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Owner vs. Associate: What to Know When Considering Dental Practice Ownership

This is a picture of a dentist using an iPad in front of a dental chair.

Owner vs. Associate: What to Know When Considering Dental Practice Ownership

Key takeaways: 

  • Private practice dentistry owners often receive higher pay and more benefits than associates.
  • Dental practice ownership has decreased in the last 15 years.
  • Dental practice ownership can be incredibly fulfilling, personally and financially.

Dental practice ownership can be incredibly fulfilling and beneficial to a dentist. Whether completing dental school or working as an associate at a dental practice, it is natural to consider how pursuing practice ownership could change your professional and personal life.

If you are interested in taking this next step in your career path, we are here to share statistics and trends that may affect you along the way.

Benefits of Dental Practice Ownership

DentalPost recently surveyed over 13,000 dentists nationwide to evaluate differences in salary, hours and satisfaction of dentists in various roles and experience levels.

According to the survey results, there is little difference in hours worked by owners and employees, with most working between 31 and 40 hours a week. Owners however are more likely to work over 40 hours a week — 19% in comparison to 14% of associates.

Across all years of experience, owners in dental practices average $100,000 more a year and are more likely to receive pay increases than associate/employee dentists. The highest difference in pay occurs for early career dentists with under 5 years of experience where owners average $300,000 annually, and associates average $175,000.

Private practice owners are about two times more likely than dental employees to receive a variety of benefits — retirement, health insurance, CE tuition reimbursement, paid dental conference attendance, and paid vacation and/or holidays.

Owners also have significantly more job stability than associates, with most owners staying at their current practice for more than 15 years. 85% of associates transition to new employers before reaching 7 years at a single practice.

See Also: Pros and Cons: Starting a Dental Practice vs. Buying an Existing Practice

Trends in Dental Practice Ownership

Dental practice ownership among dentists in private practice has been declining over the years, dropping from 84.7% in 2005 to 73.0% in 2021.

This difference has been apparent for young dentists. In fact since 2005, younger dentists attained ownership at a decreased rate with 25.4% of dentists under 30 in 2005 maintaining ownership to 9.5% in 2021. For those between 30 and 34, ownership dropped from 55% in 2005 to 34.2% in 2021.

According to the DentalPost survey, almost 26% of the surveyed dentists who were transitioning from employee to owner had less than 5 years of experience. 54% of those who were transitioning had 3 to 9 years of experience.

Though there is no concrete data, experts speculate that this downward trend in dental practice ownership correlates to the consolidation of solo dental practices. The growth of DSOs influenced this consolidation, which accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

See Also: 5 Reasons To Consider Becoming A Partner In A Practice

Why Should I Own a Private Practice?

Despite the downward trend in private practice ownership, it is still an extremely viable and favorable option to consider.

As stated before, DSOs are steadily increasing their market share of the dental industry. Many young dentists pursue corporate dentistry due to their sizable student loans and the strong presence of DSO’s on many dental school campuses.

Corporate dentistry is promoted as the best way to get rid of a student’s debt, but dental practice ownership can allow an individual to accumulate equity and increased earnings while paying off their loans. Dental business coach Christina Blatchford, DMD outlines the scenario in her article on Dental Economics.

Ownership is about more than profitability. Private practices can thrive in their communities in ways unlike those of large corporations.

Often, private practices are a family-like atmosphere that can cater to a target market while allowing for continuity with a provider. In the words of Chris Salierno, DDS, an internationally-recognized dental speaker, “Stop trying to be everything to everyone and be something special to some.” Private practice dentistry allows you to be something special to the patients you serve, and ownership allows you to lead that initiative.

See Also: Bringing Passion & Purpose to Practice – Customer Spotlight

Start Your Path To Dental Practice Ownership

As you pursue this new chapter, it is important to understand your options.

Whether looking to buy an existing practice or building your own from the ground up, we at Panacea offer several financing and loan options to help you get started.

Panacea Financial, a division of Primis. Member FDIC.

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