Dental school prepared you for a fulfilling career by teaching you the clinical skills you will need
to help people maintain good oral health. But if you are planning to join many of the dentists who own
their own practice, there are additional skills you'll surely need, including ones to help you run a
Start-up costs can easily top $500,000.1 You'll need capital, likely in the form of a business loan.
Whether you want to establish yourself as an attractive candidate for financing or hope to save enough
to fund much of it on your own, you'll need a well-thought-out budget and the will to make it work
Get closer to starting your own practice by following these 5 tips:
1. Know Your Goals
Most of us have a range of goals in mind when we finish school and start our careers.
Professional goals, financial, personal, and material. Long-term goals, short-term ones, and
others we may not have a timetable for. Taking the time to prioritize those goals and make a
budget can be a huge help. Determine which of your goals are the most important to you or
the most easily achievable and focus on those first. Start by making a spreadsheet or grab a
pad and pen and sketch out a list of goals, along with why and when you want to achieve
them. You may be surprised at how such a simple exercise can clarify your way forward.
2. Make a Savings Bracket
Are you a college hoops fan? Or someone who loves joining March Madness pools in hopes of
winning a few hundred bucks? Take a page out of the NCAA's book and create a bracket for
yourself. Decide which expenses to eliminate or reduce and which ones to keep. The result: a
budget that'll help you win the biggest prize of all — owning your practice. Check out our
sample bracket below and make your own — it could be just one huge one or as many small
ones as you need. It just depends on the scope of your spending on particular items. If
something is out in the first or second round, you don't need to spend money on it while
you're trying to save for future goals.
3. Lower Your Debt Payments
If you're still carrying student loan debt and you want to lower the payments, with an eye
toward taking on business debt or contributing more to your savings, you have options. You
can enroll in an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, which ties loan payments to a portion
of your discretionary income (though it may extend the repayment timeline), or you can
potentially refinance at a lower rate. Either approach has pros and cons, which you can
explore by doing a bit of research and seeking advice from other dentists who've already
paid down their debt.
4. Don't Go It Alone
We live in a golden era for personal finance help. Apps, blogs, podcasts, and testimonials from
self-styled experts and well-meaning individuals who've forged a path of financial
improvement are available wherever you turn. As always, you can ask friends, family
members and colleagues for recommendations. You can try different apps or budget
approaches — even ones that seem gimmicky can be helpful guideposts as you streamline
your lifestyle and grow your savings account. Professional associations like the ADA provide
resources for new dentists to navigate financial and work/life questions as well. When you
are ready to finance and open your new practice, you can find accountants, lawyers, financial
advisors and other professionals with expertise in helping dentists start and grow a business.
5. Get Yourself Covered
Insurance is important for dentists at all career stages. And banks offering business loans for a
dental practice often require proof of various types of insurance before they'll extend credit.
The ADA Members Insurance Plans helps dentists find financial protection products to meet
their personal and business needs. If you'd like help, call us at 866.607.5338 or email our plan
specialists at ADAPlanSpecialist@protective.com.
Even before you are ready to open your own practice, it's a good idea to get coverage in
place early so you are well protected for any eventuality. Going forward, as your business
grows with new patients, added staff and expanding revenue, we'll work with you on
maintaining a level of protection that keeps up with your changing needs.