How to Start a Dental Practice This Year

Dental services are more in demand than ever, and the industry is projected to see continuous growth in the coming years. If you’re a new dentist or one who’s ready to take the next big career step, it’s a great time to be opening up your own practice. 

If you’re considering this monumental choice, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to get started. To help you bring shape to your plans, we’ve prepared this high-level overview of the steps involved in opening a practice. We’ll keep things basic, but we’ll go from A to Z, from getting licensed to hiring your very own staff. 

Acquiring the Necessary Education and Training

After earning a dental degree, the next step is to earn a license by passing the National Board Dental Examinations (NBDE), a two-part test that covers dental science and clinical topics. 

The state in which you want to operate your practice may have further requirements for licensure, such as a background check or CPR certification. Additionally, all states require some amount of continuing education for dentists. 

Research and Planning for Starting a Dental Practice

If you’re taking the enormous leap from dental school into practice ownership, it’s a good idea to partner with a business coach or a dental practice consultant. They’ll help you gain confidence in the business aspect of running a practice. 

An informed perspective is particularly important in the preliminary planning phase of your venture. With assistance from your advisors, your journey toward opening a practice can begin with market research, business planning, and financial projections. 

Choosing the Right Business Structure

Dental practices exist under a surprising number of business structures, and the options vary from state to state. A dental practice may be a:

  • Sole proprietorship 
  • S corporation (S corp) or C corporation (C corp) 
  • Limited liability company (LLC) or professional limited liability company (PLLC) 
  • Professional association

An S corp is the most common and popular choice. This arrangement typically offers the lowest tax burden for practice owners. 

Before choosing a business structure for your new practice, thoroughly discuss the decision with your financial planner to make sure you understand the pros and cons of each option. 

Securing Financing

The ADA estimates that an initial investment of around $500,000 is required to start up a new dental practice. These funds are used for securing an office, purchasing equipment, and covering payroll costs while a practice gains its footing.  

Some dentists may have personal savings or gift money from family members to help get their practices started. Others may seek funding from private investors. However, the bulk of a practice’s initial investment typically comes from loans. 

When you’re ready to obtain financing, seek input from your financial advisor, accountant, and attorney. Reach out to a variety of lending institutions so that you can compare rates and terms. Your financing decision is one you’ll live with for a very long time, so it’s important to evaluate your options carefully and with the guidance of financial professionals. 

Finding the Perfect Location

When choosing the right location for your dental office, your priorities can be organized into these three groups:

  • Geography
  • Quality and characteristics of the physical structure
  • Cost

Your location should be accessible and visible from major roads or transport centers and in an area that has sufficient demand for your services. The structure must be designed and zoned in a manner that supports your intended uses.

As you explore locations, factor the need for renovations and customizations into your cost calculations. 

Consider both leasing and purchasing in order to find the best solution for your short-term and long-term needs. If there are any existing for-sale dental offices in your region, start your search by exploring those options. 

Purchasing Equipment and Supplies

Once you’ve secured an office, you can begin filling it with everything you need to run your practice, including:

  • Dental chairs
  • Dental tools
  • X-ray machines 
  • Standard dental tools 
  • Office supplies and computer hardware 

Your startup supply costs will be substantial. To avoid overspending on materials, be sure to keep a detailed budget, buy in bulk when possible, and practice proper storage and maintenance to keep supplies in good condition. 

Building a Winning Team

Support staff you hire to help run your practice may include:

  • Dental hygienists, technicians, and nurses
  • Receptionists 
  • An office manager

Building a brand new team from scratch is a great opportunity to develop a positive workplace culture from day one. For tips on attracting and choosing the best candidates, check out our guide to dental practice hiring

Marketing Your Dental Practice

As you prepare to open your doors to patients, you can begin developing branding and marketing for your new practice. 

Branding includes your business name and logo as well as choices like color schemes and decorating themes. Branding also involves the identity of your practice. For example, you could brand your practice as kid-friendly or as a proud participant in community events. 

Marketing is also particularly important for a new practice, since you’ll be starting off with an empty appointment calendar. Your marketing efforts may include traditional methods like mailers and signs, as well as social media outreach and search engine optimization (SEO) for your website. 

Ensuring Compliance with Legal and Ethical Standards

As you navigate the process of opening a new practice, be ever-mindful of the legal and ethical standards of both dentistry and business ownership. These include:

  • Health and safety regulations
  • Patient privacy and data protection
  • Professional ethics and fair business practices

Ideally, you’ll have a strong team of mentors and colleagues to help guide your way. Helpful professional connections to seek out may include experienced dentists, an attorney, a business coach, and a financial advisor. 

Get More Insights for Starting or Growing Your Dental Practice

Ready to take your career to the next level? Duckett Ladd is here to help. We provide financial services and strategic planning for dentists in all career phases. Contact our team of CPAs and advisors today to learn more.


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5 Things You Didn't Learn in Dental School


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