Business side of dentistry: 7 things to consider for when opening your first practice

Editor’s note: This is the 12th article in a series exploring the business aspects of the dental profession, from starting a practice and marketing to hiring staff and finances.

Decided to do a start up? Here’s a few pointers that may make you a little more successful in this venture:

Dr. Deshpande

1. A thorough demographic analysis. Although, I’ve seen extremely successful startup practices in unfavorable dentist to patient population ratios, for the most part you need a ratio of at least 1:3000 to support your startup dream. Starting a practice in a very competitive area could make life difficult for you.

2. Finding a location that is easily accessible, offers plenty of parking for your patients and staff, and that gets as many eyeballs on it in a day is key. If you find a location at an intersection with a traffic light that has at least $20,000 cars crossing by, nothing like it. Be wary of those locations though; they are hard to find in urban markets, and are usually bought by giant retail spaces. Finding a great tenant representative to help you discover spaces, and negotiate on your behalf, will serve you well in this case.

3. Some banks max out with a loan of $550,000 for general dentistry startups. Specialists can get a little more from a bank. Some new dentists will be unable to find a bank willing to fully finance them, especially if they are new graduates. Many of you might need to consider getting a traditional SBA loan to fund your startup dream. Consider having a financial mentor to help you understand which route makes most sense for you.

4. Supporting yourself with a busy part time associateship while running your startup might be helpful. It’ll help reduce financial pressure, while also providing you with the income to put into your startup for marketing.

5. Surrounding yourself with other dentists who can help you in the process is vital. One of my favorite resources is the Facebook group called ‘the making of a dental startup’, started by a podcaster with a show of the same name. There is a group exclusively for dentists and another with company representatives. The group with dentists has honest discussions, references of which companies to work with, lots of advice and people willing to let you learn from their mistakes. I sometimes find myself spending hours just perusing a single topic.

6. Podcasts to listen to? Fee for service dentistry, the Making of a Startup and the Dental Marketer are all great places to listen to a variety of startup experiences.

7. Lastly, make sure to surround yourself with mentors, coaches, friends and confidantes. Doing a startup can be a very overwhelming and lonely journey. You will often feel like the weight of the world is on your tiny dentist shoulders- you never went to school to learn the business side of dentistry, after all. You went to school to learn clinical dentistry and impact your community. It is important to remember that there are many people who have done this before you and done it well. Associating with the right people will help you reach your goals faster. The journey becomes easier. Find your tribe!

All the best! Here’s to an amazing 2022!

Dr. Sampada Deshpande is a general dentist based in San Francisco. A foreign trained dentist from India, Sampada earned her DDS from the University of Washington in 2018 and is a 2020-2021 UW-LEND fellow. Outside of clinical dentistry, she enjoys teaching at the New Dentist Business Club and improving access to technology in healthcare via her involvement in Samsotech. You can reach her directly at @dr.deshpande on Instagram or visit her website for more information.

Editor’s note: We know that finding the right practice can be overwhelming and time consuming. That’s why the ADA created ADA Practice Transitions (ADAPT), a service that matches you with practices that fit your practice approach and lifestyle. We provide customized resources to ensure you feel confident in your decisions and an ADA Advisor supports you during each step of the journey. Learn more at