Jun 6, 2023 | 12 min read

Tips on How to Start a Dental Practice | Nextdoor


With nearly one-third of Americans going several years without a visit to the dentist, there’s never been a better time to open a dental practice and serve your community. 

Whether you’re fresh out of a dentistry program or hoping to branch out after years of working in an established practice, opening a dental practice can be an exciting career move. It can also be a demanding endeavor that requires time and effort — not to mention an average investment of $500,000.

Starting a local dental practice can be rewarding for you and the area you open in. Get started with these tips on how to start a dental practice and you’ll be seeing your first patients in no time

Steps to Start a Dental Practice:

  1.  Prepare a business plan
  2. Choose a business structure
  3. Purchase business insurance
  4. Comprehend and comply with all regulations
  5. Secure the right location for your dental practice
  6. Hire dental staff
  7. Get the right equipment for your practice

#1 Prepare a business plan

Many successful new businesses start with a business plan, including your dental practices. A business plan is a road map for you and any future collaborators, that acts as a blueprint for success before and after you open your practice.

Your business plan should be comprehensive and professional enough to show to potential partners and investors. Ideally, your plan should include:

  • An overview of your business – Also called an executive summary, an overview should give a high-level summary of your planned services, finances, legal structure, staff, and location.
  • Your short- and long-term goals – What do you want to achieve by opening a dental practice? Where do you see yourself in a year? Five years? When writing your objectives,  make them measurable and realistic.
  • Your financial considerations – In this section, you’ll want to lay out your financial projections. You may want to work with a local accountant to determine your potential income and expenses for the first few years. Be sure to also include any details about funding requests or loans, if applicable.

While your business plan should serve as your guide, treat it as a living document. As your situation changes, so can your business plan. Don’t be afraid to update it as needed.

#2 Choose a business structure

As you develop your business plan, you’ll be prepared to form a legal entity.

Running your practice as a legal entity can give you a “liability shield” that protects your personal assets from lawsuits or bankruptcy claims tied to your business.

In the dental industry, the most common business structures are:

  • Limited liability corporation (LLC)
  • S-Corporation
  • Partnership
  • Sole proprietorship

Each state has unique processes and limitations around creating an entity for your business. For this reason — and because your choice of legal entity can affect everything from taxes to liability — consult an attorney or accountant who specializes in dentistry and knows the laws in your area. Post on Nextdoor to find an expert near you or get a recommendation from neighbors.


#3 Purchase business insurance

Even though forming an LLC or corporation can help to protect your personal assets, it won’t shield your professional assets or employees. Purchasing additional insurance can protect you and your dental practice from accidents, damages, employee injuries, and more. Some states require dental practitioners to have specific insurance coverage, so you’ll want to speak with a local attorney to determine which requirements impact you. Here are some options

  • General liability insurance – This type of insurance covers the basics of any business, including losses related to property damage, medical expenses, and defending lawsuits.
  • Professional liability insurance – Specific to service-related industries, these policies cover losses from malpractice and negligence.
  • Cyber insurance – Also called cybersecurity insurance, this type of insurance protects you from losses incurred by data leaks or hacks that could lead to HIPAA violations. As the dental industry moves more and more to online systems, cyber insurance is becoming increasingly necessary.
  • Workers’ compensation – If one of your employees becomes injured while on the job, workers’ compensation insurance covers medical expenses and their lost wages

You may be able to save money by combining several of these insurance policies under a business owner’s policy.


#4 Comprehend and comply with all regulations

Understandably, dentistry is a well-regulated field. Various state and federal laws exist to keep patients and practitioners safe. To run a successful dental practice, research and understand these regulations and how you’ll implement them.

An important federal law is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires you to keep sensitive patient information safe. For more information on location-specific laws and regulations, visit the American Dental Association’s ADA by State directory to connect with your state and regional dental associations.

As a  business owner and employer, review the laws and regulations that govern workplaces including.

#5 Secure the right location for your dental practice

With your planning in a good place, look for locations for your dental office. You may be acquiring a practice with an existing office. If not, start your search for leasing property with considerations like these: While you may be able to purchase a building outright, you’re more likely to start by leasing a property.

