I recently had the pleasure of meeting with a fourth year dental student and the discussion led to the topic of what most new graduates are doing in our profession with respect to initial job choices. It has become clear over time that this generation of new graduates is seeking to become employed as an associate or in a corporate dentistry structure at least for the first two years after exiting dental school. One primary reason for this occupational swing is the great amount of debt consumed by today’s young dentist during the education process. New graduates are coming out of school with an average debt load of greater than $200,000. When determining whether or not to buy an existing practice immediately out of dental school one must consider the additional debt that will be mandatorily assumed. This can sometimes be enough to crush both the spirits and the financial aspirations of a dentist before one’s career even gets started.
The more conservative process, while still allowing autonomy, is to start the practice from scratch. I continue to maintain that this can be done at a fraction of the cost of purchasing an existing practice and with huge upside potential for the right business minded young dentist. There are ways to utilize a template for success in start up practices that help to insure against failure and provide stop losses along the way. While there are many notable benefits to practicing as an associate fresh out of school, such as picking up our clinical pace, sharpening our patient communication skills and learning the ins and outs of the background business structure, associateships clearly limit us and our ability to practice the way we would choose. I encourage fourth-year dental students and new graduates to submit your questions to this blog with respect to how start up practices can be profitable.