in the area you are looking to start or purchase a practice. Once you know who you want to target, keep your strategy uniform throughout all your marketing endeavors. Starting a Pediatric office in a retirement community, for example, would not be a great option!
Before you decide which option you think is best for you, consult others first! Talk to a financial advisor, if you are moving locations, reach out to doctors in the area for advice, and research, research, research! You don’t want this huge decision in your dental career to be your downfall. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, get help, and learn everything you can before jumping in!