How to Hire Dental Employees You Want to Keep

Starting a dental practice can feel daunting, as you try to work your way through a mountain of paperwork and order just the right equipment and furnishings. In an effort to save time and trouble, some dentists rush through the process of hiring office personnel. Yet your people are absolutely vital to the success of your practice, and hiring sub-par employees could be an expensive mistake. Here are some tips for hiring dental employees you will want to keep for the long haul.

Take Your Time

Whether you are starting a new practice or your most experienced hygienist just moved out of state, the pressure is always on whenever a position is open. Still, it is crucial to slow down, conduct a lot of interviews, and think through how different candidates would fit into your practice.

Write a Complete Job Description

Step back and take a critical look at the open position. What technical skills are required? What about soft skills such as communication and compassion? How is the position classified? What are the essential functions that the employee will provide? What are some secondary functions that occasionally need to be performed? The more information you provide, the easier it will be for both you and the candidate to assess that person’s fit.

Advertise the Position

Write a compelling ad that explains not only what the position is, but why your practice is an excellent workplace. Place ads on your website and social media pages, and also reach out to your network. Your patients, staff members, or colleagues might know someone who would be a perfect fit.

Customize the Cover Letter and Interview Process

Ask for a cover letter with each application. This allows you to assess each candidate’s writing and communication skills and get a sense of his or her personality. Ask for a few specifics, such as a short paragraph on why the candidate wants to work for you and what he or she brings to the table.

Develop a list of interview questions in advance, and ask each candidate the same things. Remember to keep it professional, sticking only to topics that affect the workplace and steering clear of such personal matters as hobbies, religion, politics, or family. Focus on the person’s career progression and how the position fits into it. Also consider asking some hypothetical scenario-based questions. Pay close attention not only to the answers candidates give, but also their behavior and body language.

Consider calling back finalists for an hour or two of job shadowing. This allows candidates to get to know your practice and your existing staff, and it allows your existing staff members to act as additional eyes and ears in assessing the candidates. Be careful not to have prospects perform any actual work, though, or you could be on the hook to pay them.

Check References and Validate Credentials

Attach a release form to each application that gives permission for you to check references and credentials. In a dental practice, you can’t afford to hire someone who was fired for negligence or whose professional license was revoked. Though the majority of applicants are truthful, your business could be on the line if something slips through.


Your new staff member is part of a team, so it is essential that your current staff members are comfortable with your hiring decision. It is also vital that you provide full onboarding support to help the new staff member make a successful transition.

Provide essential forms ahead of time to avoid bogging down your new employee in paperwork. Set up a well-defined training schedule that includes time to get to know both the staff and the systems. Clear your own schedule as much as possible to give you time to check in throughout the first days and weeks rather than leaving the new employee feeling stranded. No matter how skilled a new staff member may be, the first few days at a new practice are always stressful, and feeling supported can help your new employee start down the road to success.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

6 Ways for Dentists to Boost Workplace Happiness

Happy employees not only mean happy patients, but they can actually significantly improve your bottom line. Yet it can be tough for busy dentists to figure out how best to increase employee morale. Here are 6 easy ways to boost your staff’s workplace happiness.


Dental staffs work very closely with each other, but that doesn’t automatically translate to open communication. Set the tone by making yourself more approachable. Institute an open-door policy. Implement both scheduled and impromptu check-ins with staff members, in which you seek genuine feedback on everything from staff policies to patient care. Encourage your team members to speak up, and they will start to feel more valued.

Break Time

A busy dental office is a successful one, but it is vital to take breaks during the day. While a quick lunch in the back may be a necessary evil now and then, it should never become the norm. Promote an office culture in which everything shuts down for a full lunch hour. Whether your employees choose to go out to eat together or take the time for personal errands or even a nap, they will return refreshed and better able to focus on the job at hand.


A party boosts everyone’s morale, not just the guest of honor’s. Get into the habit of celebrating work anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and other important milestone events. If you’re not much of a party planner, assign this task to the most social person in the office. Even small things like cupcakes for the entire team and a gift card for the celebrant can make your employees feel special.

Raises and Promotions

Develop a clear, transparent path to raises and promotions. This shows your team that you have nothing to hide, and it holds you as well as them accountable. Today’s workers are far more likely to feel good about your practice, and to stick around long-term, if they see a way to achieve their goals. You can also give small bonuses, such as an extra paid day off, to those who reach certain milestones within the company.

