Is It Time for Help? Deciding When to Bring on an Associate Dentist

hiring-an-associate-dentistRunning a dental practice is a complicated job. It requires a combination of clinical and managerial skills to ensure you’re providing the best possible patient care while keeping your practice profitable and efficient. Many dentists who open their own practices do so alone, meaning they’re the only dentist responsible for keeping the practice afloat. You can mitigate the stress of owning a dental practice by hiring an associate dentist.

Titan Web Agency specializes in helping dentists market their practices to attract new patients and increase revenues. Hiring an associate dentist can help you increase your patient capacity and give you a better work/life balance. 

The decision-making process for hiring someone to help with your practice should consider your practice finances, growth goals, and existing patient load. Here’s our take on when it’s necessary to hire another dentist, along with some pros and cons.


What Are the Strategic Considerations for Hiring a New Dentist?

Before you bring on a new associate dentist, you’ll need to keep some strategic considerations in mind. Here are three to consider.

Your Practice Goals and Needs

Before you search for a new associate, you should consider your practice, including where it is now and where you want it to be. Some steps to take to evaluate your practice include:

  • Analyzing your existing patient volume, the treatments you offer, and any staffing limitations that might impact your decision.
  • Identifying areas where an associate can add value, including things like increased patient capacity and new dental treatments and specialties.
  • Consider your long-term plans for your practice, including growth goals, future partnerships, and anything that could impact an associate dentist’s decision to work with you.

Understanding how an associate dentist would fit into your practice and what value you want them to bring will help you with the next step.

Candidate Selection

It’s essential to know what qualifications and skills you want candidates for an associateship to have. Make a list of experience requirements, skills, specialties, personality, and how you want an ideal candidate to fit into your existing culture.

You’ll also want to break down the financial aspects of hiring since you’ll need a framework to discuss pay, benefits, and partnership options. There are several compensation models to consider, including paying a salary or starting a new associate on a contract basis for a trial period.

Many prospective associates may have a desire to start a new practice of their own eventually or buy into yours. For that reason, it’s essential to think about the legal ramifications of hiring a new associate, including whether you want a restrictive covenant to prevent them from taking your patients with them if they leave.

The final consideration here is deciding whether you want to take on the task of recruiting potential associates or outsource to a dental staffing specialist.

New Hire Integration and Onboarding

Dental practice owners must consider how a new associate will integrate into their existing practice as a strategic consideration. You should plan for the following things.

  • How will you introduce your new associate to your practice team and existing patients? You should tell your staff in person and prepare them for coming changes. Current patients should be notified with an announcement highlighting the new associate’s experience and specialties.
  • How you’ll manage patient flow with a new associate, including maximizing efficiency with scheduling.
  • How will you mentor your new associate, and which professional development and continuing education options will you provide?

Planning these things will do a lot to streamline the hiring process and ensure that any new associate you hire is a good fit for your dental office.

What is the Decision-Making Framework for Hiring a New Associate Dentist?

After you’ve reviewed the strategic considerations for hiring, the next step is understanding the decision-making process for hiring a new associate dentist for your practice.

Financial Analysis

The financial aspects of any new hire should include a review of your existing staff and practice budget and a projection of future revenue and expenses if you bring on an associate. You’ll need to think about these things.

  • How much you can afford to pay a new associate
  • What the financial impact will be on your existing staff
  • How to manage your budget to allow for a new associate
  • What your break-even point is
  • What return do you anticipate on your investment in a new associate

You’ll need to reexamine your goals in light of your decision to hire a new associate. For example, you may have to scale up your marketing by hiring a dental marketing specialist to attract new patients. You will definitely want a good grasp on your finances, and to have a discussion with your CPA.

Workflow and Operational Adjustments

Your new associate will require space to work and patients to treat. You’ll need to make sure you have a treatment room for them to use and how many days per week you want them to work. You may also have to think about purchasing additional equipment and technology, particularly if they have a specialty that’ll allow you to offer new treatments.

As we mentioned above, you should review your existing workflow and patient protocols to make necessary adjustments. The same applies to interactions with your existing staff, so you’ll need a plan for delegating responsibilities and ensuring that communication is prioritized.

Long-Term Commitment

Hiring a new associate can be a long-term commitment. Before hiring, consider whether you want to give your associate an option to buy into a partnership with you or purchase your practice when you’re ready to retire. 

It’s essential to communicate with your new associate and set expectations for your work together, including how you’ll collaborate, how you want communication to flow (in both directions), and how you’ll resolve conflicts that arise.

Finally, you’ll want to spend some time thinking about how it’ll impact your practice if an associate dentist leaves. You may not need to worry about this aspect of hiring an associate anytime soon, but you’ll be thankful that you thought about turnover if and when the day arrives.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a New Dental Associate

Here are some of the pros and cons of hiring an associate dentist. Reviewing these may help you decide whether the time is right for you to bring on an associate.

Pros of Hiring a Dental Associate

  • You’ll have more capacity to accept and treat new patients.
  • It’ll be easier to achieve your practice growth goals.
  • You can delegate some of your responsibilities to your associate, gaining more free time for yourself.
  • You’ll have someone available to consult on difficult cases.
  • You may be able to offer new services and treatments to your patients.
  • Depending on your agreement with your associate, you may have a built-in person to sell your practice to if that’s something you want to do.

Cons of Hiring a Dental Associate

  • Your expenses for running your practice will increase, and it may take some time for your revenue to catch up.
  • There may be some growing pains as your existing staff adjusts to the presence of another dentist in your practice.
  • There may be concerns about turnover, especially if you hire an associate dentist on a contract or trial basis.

Should You Hire a New Associate Dentist for Your Practice?

Before you hire an associate dentist for your practice, it’s essential to keep in mind the various strategic and practical considerations of doing so. Your new associate should have the potential to attract new patients and earn more from existing ones. You’ll need to think about whether your practice requires an associate, the financial implications of expanding your practice, and how you’ll train, onboard, and integrate your new associate.

Even after you’ve reviewed how a new associate can help you treat more patients and expand your services, you may need to consult with a dental marketing expert to map out a growth strategy to support your practice goals.


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