Choosing the Best Dental Practice for You

Dental Student

Choosing the best dental practice for you after you’re done with dental school can be a challenge. Here are some key questions to ask as you look for the right practice.

What type of practice: Employee group practice or associate?
An employee group practice allows you the benefit of practicing dentistry without the responsibilities of running a business. You are typically provided with a good salary, insurance, paid time off, and continuing education reimbursement. You can go to work, treat patients, collaborate and socialize with colleagues and go home at the end of the day with no added responsibility. 

As an associate, you would typically work with a more seasoned dentist in his or her practice as a partner, but not an owner. This arrangement typically allows you a bit more freedom than a group practice, allowing you to hire your own assistant, choose the materials and supplies you use and more flexibility with time off for vacation and CE. The salary is usually a bit higher than with a group practice and it allows for mentorship. However, it can be difficult to work in the shadow of an owner/doctor who has been around longer and establish your own patient base.

Within these types of practices there are a variety of sizes and types. They may be privately owned, corporately owned, large, mid-size or small. Decide which type and size is the best fit for you so you can narrow your search accordingly.

Where do you want to live and work?
This comes down to personal preference as well as demand. Ideally you should start practicing in an area where you can see yourself working and living long term. You should also take into account the number of practices and opportunities for dentistry in the area where you would like to live. Dentistry is needed everywhere, but some areas are more saturated and have more opportunities than others.

What is the pay structure and benefits?
It is important to know if you would be paid a flat daily rate or a percentage of production or collections. This is typically an area where you can negotiate, as needed. In addition, confirm if you would be paid as an independent contractor or an employee.

A combination of a daily rate and percentage of collections can be a happy medium so you are guaranteed to get paid even if the office doesn’t have enough patients to keep you busy.

The most common compensation formula seems to be a guaranteed daily rate or a percentage of collections—whichever is higher.

There are a couple of pay structures to be cautious of. One is called a “draw”. This is where the employer guarantees you a daily minimum against future earnings when you would have exceeded the daily minimum amount. If you never produce more for the office than you have been paid, the employer can collect the difference from you if/when you terminate your employment. This is designed to keep the employer from losing money on you. The other is if the pay structure is too complicated to figure out. Chances are, if it’s too difficult to easily understand, it’s probably not a good option.

In addition to monetary compensation, you need to know what other benefits you will be offered including medical/dental benefits, vacation time, paid holidays, 401k, etc.

Are there growth opportunities?
If you are starting out as a new dentist, growth opportunities are very important. Growth opportunities can include continuing education, mentorship and the potential to become a partner or owner. Find out if any or all of these options are available to you. It’s great if the dental practice is willing to pay for a portion of your continuing education courses while a mentorship with a seasoned dentist you respect could be priceless. If there is an opportunity to become a practice partner or owner in the future, that is a nice option as well.

What is your dental philosophy and does it align with the practice you are considering?
In advance and/or during the interview, find out everything you can about the practice, its culture, the staff you would be working with and the position to see if it’s a good fit for you and if it aligns with your personal dental philosophy. For instance, confirm if the practice takes a more preventive approach or a more aggressive “drill and fill” philosophy and if the emphasis is on quantity or quality. You are going to spend the majority of your time at the dental practice you choose, so you want to make sure it’s a good fit. 

Every office is different, so it is important to have a general understanding of how they handle patients and your role. Some scenarios to consider are:
-What is the patient load?
-How many patients are seen each day?
-How much time is given for each procedure?
-Are you responsible for recruiting your own patients?
-Will you see your patients for all visits including exams or for restorative treatment only?
-How are existing treatment plans handled when transitioning to a new doctor?

After you consider all of these important questions and find a dental practice that checks all the boxes, you are on your way to a satisfying and successful career in dentistry!

Advoca Dental is a Dental Practice Management and Transitional Support Organization that puts patients, staff and dentists first. Started in 2018 by two Oral Surgeons in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Advoca Dental is a company based on Midwestern honesty and work ethic.