Practice Ownership: Dental Buildout vs. Buying 
Published
 - January 11th, 2023

Expert Advice From Dental Whale Practice Management Focus Area Leader Dr. Steven Wingfield

Practice ownership is a subject that crosses the mind of every dentist. In fact, dentists are more likely to go into private practice than those in any other medical profession. 

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), in 2017, around 77 percent of all dentists owned their own practice. 

While this number fluctuates from year to year, it’s evident that dentists wanting to become owner-dentists typically decide between building or buying their own practice.

In a prior blog, we explained the difference between dental startups and acquisitions. However, since both are such complex topics and undertakings, we thought it would be best to speak to an expert.  

That’s why I reached out to Dr. Steven Wingfield, a practicing dentist specializing in practice ownership and Dental Whale’s Practice Management Focus Area Leader.

Choosing Between a Dental Startup and Practice Acquisition

To begin, I asked Dr. Wingfield to share some much-needed advice for dentists considering the path of practice ownership. 

“Aspiring practice-owner dentists have an important decision to make: Do I buy an existing practice or a startup practice?” 

He went on to note that while “entrepreneurship does afford dentists the freedom of being their own boss, it also takes a lot of continual work to build their brand.” 

While there are more components to figuring out which option is best for you (and we’ll get into that), ultimately, you have to figure out if it makes more sense to buy an existing practice or build one from the ground up. 

The best way to do that is to ask yourself what you would prefer, a.) to create your dream practice from scratch or b.) purchase an existing practice, where your focus will be on making improvements to optimize it? Whichever option you choose, you must realize that each undertaking has its own unknowns. It just boils down to which one you feel more comfortable with.

Echoing the same sentiment, Dr. Wingfield said: “Making the right decision for you is personal and will depend on your financial situation and needs. By carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages of each position, you significantly improve your odds of making the choice that’s right for you, and your future practice.” 

When to Build a Dental Practice from Scratch

If you answered the question above by saying you enjoy creating, then you’ll most likely enjoy practice ownership through a dental startup.

Dentists often choose this option because they want to start a dental practice built on their personal vision instead of shaping someone else’s vision into what they want.

Dr. Wingfield notes that “other benefits of a startup or denovo practice include a specially-tailored floor plan designed for efficiency, pre-chosen patient demographics, new technology, and a lease agreement negotiated on your terms.” 

In addition to those benefits, Dr. Wingfield says that “some dentists prefer to develop their own business processes and operational systems, which is hard to do if you take the practice acquisition route.

When to Buy an Existing Dental Practice

If you like fixer uppers or developing efficiencies, you’ll probably find more satisfaction through practice acquisition. 

This is the best option “if you’re looking for immediate cash flow,” says Dr. Wingfield. However, he states that this is only the case when purchasing a profitable practice. “If you purchase a dental practice that’s failing, turning it around may take longer, but it’s still possible to turn a failing practice into a money-making practice. Although this particular scenario is better for experienced, entrepreneurial dentists and DSOs,” he exclaimed.   

Additional benefits of practice acquisition include, but are not limited to, inheriting an existing patient base and staff, having systems already in place, and incurring less debt than a startup. Though, “startups done the right way don’t always lead to debt,” shared Dr. Wingfield.

Practice Management Seminars Help Dentists Succeed

Whether you start a new practice from scratch or purchase an existing dental practice, setting out on your own for the first time is an adventure, and you will learn valuable lessons along the way.

As a dentist, one of the best ways to understand the ins and outs of practice management is to learn from the experts. 

Why be guided by trial and error when you can bypass most inherent risks of dental startups and practice acquisition? 

Whatever you decide (to buy or build your dental practice), make sure to gain expert insight. Given that both undertakings are full of intricacies, your best chance of success is to approach the task with a proven blueprint.

To learn more about dental startups and practice acquisition, visit our library of education videos at: www.dentalwhale.com. Or leave us a comment below to tell us what you think; we would love to hear from you. 

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