Take It Out of the Office

A dental practice is, by definition, a sterile place. While you can certainly add some life to the office with upgraded seating and artwork, it can still be hard to truly relax in the office. Get to know your employees as people and lower their stress levels by taking the entire staff out now and then. Hold staff meetings in a local coffee shop. Invest in team building by treating everyone to a monthly escape room, mini-golf tournament, or other group event. Get everyone out of the office and having fun.

Partner Up

Reach out to local businesses close to your office and ask about reciprocal employee discounts. Your staff will love feeling like part of the community, and you will get new patients for your practice. You will also build your local reputation, and you will have great new perks to advertise to potential new employees. It truly is a win-win.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Keys to Selling a Dental Practice for the Maximum Price

Dental practice valuation is a highly complex blend of art and science. Ultimately, though, any practice is worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay for it. If you want to maximize the selling price, there are a few things you can do to make your practice more attractive to potential buyers.

Accounts Receivable

The majority of dentists are happy with an accounts receivable cycle as long as 45 days. Still, if yours is significantly lower, it can prove that your practice has a healthy cash flow. Upgrading your revenue management technology and procedures can help.


While the real estate idea of “location, location, location” does not fully apply when selling a dental practice, there is no denying that location matters to prospective buyers. In particular, buyers are interested in the demographics and population trends of the area, as those affect the patient base. For example, a buyer interested in complex restorations would likely prefer an affluent area with an older demographic, while someone who specializes in pediatric dentistry will want to be in a neighborhood with lots of young families.

You don’t need to move your practice in order to sell it, but you will get the best price by focusing on buyers whose primary interests match the demographics of the area. Of course, if your practice attracts patients who are willing to travel a long way for your services, that can be a selling point on its own.

Practice Philosophy

Everyone has a different philosophy and approach to treatment, and you certainly don’t need to change yours. However, if you are looking for the maximum selling price, you should be sure to discuss these topics early on with each potential buyer. Every buyer is hoping for a strong, existing patient base, as well as to focus on the areas of dentistry that most interest him or her. It might be that a buyer can see a new direction for your practice in the form of additional services or new technology, but if your approaches are wildly different, some of your existing patients might leave after the sale. Buyers are aware of this risk, and will likely not offer top dollar for practices that do not naturally mesh with their ideas.

Intangible Assets

Dental practices generally have a wide variety of tangible assets, such as equipment and furniture, but intangible assets can add tremendous value to the practice. Brand equity and intellectual property are typically the most important. Brand equity includes, but is not limited to, such factors as reputation, perception of service, and loyalty from both patients and employees. Protecting the brand can be a very important element in the sales process, and a top brand can bring a significantly higher price.

Intellectual property includes anything that you developed that is unique to your practice, such as codified policies and procedures, treatment methodologies, and ways of managing the business side of your practice. The more successful your practice is, the more your unique intellectual property is likely to be worth at the time of sale.

Technology Considerations

It would seem obvious that sophisticated dental technology automatically raises the selling price of a dental practice, but this is rarely the case. At the time of sale, technology is really only worth the demonstrated financial impact that it has on the practice. In other words, you may get a premium for a piece of technology that demonstrably improved processes and, in turn, revenue. But simply running out right before the sale to buy new software will not get you much return on your investment.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, there is a plethora of dental technology on the market, and most dentists like to equip their offices with the technologies they like best. Second, used equipment has a very low cash value. Finally, the buyer may be entirely unfamiliar with that shiny new program you installed, and unimpressed with your claims of what the salesperson told you it could do. Being able to point to results is key.

Ultimately, the best way to obtain the maximum price for your dental practice is to start long before you are ready to sell. Build the best practice you can, constantly refine and improve your processes, and create a strong brand. When you are ready to sell, focus on buyers who are looking for what you have to sell, and whose philosophies mesh well with your own.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

What is Corporate Dentistry – and is it Right for You?

At one time, virtually all dentists were in private practice. When you needed a dental procedure, you went to an office owned and run by one or a few dentists. If you were a dentist, you graduated from dental school and either opened your own practice or joined someone else’s. Today, though, corporate dentistry is changing the game. While private practice remains a popular and viable option, more and more dentists are choosing to go the corporate route. So what exactly is corporate dentistry, and is right for you?

