Thinking of Hiring an Associate: Are you Ready?

By: Cindy Bickers, Henry Schein Nationwide Dental Opportunities

Whether you’re overbooked and looking for help, hoping to focus more time on managing your practice, or simply seeking more free time, hiring an associate may be the next step. Bringing on a new associate can help you grow your practice by:

  • Bringing in new patients
  • Increasing revenues through treating more patients
  • Providing more hygiene checks

The below table shows an estimate of the potential additional net profit from having a new associate.

Shape, rectangle
Description automatically generated

Based on gross collections

Often bringing in an associate with a partnership or deferred sale can be mutually beneficial. This process makes it easier for the associate to become an owner of a practice over time. And since they’re paying you toward ownership over time, you can realize the profits of the sale of the practice sooner. In addition to profits, there are other great benefits to adding an associate to your practice, including providing you with coverage for sick days and vacations, and potentially providing practice succession.

Hiring Considerations

To support a new associate, your practice should gross $800,000 per year or more and have a minimum of 1,500 active patients (i.e., patients seen over the past 12-18 months) as well as at least 20 new patients being added per month. An associate will need to have roughly 800 of their own patients to earn a living. If you expect the new associate to build their own patient base, this can take time, and they’ll need to make income while this process is under way.

If you’re considering bringing in a new associate, do your homework before taking a leap of faith. Some factors to consider include:

  • Is a new graduate acceptable or do you need someone with experience?
  • What procedures does the associate need to perform, based on the specific type of dentistry you practice?
  • Are there additional procedures you’d like the associate to perform, either to aid in the growth of your practice or that you prefer not to do yourself?
  • Can your current hygienists support another dentist, or will your new associate perform hygiene?
  • Who is the right dental assistant for your new associate? Typically, it’s best to have an experienced assistant who can help them learn your practice, policies, and procedures – and so the assistant can observe the associate and ensure they’re treating patients the way you would want them treated.
  • Will the associate be sharing operatories with other dentists?
  • How many treatment rooms will the associate have to work from? Having one treatment room may be acceptable for a new dentist starting out, but after about six months, their production would be limited to 40-50% of what they could produce with two chairs in the same amount of time. That’s why it's important that you have enough space to bring an associate into the practice.
  • Will the associate be paid a draw or a guaranteed salary? A typical guarantee right now is roughly $100,000-150,000 per year for a general dentist and $120,000-175,000 per year for a specialist.
  • Will they be paid a percentage of collections, collectable production, or production? The average range of compensation right now for a percentage is 30-35% of the associate's collectable production or collection.
  • What deductions will come from their compensation? For example, are lab fees deducted from the associate's gross collections or production or net collections or production?
  • What benefits can you offer to make the position more attractive and how are they structured? Many corporate dental practices offer health insurance, paid time off, student loan repayment, continuing education, and even relocation.

Recruiting a New Associate

Dental school career offices, dental job boards, trade publication ads, the state dental association, and dental recruiters are sources for finding qualified candidates. During the interview process, have an open dialogue about your expectations – and ask about theirs - to ensure that you’re aligned. For example, why are they looking to join an existing practice? What appeals to them about your practice? Are they seeking a mentor to help them improve their practice, management, and clinical skills? What hours do they anticipate working? Are they comfortable traveling (if you have multiple offices)? What are their plans for the future? Are they staying in the area long term?

Preparing for a Successful Partnership or Transition

The associate dentist will become an important part of the practice and your team. How you begin your relationship can set the tone for the future, so be sure to start it with an open mindset about your goals and expectations. In addition to assessing their skill sets, talk about your respective care philosophies.

Offer a working interview, so the candidates can spend time with your staff and patients. This is an opportunity not only to evaluate their skills and interactions but for them to see if it’s a right fit, personality wise. The associate will also expect that any practice looking to bring them on will also be open with sharing their financial information, such as income and profit & loss statements.

Drawing up an Agreement

It may be a good idea to have templates for both employment agreements and letter of intents drawn up ahead of time so that minimal changes would need to be made to the templates once you identify the right an associate or buyer. Some of the critical points to include in the agreement are:

  • Purchase price. If your plan is to transition out of the practice, set the purchase price prior to employment. If the purchase price is agreed to before employment starts, 75% of buy-ins or buy-outs occur as planned. If the purchase price is not agreed to before employment, only 10% of buy-ins or buy-outs occur as they were planned.
  • The exit plan. If you or the associate decide you don’t want to continue the partnership, how will this be terminated? How will payments be made to you if the relationship fails? Will there be a penalty imposed on either party if one walks away?
  • Real estate purchase options. If there is real estate involved, will the new partner/owner be expected to purchase or lease the real estate? What will the purchase price or the rent be?
  • Patient distribution and income share. How will the current patients be distributed? How will the new patients be handled? How will the income be divided, and bills be shared?
  • Non-compete/non-solicitation restriction. This clause will help protect you from having an associate leave after a short time and set up a practice nearby. Typically, a non-compete would not be effective during the first six months of employment and should be reasonable in terms, distance, and/or duration. The distance is usually based on the drawing area of the practice, and the duration is typically one to two years after the associate leaves the practice.

Once you’re ready to make an offer, document all the terms and work with an attorney and CPA to review the agreements. This can benefit both you and your new associate, helping avoid disputes or misunderstandings. Hopefully this agreement will be the start of a fruitful working relationship.

Are you interested in hiring a General Dentist or Specialist for your practice? Call Henry Schein Nationwide Dental Opportunities at (866) 409-3001 or email us at

For more information, visit