How Are Dentists Compensated?

One of the biggest questions that most dentists have upon graduating with their D.M.D is whether to join a Dental Service Organization (DSO) or open their own practice. Related to this is the difference in compensation plans that are available with each option. How exactly are dentists compensated in a dental organization versus as a business owner? Which option makes the most sense for you? These are the questions we will answer today.

GENERAL COMPENSATION OUTLOOK

Many dentists need to start generating income quickly to start paying off student loans or other expenses. The good thing is that according to Payscale.com, the average base salary for a dentist ranges from $82k-$200k, not including bonuses and commissions. How your salary is determined differs based on your location and whether or not you are self-employed or an associate in an established dental service group.

DENTAL ORGANIZATIONS

As an associate at a DSO or other established practice, you are typically paid by the hour or are salaried. You can also be paid as an independent contractor, and you would be expected to track income and set aside funds for tax purposes. However, you can also get a percentage of commission based on either the ‘production’ that you work on or, most commonly, of the funds that are collected after employer discounts, costs for office overhead, etc.

For example, if you are an employee at a dental group and you have several patients that have a 20% discount through their employer, you might only be eligible to receive roughly 50% of the remaining funds after they are allocated towards administrative expenses.

SELF-EMPLOYMENT

If you plan on or already run your own dental practice, compensation will look different for you as the owner. First of all, there’s no one over you determining your hours or commission rates, so your income potential can be higher than an associate. You also have more flexibility in terms of how you prefer to be paid – ie per production or a portion of total monetary collections for rendered services – which can maximize your compensation as well. One key benefit you have as a practice owner is to carry over your business as an asset when or if you stop working with patients.

However, like any business owner, you will need to take the overall overhead of your practice into consideration before compensating yourself. In addition to setting aside the appropriate amount of your gross income for tax purposes, several factors affect how you can claim as take-home pay. These include:

• Employee wages and benefits, if applicable
• Business Insurance
• Office space rental or mortgage
• Administrative systems like payroll, accounting software, etc
• Equipment
• Marketing

Once these main considerations are taken care of, then you can think about how much it makes sense to allocate for personal compensation. This number is often based directly on your overall success as a practice.

NEED MORE INFO?

Understanding the ins and outs of how you get paid as a dentist can be a little confusing. You might also be wondering if one type of compensation plan works better for your needs than others. If you have further questions about compensation or anything else related to your dental career, give Dr. Coughlin a call at (413) 224-2659.

Should You Lease or Own Your Dental Practice Building?

If you’ve decided to own a dental practice, there are lots of things to be mindful of to be successful beyond the day to day operations. Your time, money and other resources need to be spent on marketing, effective management techniques, and bookkeeping. In addition to all of these, you also need to factor the whereabouts of the physical location of your business. And with that comes the need to think about what your plans are for your practice for both the long and short term.

Do you want to have more flexibility for the physical location of your practice? Do you have access to funds for a down payment and mortgage for your practice space, if desired? These types of questions can help you hone in on the more practical option for your business needs and goals.

And these questions lead to a very important one.

Should you own or lease the office space for your dental practice?

 

PROS OF LEASING

Leasing is essentially the same thing as renting your office space. If location is of utmost importance to you, leasing allows you to have more flexibility than owning real estate. There’s a higher likelihood of being able to find short term leases, for example, if that’s something you feel you need. In many cases, leasing gives you more options in terms of property locations. Finally, you won’t need to have a large amount of capital to invest in real estate property if you decide to lease.

 

CONS OF LEASING

If you’ve had experience with renting at all, you know that one of the biggest drawbacks is that rental rates consistently increase over time. If you’d like your dental practice to remain in the same location for the long haul, signing onto a long-term lease might not be in your best interest. You also don’t get the benefits of property ownership, namely equity value and tax advantages, if you lease your office space.

 

PROS OF OWNING

Real estate ownership offers many advantages and benefits in general, and the same is true if you want to purchase property for your dental practice.  Some of the most compelling benefits are flexibility in controlling location and any future expansion projects, the ability to build equity as you pay down the financial terms, and to eventually earn a return on your investment.

