The Transition to Dental Practice Ownership

By: Ronetta Sartor

There are a lot of options to pursue in a career after dental school, but one of the major decisions you’ll have to consider is the possibility of owning your own practice.

Deciding whether you want to own a business is a big decision in itself, and there are several ways to go about it.

Before jumping into a discussion of how to set yourself up for success with your own practice, it’s important to note that everyone’s needs are different and being your own boss isn’t a necessary step.

I know plenty of people who are happy just to work at a corporate position, do their job, and leave it at that.

The key word there is “happy” — they get to do what they enjoy and support themselves and their loved ones, and that’s their vision of success.

Ways to Run Your Own Dental Practice

But if you want to be your own boss and run a practice yourself, there are a few ways to do it.

1. Start as an Associate

The first is to start as an associate. Your local dental association’s newsletter will have plenty of information regarding associateships in your area, and there are a number of resources devoted to
helping young dentists ease through the process of becoming an associate.

Once you’re an associate, you can either wait for the head doctor to retire and buy the practice or become a co-owner of the practice.

In either case, it becomes a matter of doing good work and biding your time.

2. Start as an Owner

The other option is to start as an owner, either by opening a de novo practice or by buying a practice right out of dental school.

You’ll need a lot of people on your side either way, including:

  • a good CPA who understands a dentist’s needs
  • an attorney
  • a transition company

This last option is enormously helpful because, at the end of the day, the market is not your sole
focus and area of expertise.

By getting advice on when and how to make an offer on a practice, you’re doing yourself a favor and usually making a good return on your investment.

With the help of a transition manager, I was able to find a practice for sale near where I live; it seemed to
be a match made in heaven, so I signed on it.

Also, it helps to network as much as you can in dental school — some of the people I met there were instrumental in helping me get where I am today.

Try Everything to Find Your Fit

My last word of advice is to try everything. I did a residency after graduating and interviewed at
about fifteen different places before finding the right fit for me.

Part of understanding your goals is finding out what you don’t want to do, and you’ll never know that unless you try.

From there, you can figure out exactly how you want to plan your career and what steps you need to take.

Photo by Alena Darmel

Ronnetta Sartor

Ronnetta Sartor

Dr. Ronnetta Sartor is a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry and a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry. She has advanced education and expertise in state-of-the-art dental techniques and procedures. After graduating from the University of South Carolina Upstate, Dr. Ronnetta Sartor followed her studies at the Medical University of South Carolina. She then completed a General Practice Residency at Prisma Health Richland in Columbia, SC. She practiced at a group practice for a few years before starting a solo practice in Lugoff, South Carolina.