The Associate Dilemma, Part I

Not every practice can support an associate. Can yours?

Dentists who are contemplating hiring an associate must answer these questions:

Do you have a one-man dental practice?
Many host doctors have grown their practice to slightly more than a one-person practice but not to a two-doctor office. A one-doctor practice needs to have 4 full doctor days and 4 to 5 full hygiene days scheduled each week.

If you do, how much more than a 4-day workweek does your practice need to be open?
We consider an office to be a practice and a half if it has scheduled 5 full doctor days and 6 or 7 full hygiene days each week. It’s often best for the host doctor to build his practice up to at least a one doctor dental practice with a business plan to increase gross collections by a minimum of 10% the year prior to bringing in an associate.

The main reasons a dentist should consider hiring an associate include:

The practice is too large for one doctor, resulting in patient loss due to scheduling difficulties,

If he/she is retiring within the next 5 years, or

Health issues are forcing the host dentist to sell.

Most of the other reasons used by general practicing dentist to bring on an associate should not even be considered. For instance, the one we hear most often………I am burned out and want to work less so why not hire an associate to see my patients on the days I am not in the office? This is simply poor business planning from the start. Most dentists work 3–3.5 days just to pay overhead; so if you are hiring an associate to work the other 2 days of the week, you will pay the associate out of the only profit the practice generates. After working with numerous dentists over the past 16 years, we have discovered that dentists who only work 3.5 days or less a week need not consider hiring an associate.

The exception to this is when the associate is performing procedures that the host doctor does not perform.  When the senior doctor HAS A BUSINESS PLAN that encompasses increasing the gross collections by at least 25% then it may be profitable to hire an associate.

If the host doctor and associate know and understand the answers to the above questions, then the associateship stands a chance for success.

Did you like this article? Check out our other dental industry blog posts such as the dental associate dilemma part 2 and excellent dentist, poor business man.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please call us at 678-482-7305 or email at

About the Author

  • Founder

    Dr. Bill Adams is the Founder of US Dental Transitions (formerly Southeast Transitions). He practiced general dentistry for 25 years after graduating from Emory in 1969. He founded our company in 1998 to help fellow dentists transition their practices to other dentists who share similar values and philosophies. Over the last 23 years, Dr. Adams has consulted with over 6,000 dentists and transitioned over 600 practices. He is Pankey/Dawson trained, a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry (FAGD), and a lifetime member in the Hinman Dental Society.

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