Buying Into A Dental Practice

By Cecil Staton, CFP®

A Comprehensive Guide to Buying into a Dental Practice: Insights from Cecil Staton of Arch Financial Planning – A Dental-Specific Financial Advisor

With extensive experience in the dental industry as dental-focused financial advisors, we’ve helped many associate dentists successfully navigate the intricate buying process into a dental practice. This journey can be exciting and daunting, especially for those fresh out of dental school. In this guide, I’ll provide detailed insights on the essential steps, key considerations, and common pitfalls to avoid during this significant career transition.


We’ve helped potential buyers navigate due diligence on an existing practice. Understanding the growth potential and cash flow is critical for making an informed decision as dental professionals. As a potential buyer, we’ll outline everything you need to buy into an existing dental practice or buy your own practice. We specialize in dental practice acquisitions and will help you buy into the right practice.


Buying into an Existing Practice Vs. Starting a New Practice Vs. Buying an Existing Practice Outright

When deciding between buying into an existing practice and starting a new one, it is essential to weigh the trade-offs to determine which option best aligns with your career goals, financial situation, and long-term vision.


Buying into an Existing Practice


  • Established Patient Base: One of the most significant advantages is inheriting an existing patient base. This immediate cash flow can provide financial stability and reduce the initial pressure to attract new patients.
  • Proven Track Record: An established practice typically has a proven track record of revenue, expenses, and profitability, allowing for more accurate financial forecasting and reduced risk.
  • Existing Infrastructure: You gain access to a fully operational facility, complete with equipment, trained staff, and established operational processes. This reduces the time and cost involved in setting up from scratch.
  • Mentorship: Often, the selling dentist may stay on for a transitional period, offering valuable mentorship and ensuring a smooth transfer of practice management.


  • Higher Initial Investment: The purchase price of an established practice can be substantial, reflecting its established value and profitability. This may require significant upfront capital or financing.
  • Limited Flexibility: Existing practices come with their own culture, systems, and patient expectations, which might limit your ability to implement changes or new ideas immediately.
  • Inherited Challenges: You may inherit problems that need to be addressed, such as outdated equipment, inefficient processes, or a less-than-ideal reputation.

Related Reading: How To Buy A Dental Practice

Starting a New Dental Practice


  • Complete Control: Starting a new practice allows you to create and design the practice according to your vision, from selecting the location and designing the facility to choosing your staff and implementing your preferred operational processes.
  • Modern Technology: You can equip your practice with the latest technology and infrastructure from the outset, which can improve efficiency and patient care.
  • Brand Identity: You can build your brand identity from scratch, fostering a practice culture and patient experience that aligns with your personal and professional values.


  • Slow Start: Building a patient base from scratch can take time, impacting initial cash flow and financial stability. This period can be stressful and financially challenging.
  • High Initial Costs: The startup costs for a new practice can be substantial, including leasing or purchasing a facility, buying equipment, marketing, and hiring staff.
  • Increased Risk: With no established track record, projecting revenue and profitability involves more uncertainty and risk.


Buying an Existing Practice Outright


  • Full Control: Owning the entire practice gives you complete autonomy to make decisions, implement changes, and shape the practice according to your vision. This level of control can be highly rewarding and fulfilling.
  • Financial Benefits: While the initial investment is higher, owning the entire practice allows you to retain all profits, providing potentially greater financial rewards in the long term.
  • Direct Impact: You can directly influence every aspect of the practice, from patient care and staff management to marketing and operational strategies. This direct impact can drive the practice’s success and growth.


  • Higher Initial Investment: Purchasing an entire practice requires substantial upfront capital or financing, which can be challenging to secure and may involve significant debt.
  • Increased Responsibilities: Full ownership comes with increased responsibilities and demands on your time, including managing staff, finances, and day-to-day operations, which can be overwhelming, especially initially.
  • Higher Risk: Without partners to share the financial and operational risks, you bear the full burden of any challenges or setbacks the practice may encounter.


