Preparing for Dental Practice Ownership as a Student

As a dental student, you’ve spent countless hours studying clinical dentistry, practicing procedures, and dreaming about the day when you’ll finally have your own dental practice. But the reality is that running a successful dental office requires much more than just clinical skills. If you want to be a practice owner straight out of dental school, you’ll need to start laying the groundwork early. In this article I will outline some key things dental students should do to prepare for future practice ownership:

Learn the Business Side of Dentistry in Dental School:

The curriculum is heavily focused on developing your technical and clinical abilities. However, you’ll need an entirely separate set of skills to run the business side of a dental practice. Take online courses on practice management, financial planning, marketing, and human resources while you have access to a student discount (many will even be free). Supplement industry-specific content with general business books, podcasts, and even YouTube videos.

Recommended Reading:

There are so many business books available that a dental student may not know where to start so here is a short list I put together

  • “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz – A cash flow management strategy to help ensure profitability from the start.
  • “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber – Focused on taking an entrepreneurial approach to running a small business by working on the business rather than just in it.
  • “Good to Great” by Jim Collins – While focused on larger businesses, it provides timeless concepts around discipline, focus, and making the transition from good to truly great.
  • “Permission Marketing” by Seth Godin – A classic in the direct marketing space that provides tried and true advice for local businesses.
  • “The Cash Flow Quadrant” by Robert Kiyosaki – While this title is not a book about business, the principles of cash flow are critical to both your personal financial health and your business’. If you don’t understand revenue streams and cashflow, read this book.

Get Experience in Different Practice Environments

Work as an associate in different types of dental offices early – corporate practices, solo practices, private group practices, busy offices, slow office, and everything in between. This will expose you to various practice models and management styles so you can decide what environment fits you best as a future owner.

Start Networking and Finding Mentors Now

Getting to know other dentists in your area, particularly practice owners, is one of the most valuable things you can do. The catch here is that connecting with local, like-minded dentists takes time, so start early by attending local dental society meetings and events. If you can, find an experienced mentor who can coach you through the process of starting a dental practice (you may need to pay for this) because you’ll need advice on everything from negotiating an office lease to bringing in new patients.

Research Your Start-Up Costs and Funding Options

Opening a new dental practice requires a substantial upfront investment for things like equipment, supplies, tenant build-outs, working capital, and hiring staff. The best way to convince a new dentist that acquiring an office may be the best route is to encourage them to research what the typical start-up costs are in their target area. Explore funding options like small business loans (SBA loans), business loans, doctor loans, and even investor funding. Compare how the costs of a startup compare to practices for sale, and recall the books above about cash flow. If you do decide to do a startup, having a solid financial plan will be critical and there are resources available to help you build a business from scratch.

Build Your Entrepreneurial Mindset

At the end of the day, running your own dental practice means being a small business owner, not just a dentist. It requires an entrepreneurial spirit, self-motivation, risk tolerance, and willingness to wear multiple hats like dentist, manager, marketer, and leader. Start developing this ownership mentality by taking calculated risks and practicing independent thinking. I often say that the best way to learn how to run a business is to start one.

Wrapping Things Up:

Preparing for dental practice ownership while still a student gives you a major head start. With some strategic preparation, you can set yourself up to make the transition to successful practice owner right out of dental school. If you’re a dental student or young dentists with aspirations to own your own practice, consider joining my free group Dental Entrepreneur Club on Embrasure Space.

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