 

CONS OF OWNING

In contrast, owning your dental practice location requires a significant amount of upfront capital. As a property owner, you would also be responsible for any upkeep and maintenance, including fronting the cost for any property-related damages. These responsibilities can take away from other tasks necessary to growing and sustaining your practice,like marketing, staff management, and accounting.

The decision to lease or own your dental practice property is based on a combination of your personal and business needs. It’s good to think through all of your options with either choice.

 

WONDERING WHERE TO BEGIN?

Are you just starting out with your practice? Sign up for Dr. Coughlin’s program that details the principles of success to learn what it takes to have a successful, thriving dental practice!

6 Money Management Tips for Dental Practices

Although a dental practice can be incredibly successful, there is no denying that it costs a lot of money to run. If you are not careful about managing your finances, you could actually find your practice losing money, no matter how good your clinical skills and how long your patient list might be. Here are 6 money management tips for dental practices.

Hire an Expert

There are endless moving parts in the finances of any dental practice. Overhead, accounts payable and receivable, business insurance, staff salaries…you are a dentist, not a finance expert, and you have enough on your plate already. Hire a dental consultant with financial expertise or a finance consultant who has experience with dental practices. It is especially important to work with a CPA or an attorney at tax time.

Use Software

Even the best accountant can’t give you the best financial advice without hard data. Use either dental practice management software with built in accounting features or a separate accounting solution such as QuickBooks. Either way, you or someone on your team should get in the habit of entering every single dollar that goes into or out of your practice.

Track Your Financial Metrics

Learn to read your monthly profit and loss statements, as they are filled with crucial information about the health of your practice. Ideally, staff costs (wages plus taxes and benefits) should make up around 30% of your budget. Lab costs and supplies should be no more than 8% each. Marketing is extremely variable, but it is a good idea to try to keep it at or below 4%. Using these numbers will put your variable expenses at around half of your total budget.

Fixed expenses such rent, loan payments, utilities, insurance, and the like are extremely difficult to reduce, and you are responsible for them regardless of your practice’s income. Fortunately, they tend to remain close to the same as your practice grows, meaning that they will make up a small percentage of your budget over time. Keeping fixed costs below 15% to 20% is indicative of a healthy, thriving practice—depending on location, as some cities are simply more expensive than others.

Keep an Eye on Other Important Stats

​Although they are not financial metrics, a number of other stats can give you clues about the current and future financial health of your practice. These include, but are not limited to:

Patient stats: Number per day, cancellation rate, number of new patients per month, etc.

Percentage of suggested treatments accepted

Inquiries vs. scheduled new patient appointments

Production per hour: Dentist and hygienist

Unscheduled blocks of time

Check Your Fees and Salaries

Your fees should be competitive in your local market. Don’t try to be either the highest-priced or the lowest-priced practice in town. Know your target patient population, and customize your fees accordingly, while remaining within range for your area.

Set starting salaries in the midrange for your local area. Reward staff who perform well with raises, bonuses, and other incentives. If you set starting salaries too low, you will not attract top talent. If you set them too high, you will not be able to afford to adequately reward the best on your team.

Invest in Moneymakers

You need to spend money to make money, but it is vital to spend it on the right things. Invest in two key areas:

Making patients happy: Discounts, a more comfortable office environment, and new technology are just a few ways to make dental patients happy. The best way to know what your existing patients want is to ask them. Conduct surveys on a semi-regular basis.

Boosting your visibility: Online marketing is critical, paying special attention to local SEO. But it is not enough on its own. Participate in local charity events. Add a blog to your website. Write an article for the newspaper. Sponsor a kids’ sports team. Make people in your community feel like you support them, and they are more likely to support you.

Reduce Overhead

Though it can be challenging, reducing overhead by just 10% can make a huge difference in your practice’s profitability. Review your vendors, talk to your insurance agent, and take a hard look at your petty cash expenditures. Few dental practices are running at 100% efficiency, so there are almost always ways to trim the fat.

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 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.