Associate Dentists: Don’t Use Percentage of Collections to Choose Your Next Practice

Fresh out of dental school, you find yourself in an enviable position. You’ve got job offers from not just one, but three practices, each one eager to bring you on board as an associate.

But choosing which offer to accept feels tricky. You like all three practice owners. Each dentist specializes in orthodontics, your chosen career path. And every location happens to be a short, 15-minute drive from where you live. 

So then, how to decide? Many dentists will focus on what percentage of collections they are guaranteed in their contracts. 

Let’s say Practice 1 promises you 25 percent, Practice 2 will give you 30 percent, and Practice 3 offers just 15 percent. Seems like Practice 2 is the smart bet, yes?

Not so fast. The problem with simply looking at collections percentage is that you don’t know how big of a pie you’re dealing with — or how stable it may turn out to be. 

Ron Brush, a long-time dental recruiter and founder of The Dentist Agent, suggests that dentists applying for associate positions always ask for two key pieces of information. 

“I tell all of my candidates, not only do you ask for the last six-month collection rate, you always want to get the last six months of new patient flow. Especially in a PPO fee-for-service world.”

These two pieces of data are essential to helping you figure out both what kind of dollars you can expect and whether a practice has the new patient flow to keep paying you long-term. For example, what if Practice 2 — the one offering you 30 percent — saw only $250,000 in collections over the last six months while Practice 3 brought in nearly $1,000,000?

In that case, by choosing the bigger collections percentage, you’d actually be taking a 50 percent haircut on your paycheck.

Likewise, a generous collection percentage doesn’t mean much if a practice’s new patient flow doesn’t seem high enough to support bringing you on board. Unless a practice is swimming in new patients, ask them about their marketing strategy. 

If they don’t have a clear plan to significantly increase their new patient numbers, it might not matter what they’re promising you in terms of compensation — because they won’t have the business to keep paying your salary six months or a year from now. 

In other words, caveat emptor. When it comes to dental hiring, as with so much else in life, it pays to understand the fine print.

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