Understanding the Transition from Associate to Owner

Transitioning from an associate dentist to a practice owner is a significant career milestone. It involves taking on new responsibilities beyond clinical work, encompassing business management, staff leadership, and strategic planning. As an associate dentist considering this transition, preparing yourself for the multifaceted role of a practice owner is crucial.

Conducting Thorough Due Diligence

One of the most critical steps in buying into an existing dental practice is conducting thorough due diligence. This involves comprehensively evaluating the practice’s financial health, operational efficiency, and growth potential. Key aspects to consider include:

  • Financial Statements: Review the practice’s financial statements, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements, for at least the past three years. This will give you a clear picture of the practice’s profitability and financial stability.
  • Patient Base: Analyze the existing patient base to understand the demographics, frequency of visits, and retention rates. This will help you gauge the practice’s sustainability and potential for attracting new patients.
  • Staff and Operations: Evaluate the qualifications and performance of the existing staff, as well as the efficiency of the practice’s operational processes. A well-trained and motivated team is essential for a smooth transition and continued success.

Related Reading: What Is The Average Dental Office Overhead?

Assessing the Growth Potential

Understanding the growth potential of the practice is essential for making an informed decision. Look for opportunities to expand services, increase patient volume, and improve operational efficiencies. Factors to consider include:

  • Market Demand: Assess the local market demand for dental services. Are there underserved populations or emerging trends that the practice can capitalize on?
  • Facility and Equipment: Evaluate the condition and capacity of the practice’s facility and equipment. Is there room for expansion, and are the equipment and technology up-to-date?
  • Reputation: Consider the practice’s reputation in the community. A well-established practice with a strong reputation can provide a solid foundation for growth.

Crafting a Letter of Intent to Buy a Private Practice

Once you’ve identified a promising practice and completed your due diligence, the next step is to draft a letter of intent (LOI). The LOI outlines the terms and conditions of the proposed purchase, including the purchase price, financing arrangements, and transition plans. It serves as a formal declaration of your interest and sets the stage for detailed negotiations.

Negotiating the Purchase Price

Negotiating the purchase price is a critical aspect of the buying process. It’s important to balance paying a fair price for the practice and ensuring a viable return on your investment. Consider factors such as:

  • Practice Valuation: Obtain a professional valuation of the practice to determine its fair market value. This will provide a benchmark for negotiations.
  • Cash Flow Projections: Analyze the practice’s cash flow projections to ensure sustainable purchase price based on expected revenues and expenses.
  • Financing Options: Explore various financing options, such as bank loans, seller financing, and partnerships, to determine the most favorable terms for your situation.

Ensuring a Smooth Transition

A smooth transition is essential for maintaining the continuity and stability of the practice. This involves planning and executing a well-coordinated handover from the selling dentist to the new owner. Key elements of a smooth transition include:

  • Transition Plan: Develop a detailed transition plan outlining the roles and responsibilities of the selling dentist and the new owner during the transition period.
  • Communication: It’s a good idea to communicate openly and transparently with team members and patients about the transition. Reassure them of the continuity of care and introduce the new owner gradually.
  • Training and Support: Arrange for adequate training and support for the new owner to ensure a seamless takeover of clinical and administrative duties.


Should You Pay Off Student Loans Before You Buy Your Own Dental Practice?

When deciding whether to pay off your student loans before buying into a dental practice, it’s important to consider the benefits of income-driven repayment plans. In most cases, utilizing income-driven repayment instead of rapidly paying off your loans makes sense. These plans adjust your monthly payments based on your income, allowing you to maintain more financial flexibility as an associate dentist. This flexibility is crucial for saving towards practice ownership and investing for retirement. By managing your student loan payments strategically, you can better position yourself to seize opportunities for growth and investment in your dental career without being constrained by immediate debt repayment pressures.


Related Reading: Student Loan Advice for Dentists

Should You Buy Into The Real Estate When Buying Into A Dental Practice?

