How to Resign From A Dental Office

By: Jennifer Murphy, DDS, FAGD

You’ve been working at an office for a while now and things are just not working out the way you imagined or were promised. What do you do now?

First, let’s acknowledge this is never an easy position to be in. There is also no right or wrong answer, but only what is best for you.

I’ve even said that to staff when they’ve given their notice. Usually, I’m sad to see them go but realize everyone has to do what’s best for them. Oftentimes it may not even have anything to do with the office itself.

Is It Time to Resign?

Perhaps let’s start there. Really think about what it is that’s not working and why you feel it is time to move on.

It could be as simple as you’ve realized you want to be an owner and purchase your own practice which is not an option where you currently work. Or, it could be more complicated in that you don’t feel valued, aren’t busy enough, or feel it’s just not the right fit for you.

I will say in some cases it certainly may be worth having some conversations about your concerns, and what is and isn’t working for you. Offer up solutions when you do this and don’t just complain.

The owner doc may have no idea how you are feeling so it helps to try to let them see your perspective. Also, it helps if you have ideas that could improve things, not just for yourself, but also the office.

If you do that, and nothing changes or you are not listened to then you probably have your answer. It is time to go, and time to move on.

How to Resign From a Dental Office as an Associate

1. Review Your Contract

First, you need to know what your contract says. Most of the time there is anywhere from a 30 to 90 days notice written in an associate contract.

It is wise to abide by what your contract says as well as to be professional throughout this process. The dental community is small and you don’t want to burn any bridges.

2. Write a Dental Resignation Letter

Second, then you need to give your actual notice. If you decide it’s time to move on it’s usually best to do it sooner than later.

Don’t panic. This can be a very anxiety-inducing thing. But I will tell you it’s usually bigger in your head than it really is.

Most of the time I have typed up a simple letter, printed, signed, and handed it to the owner and sometimes a copy to the OM as well depending on the situation. I’d suggest doing this in person and at a time when there won’t be distractions. It might be wise to ask the owner for some time in advance, essentially scheduling a meeting.

Once you hand them your resignation letter, they may ask some questions. Be brief and positive are the two best words I can recommend to follow in answering those questions. My experience is that it’s usually a brief conversation. Every circumstance is a little different though and I have had an owner doc not even talk to me about my leaving!

When giving your notice, keep it simple. In your written resignation and what you say, this is a situation where less is more. If you’ve decided to go it’s not the time to air your grievances. Thank them for the opportunity.

In your resignation letter keep it simple as well. State what date you are leaving. You do not have to go into why, where you are going, or any future plans.

3. Be Professional

Usually, when you give your notice it’s one of those things at first where it’s a “big deal.” Everyone is finding out about you leaving and feeling sad or expressing their concerns, opinions, and feelings but most often when you leave the writing has been on the wall.

Staff sees it and knows you’ve been unhappy and they aren’t too surprised. They may express they don’t like it or don’t want you to leave but remember – you have to do what’s best for you. Then after a few days the “hub-bub” is over and they are on to finding someone else, etc.

Again, I cannot stress that it’s best to continue to be professional. My first job out of school I’ve had both owners try and want to hire me again! I had left because my circumstances changed and I had a long commute – so they understood and it was not a big deal at all.

It’s OK to Resign from a Dental Office for Your Next Experience

The dental community is small, people talk, so you want to not burn any bridges and continue to be seen in a positive light, even if you aren’t feeling very positive or maybe not even being treated well.

Remember “this too shall pass” and going through these experiences will not only make you a better, stronger dentist but person as well.

NEXT READ: Buying a Dental Practice

Photo by SHVETS production

Jennifer Murphy

Jennifer Murphy

Dr. Jennifer Murphy graduated with a Doctorate of Dental Surgery in 2006 from The Ohio State University. She is a member in good standing of the American Dental Association, North Carolina Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Murphy earned her Fellowship from the Academy of General Dentistry in 2021. In addition to practicing general dentistry, she is also a practice coach for Benco Dental.