Understanding Corporate Dentistry

Corporate dentistry refers to large dental service organizations that employ numerous dentists and affiliated staff in multiple locations. They may operate in a single state or many states, and dentists are contracted to perform services rather than owning the practice in which they are employed.

It is perhaps easier to understand the role of a dentist in corporate dentistry by thinking through the role of a pharmacist. At one time, virtually all pharmacists owned their own practices. While some still do, the vast majority of pharmacists in the United States now work for CVS or Walgreens or another major pharmacy chain.

Corporate dentistry can be an excellent choice for dentists who prefer a set schedule and salary over the risks of building and maintaining a patient list. You might even be able to make your desired income working part-time hours due to the economy of scale. You will likely be able to focus solely on dentistry rather than the ancillary tasks of managing a business, and if you do not want to stay in the same city forever, you may be able to transfer to a new location rather than having to start over from scratch.

Corporate dentistry certainly has its benefits, but it also has a variety of drawbacks. The biggest is that you will lose a great deal of independence in deciding how to run your practice. Materials and techniques are generally selected by the corporation rather than the individual dentist. You may be limited to certain procedures or required to follow a certain theory of dentistry. You will most likely be able to create your own treatment plans, but they may be heavily scrutinized for such buzzwords as “cost savings” and “efficiency.” You may be pushed to promote certain procedures, and will likely be prohibited from utilizing cutting-edge treatment strategies.

How Does Corporate Dentistry Differ from Private Practice?

Private practice puts you in the driver’s seat of a dental business. As long as you follow ethical guidelines and best practices, you get to decide which procedures you want to offer, which theory or theories you want to follow, and which treatment strategies you want to use. You will choose your own staff, suppliers, materials, and so forth.

Private practice does have its own downside, though. Many dentists do not consider themselves business experts. Are you prepared to take on everything from negotiating a business lease to choosing lobby furniture to filing annual reports? It is certainly possible to hire experts to manage any or all aspects of your practice outside of the actual dentistry, but it can be cost-prohibitive, especially for a new practice that is just getting started.

In addition, going into private practice means making a life choice. If you choose to move at a later date, you will need to go through the process of closing your current practice or selling your share, and then opening a new one in your new location.

Is Corporate Dentistry Right for Me?

How and where to practice dentistry is a highly personal decision that every dentist must make. Only you can decide what your priorities are. You might be a natural entrepreneur, making private practice a no-brainer, or you might be dedicated to maintaining set part-time hours, making corporate dentistry the clear best choice. For most dentists, though, the decision is not so clear-cut. Take some time to sit down and make personal lists of pros and cons, talk to dentists in both corporate dentistry and private practice, and over time you will come to the decision that is best for you.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

MSO vs Private Practice: The Pros and Cons

Corporate dentistry is divided into two main organizational structures. A DSO, or dental service organization, is dentist owned, while an MSO, or managed service organization, is an equity-backed corporation. Either way, though, for the dentist considering joining the world of corporate dentistry, both types of organizations look and feel similar. Here are the pros and cons of joining an MSO versus a private practice.


An MSO carries quite a few benefits for dentists who don’t see themselves as business types. Here are just a few pros:

100% of time spent on dentistry:MSOs handle all of the “business duties” associated with a dental practice. You won’t need to worry about hiring, training, and firing office staff. You won’t have to chase down late payments, make sure the light bill is paid, or order office furniture.

Set schedule:In most cases, dentists working for an MSO can set their hours and compensation. If you like to golf on Friday morning or take Monday afternoon off, other dentists will be covering those hours, so you don’t need to worry that patients will not be cared for.

Freedom:Dentists in private practice work hard to establish and retain patient lists. If they want to go on vacation, they have to make sure their patients are taken care of. If they want to move to a new city, they must find someone to buy the existing practice, and then start over in the new location. Dentists working for a national MSO can simply transfer, while those working for a local MSO can give notice and find a new MSO to join in their new city.

Of course, MSOs do have their drawbacks. Here a few cons:

Corporate profits:MSOs are 100% business oriented. You might be pushed to promote certain products or techniques, and your treatment plans will likely be analyzed, all with the goal of maximizing corporate profits.

Restrictions:If you want to do research or explore cutting-edge dental techniques, you will likely be disappointed. MSOs tend to focus on streamlined, well-proven theories and techniques, and do not give dentists a lot of room to deviate from their standards.

Financial considerations:With the risks of private practice come the rewards. While private practice dentists keep 100% of their profits, MSO dentists have an employment agreement that governs their compensation. If you’re a natural salesperson, you could be leaving money on the table by joining an MSO.