When buying into a dental practice, deciding whether to purchase real estate is a significant consideration that depends on various factors. Owning real estate can provide long-term financial stability and control over your practice’s location, potentially leading to asset appreciation and tax benefits. However, it requires a substantial upfront investment and may tie up capital that could be used for practice improvements or other investments. Additionally, owning the property can add complexity to your financial situation, especially if the practice needs to relocate in the future. For many associate dentists, it may be more practical to lease the space initially to maintain financial flexibility and reduce immediate debt obligations. Consulting with a dental-focused financial advisor can help you evaluate the benefits and drawbacks in the context of your overall financial goals and the specifics of the practice.


If the dental office cash flows and is in a desirable area, owning the practice location is an excellent first step to building wealth.


What Should Young Dentists Consider When Buying Into A Dental Practice?

Today’s most successful young dentists are those who strategically position themselves for ownership early in their careers. They typically have accumulated several years of experience, allowing them to refine their clinical skills and understand the nuances of dental practice management. Additionally, they invest in continuing education (CE) courses, particularly on topics like case acceptance, which are crucial for building patient trust and increasing practice profitability. By mastering the art of case acceptance, these dentists can effectively communicate the value of treatments to patients, leading to higher acceptance rates and enhanced patient satisfaction. This combination of hands-on experience, continuous learning, and a focus on patient communication equips young dentists with the tools they need to thrive as practice owners and drive long-term success in the competitive dental industry.

Related Reading: How Dentists Can Maximize Income

Leveraging Professional Guidance

Navigating the complexities of dental practice transitions requires expert guidance and support. Engaging the services of a dental-focused financial advisor like myself can provide invaluable assistance throughout the process. From conducting due diligence to negotiating terms and ensuring a smooth transition, a professional advisor can help you make informed decisions and achieve a successful outcome.


You’ll want a dental-focused attorney to review your purchase agreement, and a dental-specific CPA should review the profit and loss statement, balance sheet, and profit margins. Dental-specific lenders help you secure financing and may offer more favorable interest rates. Dental practice brokers can help you find the proper dental practice.


Buying into an existing dental practice is a significant career step that offers the opportunity for professional growth, financial rewards, and increased autonomy. By conducting thorough due diligence, assessing growth potential, negotiating a fair purchase price, and ensuring a smooth transition, you can set yourself up for long-term success as a practice owner.

At Arch Financial Planning, we specialize in guiding associate dentists through the intricacies of dental practice transitions. If you’re considering this exciting journey, I invite you to reach out for personalized advice and support. Together, we can make your transition to practice ownership a seamless and rewarding experience.

For more personalized advice on managing your dental practice’s overhead, feel free to contact me at Arch Financial Planning. Together, we can achieve your financial goals and secure the future of your practice.

Arch Financial Planning is a dental-focused financial advisor that helps dental practice owners nationwide. Be sure to read our guide and hire the right team of advisors who can assist with building and selling the practice you’ve built to empower your retirement plan. 

Related Reading: Tax Consequences of Selling Your Dental Practice

Author: Cecil Staton, CFP® CSLP®

Author: Cecil Staton, CFP® CSLP®

I'm a fee-only financial advisor for dentists serving clients nationwide.

I left the large financial institutions to start my own RIA. I did it so people could pay for real planning and not just an agenda to sell a hidden product. As a fiduciary, Arch Financial Planning, LLC was built on that promise by delivering non-cookie-cutter plans that provide solutions to achieve their goals.

Who do I serve?

Typical: Dental practice owners
Goals: Pay off student debt, start/sell a practice, and grow their wealth
Location: Virtually anywhere in the U.S.

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This website (the “Blog”) is published and provided for informational and entertainment purposes only.  The information in the Blog constitutes the Content Creator’s own opinions and it should not be regarded as a description of services provided by Arch Financial Planning, LLC or Cecil Staton, CFP® CSLP®.

The opinions expressed in the Blog are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security or investment product.  It is only intended to provide education about personal financial planning.  The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice.

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