Tips to Finding The Right Dental Practice

Many dental school graduates will pursue positions as associates. Dentistry is an increasingly competitive field, and many new dental graduates find out the hard way when it takes longer than expected to find a job. Whether your plan is to find a practice to buy into or you simply want experience, here are ten tips to make your first post-graduate job search a good one.

Your Job Search


  • Define Your Goals
    The first step in a successful associateship is knowing what you want out of the opportunity. For example, are you looking for experience or do you want to buy into the practice within five years? Is having an experienced mentor important to you? What salary will support your lifestyle? Think about these questions before you start looking at practices so you can narrow down your search.


  • Area Demand
    Can your community support another dentist? One way to find out is to do a little independent research. Call some of the local dental practices and ask if they’re accepting new patients. If they’re not, it’s a good sign that that the area needs another dentist.


  • Network
    There’s a saying: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” When job searching, especially right after dental school, it’s important to get to know your fellow dentists. Click here to find out if your area has an active dental association. Then, become a member and attend meetings. Reach out to other members, and start developing your professional network.
    You can also reach out to your school’s career office or alumni, visit the ADA’s website for Dental Students, join a dental recruitment agency, reach out to dental supply sales reps, or dental brokers for leads on which practices may be hiring.


  • Reviews
    Before you interview with a practice, check their online reviews on Dentaltown,  Google,  and Yelp. See if they have a social media presence. You can feel confident going into an interview with a principal dentist who is well represented in the community and takes the time to connect with his or her patients online.

What To Look For In A Dental Practice


  • Contracts
    It’s a good idea to have a signed contract when you become an associate. Ideally, this will be fair to both parties, and should include details on non-competes, length of contract, compensation, work hours and paid time off, and so on. Also find out about insurance: what carriers does the practice accept, and if you’ll be responsible for paying your own malpractice insurance.


  • Practice Success
    How many new patients does the practice see each month, and is this number consistent over time? You want to find out how well the practice is managed and if it truly can support another dentist. Check out our post on the NL Transitions blog to learn what the target numbers are for management expenses. Ask about the collection rate. Your goal is to evaluate the current and projected financial standing of the practice.

 Talk to the principal dentist about his or her plan for growth using our article The Best Time To Hire A New Dentist as a guide.


  • Previous Associates
    If you can, talk to former associates or other dentists in the practice. Find out if there was another associate or associates before you, and if so, how long they were employed and why they left. Listen for red flags, like poor management or lack of patients.


  • New Patient Responsibility
    Find out whether you’ll be responsible for filling your schedule, or if the front desk will do it for you. Knowing whether marketing is built into your job description will help you decide if this practice is a good fit for you.


  • Practice Management
    You want to work in a dental practice that runs efficiently and is managed well. To that end, look for updated practice management software, newer equipment, and organized patient files.


  • Growth Potential
    Ask about your career growth. Are there opportunities for promotion or continuing education? What are the guidelines to buy into the practice, if that’s your direction? The principal dentist should have options for you to grow your career and build your skills.

Your first associate position is the beginning of your career. This is an exciting time and a great opportunity. Use these tips to start your search off right, and contact us with any questions as you go. Good luck!