Dental Associate Contract: The first contract for the dental graduate

By: Bruce Bryen, CPA/CVA

After finally graduating from dental school and taking any additional courses that might be needed where the potential associateship is being offered, the job now is waiting for those qualified to work.

The title of Associate Dentist has a wonderful sound to it and the compensation package is one that will assist greatly in paying off the student loans accumulated during dental school. After seemingly many interviews, the perfect job offer is on the table.

The soon-to-be associate dentist is now faced with something that was probably not taught in dental school or learned anywhere else. The employment contract is what looms ahead and must be reviewed and signed so that the job may begin. There may even be an opportunity for a potential acquisition of an interest in the practice included within the contract.

For the recent graduate or an associate whose first job did not even require the signature on a contract, the question of what to do next is certainly a big one.

Where does the young man or woman go for assistance in finding someone who does understand what the terms and conditions in the contract mean? When the ready-to-be-hired young dentist sees the costs involved for an analysis and opinion of the terms in the contract, he or she may be ready to sign it without a review. That is a very short-sighted situation that hopefully does not occur and which can cause major damage to one’s career objectives.

Getting Help with Your Dental Associate Contract

The opportunity to work for a respected dentist, DSO, or other dental organization should be looked at with the long-term approach. Even though funds may be low at the present time for the graduate, the contract is something that can assist or seriously hinder the future of the young man or woman.

Development of the clinical skills needed to achieve more compensation and recognition by patients and peers needs nurturing and trust from and to whomever, the employer may be. If the future employer has a dental CPA, that would be a good person to request the offer of a referral for the review. That contact may also agree to give a lower cost with the promise of future services to be agreed upon with the new associate.

There are so many questions to be asked and answered in a contract that the associate should rely on someone with the skills to resolve the issues. Interviewing more than one contact is important not just for pricing comparison but more importantly for the knowledge of the dental world and contract negotiation experience. Paying as you go is a good possibility for the young associate to consider as well.

If the contact really does know how dentists work and get paid, he or she will know that the payment won’t be an issue once the job starts. Since there are so many items to look over in a contract, the following paragraph will list some of those major points and describe what they mean. There will be other things to consider but the “meat,” of the contract and its definition and impact on the future of the associate is the goal in the paragraph below.

Major Points of Consideration when Reviewing a Dental Associate Contract

Responsibilities: An employment contract should include the responsibilities of the associate as well as those of the dental practice and what each should expect from the other. The associate should be responsible for working with the patient and other staff members such as the dental hygienist and must do his or her best to cooperate and to get along with the staff.

Advancement: If an associate is interested in advancement, learning the administrative duties will assist in the long term for him or her and this point should be addressed in the contract if desired.

Work Schedule: The work schedule, compensation arrangements, and fringe benefits are a must to consider. The work schedule is important because the associate will probably be asked to take on the responsibility of emergency calls. This should be a settled position with sharing by the employer so that the associate doesn’t have a life that is ‘on call.”

Compensation: The compensation arrangements are certainly critical. Many employers will offer some type of guarantee in the early stages of employment knowing that the production level will be on the low side for quite a few months. Not making the associate worry about being able to afford to buy groceries until he or she can produce will pay dividends for the associate as well as the employer. Once the guaranteed time frame has elapsed, a payment based on collected production is in order. Based on various parts of the country, this percentage of collection has quite a range.

Fringe Benefits: Fringe benefits should include some type of retirement plan with a reasonable vesting schedule. Health care benefits may be offered based on the size of the office and the waiting period. Will dental supplies and lab cost be included from the dental practice to the associate without charge? Will a dental assistant be available to the associate when working with a patient?

Non-Competition and Non-Solicitation Agreement: What can the associate do and what can’t he or she do? Two of the most important points in an employment agreement are the non-competition and non-solicitation agreements that may be included in the agreement or may be a separate contract. These areas deserve a lot of attention. There are some states that do not allow health professionals to be restricted by these agreements based on the common good of the population. Other states enforce these agreements based on the amount of money paid or owed when the clause is included in the contract. Besides the financial part of the restrictions, there will be geographic restrictions as to where the associate may go to work if he or she leaves the employment currently included in the contract. Anyone who has been retained by the associate for the review of the contract should understand completely what the state requirements are and what the particular state in which the associate works will allow. These are career-changing points and an additional charge for an expert’s opinion will allow the future to be unencumbered by lawsuits.

Bruce Bryen

Bruce Bryen, CPA/CVA
Dental Practice Valuation Analyst, Baratz & Associates, PA

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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Bruce Bryen

Bruce Bryen

Bruce Bryen, CPA/CVA Dental Practice Valuation Analyst, Baratz & Associates, PA