As with other branches of healthcare, learning how to start a dental practice requires a huge amount of effort. While this venture can be overwhelming at times, establishing your own successful dental practice can significantly boost your revenue and give you more control than working under other dentists.

Dentist Woman Checking Boy's Teeth

Starting your own practice requires a considerable amount of effort and know-how, so you need to be fully prepared to practice dentistry while also managing a new business. In this article, we’ll go over general steps you should follow to open your own practice. All dental care professionals are different, so you should adjust these steps based on your experience, working capital, and other requirements. 

When Is the Right Time to Open a Dental Practice?

Before learning how to open a dental office, you should decide when is the right time to get started. 

Opening a practice straight out of dental school is not usually an option for a collection of reasons. But, it’s common to grow complacent working in a bigger practice, especially if you don’t have previous experience starting small businesses or other entrepreneurial ventures. 

Now, you can still be ready and well-set to start a business or your own.

Here are a few signs it’s time to start your own dental practice. 

Your Prefer Independent Work

As an employee, your only responsibilities are adhering to your schedule, delivering great service to patients, and managing simple tasks at work. This doesn’t necessarily suit all dental care professionals.

If you feel like you prefer working independently, you may be ready to start a new dental practice of your own. This means making major decisions, potentially making more money, and having a bit more flexibility. It also represents more responsibility, so be prepared to have more on your plate. 

You Have Enough Capital

Starting your own dental practice is a big investment. The majority of dentists take out a business loan to help finance their venture. However, simply getting to this stage requires a lot of hard work.

You should be able to explore different options and obtain financing if you have good credit and meet all other requirements. In which case, it may be time to consider setting up your own business. 

You’re Mentally Prepared

You have to be mentally prepared to learn how to open a dental office.

Besides managing a team and ensuring that your office has everything it needs, you also have to monitor the progress of existing patients and pay back your business loan on a monthly basis. 

dentist talking with patient sitting in dental chair

If you already help with these tasks in your current office or feel confident you can take on the responsibility it may be a sign that you’re ready for the challenge.   

You Know the Local Market

Dental care is a physical service that requires in-person interactions. This means that you need to know your local audience if you want to start your own business. As an experienced dentist, you’re probably familiar with the community and its immediate needs. 

Besides understanding what patients are looking for, knowledge of the local community gives you a good idea if you should open your own office. 

You Have or Are Creating a Business Plan

A business plan works as a blueprint for a new practice. If you already know this, you’ve probably created one or are in the process of doing so. In which case, you may be on your way to opening your own dentist’s office already.

Your business plan should include all the resources you’ll use, including team members. Hiring an office manager is essential, but make sure to delegate all possible tasks like paying for the monthly rent and ordering office supplies for the reception area. 

10 Steps to Starting a New Dental Practice

Establishing a new dental practice is challenging, but it’s also extremely rewarding.

Let’s take a look at 10 general steps you need to follow to start a new practice. As we mentioned earlier, every dentist has different needs and goals. Make sure to analyze every step and adjust it based on the objective you set for your new dental practice. 

1. Build a Thorough Business Plan and Secure a Loan

All successful dental practices have a business plan and you should not be the exception. 

Your business plan should contain all the goals you want to achieve and the obstacles that you need to overcome to do so. It should also take into consideration every resource you have available and whether or not these place additional pressure on your business. For example, a business loan is a valuable resource. But, it also represents a monthly expense for your new practice. 

It takes some time for first-time entrepreneurs to build comprehensive business plans. Make sure to stay patient, consider all relevant variables, and go over your plan a few times before moving on to the next step 

2. Evaluate Potential Partners

Opening a dental practice is hard work, but you don’t have to take it on by yourself. 

You can reduce the amount of work and increase the number of patients you can see on a daily basis by partnering with another dental care expert. 

There are a few options here. You start a new practice with a dental care expert that has a different specialty from your own. If you want to specialize in a specific market, you may choose to start a dental practice with a practitioner similar to yourself. 

Whichever the case may be, you may want to consider a non-compete clause with your partner. Non-compete clauses are agreements whereby both parties agree not to start separate ventures competing against each other in the future later on.

3. Choose the Right Insurance

In addition to being mandatory in the vast majority of jurisdictions, having insurance for your dental practice is a great idea. 

There are many insurance plans out there so you need to evaluate the different alternatives and choose the best one for your new practice. Regulations can vary, so contacting a lawyer is a good idea if you’re not sure what requirements you have to meet. 

If you already have an existing practice, you may be able to transfer your policy or speak to your current provider about your alternatives. 

4. Find a Good Location

Location is extremely important when setting up a dental practice. Finding an office in a convenient location, like downtown, can simplify the practice management and help your marketing. On the other hand, the best locations are the most expensive, which may not be ideal if you’re just starting a dental practice. 

Lady Dentist doing dental checkup

Now, you still need to figure out space requirements before choosing the actual office space. But, having an idea of the area where you want to be based will help you make accurate cost projections for your business. 

5. Ensure Proper Waste Disposal

Waste disposal is an essential part of any dental care business. Part of starting a dental practice is setting up a proper waste disposal system, but new practitioners don’t always know where to start. 

If this is your case, you can always hire a practice broker service. Brokers can help you identify the elements that your new dental practice needs and give you alternatives for each one. 

6. Choose Dental Equipment and Determine Office Size

There are many different types of dental practitioners. Your specialties and the services you decide to offer will influence the equipment you purchase. This, in turn, impacts the size of your practice and the office you ultimately rent. 

Figuring out how much space you need can be tough. As a starting point, you can look at other dental practice layouts and base your design on the elements you liked. If you feel like something is missing from these, don’t be afraid to implement them in your own practice.

7. Create a Plan to Market Your Practice 

Promoting your business is crucial and the key is to market your services through the channels that patients use the most. This means setting up a business website and building a digital marketing strategy to go along.

In addition to SEO and other practice, you should also explore industry-specific solutions, like dental care plans. As a member of these programs, you become part of a network of dentists that provide discounted services to patients that pay a monthly subscription. Platforms like Membersy have dozens of members and thousands of affiliated patients across the country, so make sure to take advantage of this option. 

8. Get All Necessary Permits and Licenses

Finishing your degree and gaining experience are both necessary, but you also need to get all the necessary permits and licenses before opening a dental practice.

These regulations vary from place to place, so research all the requirements in your area before your dental practice is officially active. 

9. Determine the Size of Your Team and Go Through the Hiring Procedure

It’s impossible to run an office by yourself, so you’ll need to have a team that keeps your new dental practice in great condition. 

As a dental practice startup, you won’t need as many team members as a big office. That said, you should avoid burning out your employees and make sure that you have enough hands on deck to keep everyone fresh, including yourself. 

Team of Dentists checking Teeth X-ray

You also have to develop a hiring process that aligns with your philosophy. This is a key step that needs to be developed specifically for your practice, so work with your broker and other partners to find the best structure. 

10. Train Your Team to Deliver a Great Customer Experience 

Besides implementing patient-friendly payment policies, creating a welcoming environment in your office can improve your reputation. This starts with your team, so develop a training program (even if it’s brief) to make sure that every single team member understands your vision and mission.  

Conclusion

As a new practice owner, you need to go through different steps before opening your doors and accepting new patients. Choosing a practice philosophy early on is a great idea because it will instill a culture of ownership and responsibility into your new dental practice. Planning ahead is a great start, but you also need to place patients first and meet all business requirements to establish a successful practice.

We hope that our “starting a dental practice” checklist above helps guide you through the different steps you need to take. To learn more about joining a dental care program, contact Membersy and we’ll be glad to help.