So You’re Graduating Dental School; What’s Next?

That’s a good question. What is next? You’ve just spent several years dedicated to education, learning the ins and outs of dental medicine. Now it’s time to decide how your dental career will start. The good news is that you have options.

Associateship. The most common route, taking an associate position with an existing practice can be a great way to cut your teeth on the clinical aspects of practical dentistry, while also (hopefully) gleaning key insights in the business side of operating a dental practice. Associate dentists can make a good salary and learn how to be a practicing dentist. It is important, however, that you not put yourself in a difficult position regarding your career once that job ends. A prime example is whether you enter into a written contract and whether that contract includes non-compete and non-solicit terms. These provisions have far-reaching effects on your career, so it’s best to spend some money and have an attorney review your contract to avoid costly issues down the road.

Startup. The attraction of the startup is the ability to be your own boss while simultaneously shaping the practice as you see fit, building it from the ground up. There are both risks and rewards with this career path. The startup is not right for every dentist, but it may be right for you. If so, it is extremely important to do the right legal planning from the get go to avoid pitfalls later. From choosing the right location and negotiating a real estate lease or purchase contract, to setting up the practice entity and implementing the appropriate legal structure, to complying with ongoing regulations, and everything in between. Avoid the urge to DIY and consult an attorney, one who is familiar with the particular issues and challenges facing dentists in North Carolina, and get your startup started right.

Practice Purchase. The key benefit here is that you can purchase an existing practice and avoid the heartburn of starting a new practice. By purchasing one already up and running, you can skip some steps and step right into the shoes of a practice operator. The cost of taking this approach will likely exceed that of the startup, depending on the practice you choose; but, if you choose the right practice, based on cash flow and other financial and practice analysis and due diligence, you may find yourself in a strong position upon completion of the purchase.

Whichever route you choose, there are any number of risks and rewards. To assess those risks and rewards, I suggest surrounding yourself with the right team of professional advisors. This starts with an attorney that practices with dentists, and can extend to others, depending on your needs. CPA, insurance specialist, financial planner, etc. Each can have some important insight for your particular situation. If you are thinking about the startup or practice purchase route, speak to a commercial banker early to find out what loans are available. It comes down to doing the right planning and finding the right advisors to help with that planning. If you’re taking an associate position, you’re advisor needs will be more limited, but I strongly suggest at least consulting an attorney and CPA.



The information herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The information is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter.  The above is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.  Consult your attorney with questions.