How New Dentists Can Be Successful Associates

Did you recently graduate from dental school? Are you looking to enter your first practice as an associate? There is more to selecting a practice than sending your resume out, interviewing, and accepting a position. At least, there is more to selecting a practice that will allow you to become a successful associate.


If you’ve read our blogs, you know that we advocate for choosing a dental practice that fits your clinical philosophy and meets your work-life balance goals. More than that, start by selecting a practice that’s in a location where you would like to live and eventually – possibly – open your own practice. To us, it makes little sense to work somewhere where you do not enjoy the community and see potential growth.


The Interview

Next, start with the interview. The pre-interview. This means doing some old-fashioned observation to see how the practice runs and interacts with patients. To do this, call the practice on a day off to listen to their voicemail to patients. Put yourself in a patient’s shoes, and ask yourself if all the information you would need is contained in the voicemail. Listen for professionalism, attitude, and quality of information, such as where to call in case of emergency.


On the day of your interview, arrive more than ten minutes early so you can sit in the waiting room and observe how staff interacts with patients. Are the staff comfortable discussing billing, payments, and scheduling? Or are these not brought up or discussed casually? Notice how the staff interacts with each other and the practicing dentist. Do they work well as a team?


The Practice

As it concerns the practice, you want to know about the number of new and active patients coming through the door. Ask about procedural and payor mix to find out what the practice actually does and how insurance and payments are broken down. Does the practice have a solid marketing plan in place to support the number of new patients needed for two dentists? While you don’t need to know all the practice’s numbers, you need to be confident in the senior dentist’s ability to generate new patients and profit.  


Beyond the numbers, evaluate the practice’s communication style. You ideally want a practice that holds monthly meetings on practice management, weekly or monthly dentist-only meetings, and daily morning meetings discussing the agenda and schedule. It may sound like a lot, but a practice that communicates well and works together to solve problems will help you become a successful, happy associate.


The Dentist

Finally, if you’re joining a smaller dental practice and will become the second dentist, we think it’s important to assess the current dentist’s workload and reason for hiring (or replacing) an associate. You want to find out if there’s a growth plan and how you fit into it, if there are specific procedures you’d be relegated to, or if the dentist wants to cut down on his or her own hours. Find out about the dentist’s managerial style and decide if it’s a good fit for your personality. How much do you want to be mentored, and can this dentist match your desired level of support?


Remember that you are interviewing the practice as much if not more than they are interviewing you. Find a practice and senior dentist you love, and your career and happiness will be all the better for it. When you have questions about joining a dental practice, employment agreements, or becoming an owner yourself, contact the experts at Dental CPAs.