  • Proper zoning – To use a property as a dental office, it will generally need to be zoned for commercial use. Additionally, your state, city, or county may have other zoning requirements for a dental clinic. Finding a correctly zoned property can help you to avoid the costly and time-consuming process of rezoning.
  • Accessibility – Ideally, your dental practice should be easy to reach. If possible, lease a location that has ample parking, access to public transit, and a decent amount of foot traffic. For example, Philadelphia Dental in Philadelphia, PA, managed to secure a spot on a busy street that borders a more residential area. The result is a location with ample street parking that is also accessible by subway, bus, or on foot.
  • Sufficient size – Your space should align with your current and future plans. If you hope to grow your private practice, you may want to choose a property  for expansion. However, if finances are tight, it may be in your best interest to start with a smaller location and move after growing your patient base.
  • Location and lack of competition – Dental practices aren’t as dependent on foot traffic as restaurants, but moving into a prime location can benefit your new practice, too. Patients tend to visit one dental professional exclusively, so keep other office locations in mind when opening yours. You plan to specialize in one area of dentistry, opening near and partnering with another practice could be beneficial for both of you.

#6 Hire staff

Once you have secured the perfect space for your private dental practice, hire the team who can help your business grow and thrive. The roles your local dental office may be looking to fill include:

  • Dentists
  • Hygienists
  • Assistants
  • Front desk staff

In the early stages of opening, lean on your business plan to determine which positions will be most beneficial to your growing operation. For example, if you’ll be handling most patient interactions, you may want to hire an administrator for scheduling and billing.

#7 Get the right equipment for your practice

For many dental practices, new tools and software licenses can be significant part of their budget. Depending on the type of private  practice you plan to run, you’ll likely need:

  • Patient chairs
  • Dentist stools
  • X-ray machines
  • Cabinet lamps
  • Autoclaves
  • Rotary instruments
  • Hand tools
  • Suction pump

Along with dental tools, you’ll need office furniture computers, and décor to help make your practice feel welcoming

#8 Market your practice

When it comes time to open, you’ll want to reach out to the local community to fill up those dentist chairs and appointment books. To bring new patients into your practice, consider the following general dentistry and orthodontist marketing strategies:

  • Build and maintain an online presence – Your private dental practice should have a regularly-updated website that lists your hours, services, and employees. Sign up for a free Nextdoor business page to unlock an instant following of potential patients in your neighborhood and gain access to easy-to-use advertising tools.
  • Utilize traditional marketing – Depending on your area and target clientele, it may make sense to advertise in newspapers or with radio spots and TV ads. Dentistry applies to all demographics, so developing a well-rounded dental marketing strategy is critical.
  • Host a grand opening party – A family-friendly event lets the neighborhood know that your practice is open for business. Generate interest throughout the community posting your event on Nextdoor where neighbors can invite other neighbors.
  • Offer new patient specials – Because many neighbors may have a dentist, you’ll need to give them a reason to try your practice.  Precision Dental in Bowling Green, Kentucky has a good deal for new patients: —a comprehensive exam and X-rays for just $49.

Use Nextdoor to connect with your community

Opening a local dental practice helps those in your neighborhood and can be a sustainable business for you.

To connect with your most important patients, and neighbors, sign up for Nextdoor and claim or create a free business page for your dental practice. With Nextdoor, you can connect with neighbors in your area who might need a new dentist, get recommendations from former and future patients, and grow your practice with free marketing and hyperlocal advertising that fits with any budget.

Claim your free business page and start reaching your dental practice’s new community of patients today on Nextdoor


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USA Today. Why 30% of Americans haven't been to the dentist since before the pandemic. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2022/08/19/reasons-americans-avoid-dentist-dental-insurance/10348042002/

American Dental Association. The Real Cost of Owning a Dental Practice. https://marketplace.ada.org/blog/dental-business/the-real-cost-of-owning-a-dental-practice/

Cain Watters & Associates. Choosing The Business Entity Structure That’s Best For Your Dental Practice. https://www.cainwatters.com/digitalblogs/business-entity-structure/ 

Insurance Information Institute. Understanding business owners policies (BOPs). https://www.iii.org/article/understanding-business-owners-policies-bops

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. https://aspe.hhs.gov/reports/health-insurance-portability-accountability-act-1996

American Dental Association. ADA by State. https://ebusiness.ada.org/mystate.aspx

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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/age-discrimination-employment-act-1967

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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. The Equal Pay Act of 1963. https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/equal-pay-act-1963

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