Private Practice

Private practice is the ultimate solution for dentists with an entrepreneurial spirit. Here are a few of the pros:

Control:Everything about your practice is under your control. From the theories and techniques you choose to the lighting design in the office, you need only follow ethics and best practices guidelines, and everything else is up to you. You can hire the staff members who best fit with your style, and train them to your standards.

Flexibility:Running a private dental practice is sometimes an exercise in trial and error. You can run promotions, throw a pizza party, or use other creative solutions to build and maintain your patient list. You can specialize in dental implants or focus solely on older patients. You can even find someone to manage your patients while you spend a month in the Caribbean.

Profit potential:While MSO dentists are limited to their agreed-upon compensation, the sky is the limit for private practice dentists. You might choose to discount your rates to make money on volume, or raise them to maximize per-patient spending. You can negotiate with insurance companies or accept only patients who pay in full. However you choose to do business, you get to keep 100% of your profits.

Private practices do have their downside, though. Here are a few cons:

Location restriction:Building a private practice is a long-term commitment. Should you decide to relocate, you will need to go through the process of selling your practice and transferring your patients, and then start from scratch in your new city. This can be time-consuming and expensive, so it is best to start your practice in a place you’re sure you want to be long-term.

Business requirements:A private dental practice is a small business. You must comply with federal, state, and local ordinances in everything from insurance requirements to zoning laws to building codes. You are responsible for hiring, training, and firing your entire staff. You must deal with late accounts, financing programs, and all of the monthly bills. You might decide to hire a business manager to handle these items day to day, but you are the one with ultimate responsibility for them.

Scheduling considerations:Patients like to visit the dentist when they have free time. Depending on your patient demographics, you might find it necessary to stay open late or provide Saturday hours to keep your patients happy. You might find it difficult to take a vacation, as it could mean shifting patients temporarily to another dentist or risking them deciding to find a new dentist.

Neither an MSO nor a private practice is a perfect solution for dentists. Both have major pros and cons. The best way to decide what to do is spend some time soul-searching to determine which factors are truly the most important to you.

Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Buying into a Dental Practice: What to Expect

Most often, dentists going into private practice work alone. Buying an existing dental practice is a fairly straightforward process with a short transition period. Sometimes, though, the opportunity arises to join an existing dental practice with one or more dentists. This is more complex, as you will all be working and sharing equity together.

In many cases, a dentist buying into a dental practice will go through a slow testing process, where the new dentist and the existing dentists work alongside each other for a period of time before the buy in is completed. This is known as an associateship. The associateship to ownership process is typically divided into three phases.

Honeymoon Phase

The honeymoon phase allows everyone to get acquainted and see how they work together. The new dentist will sign an associate employment agreement that details the new dentist’s responsibilities and compensation. This is the time to explore each other’s philosophies, treatment methodologies, and business practices to determine if the partnership is the right fit.

This is also when all parties should discuss the parameters of a future buy in, as well as exit strategies. The goal here is to find a way for the new dentist to come into a full equity share without disrupting the business, and for either side to exit with minimal impacts to anyone.

Commitment Phase

A few months into the new arrangement, if things are working well, it is time to move into the commitment phase. As this point, a Letter of Intent is signed that details the terms of the buy in. This should also include a provision for the associate to move immediately to buy in should the senior dentist become disabled or pass away, ensuring that everyone’s interests are protected.

Other necessary paperwork includes an employment agreement revision and a practice management agreement. The goal for this phase is to spell everything out on paper so that the buy in is seamless and future hiccups are anticipated and provided for.

The commitment phase normally lasts 6 to 18 months, depending on the complexity of the existing practice and how long it takes to file all legal paperwork. If any current dentists are leaving the practice, arrangements must be made to transfer patient records and referral sources, which could extend the timeline.

Buy in Phase

The buy in phase is when the associate officially becomes a full partner. If the honeymoon phase and commitment phase were handled properly, the buy in phase should be smooth. The goal here is to allow the new partner to focus on becoming part of the team, and the team to focus on including the new partner, rather than drowning in forgotten or neglected paperwork.

Adding a new partner to an existing dental practice is a challenge for both the practice and the new dentist. However, slowing down and taking the process step by step can set up both sides for success. Clear communication, honesty, and a bit of patience will help to ensure that the transition is everything you hoped it would be.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.