Dental Office Transitions: Passing the Torch to the Next Generation

I have been selling dental practices since 1975. I started managing dental office transitions when I was 23. I, and many dental brokers like me, are witnessing more sellers looking for that “perfect” successor while dismissing many of those who walk through the door investigating their practice. It’s important not to dismiss buyers who are interested in dental practices for sale simply because they’re not the “perfect” successor.

Recall the landscape when you started. The state of delivery systems, sterilization and x-ray standards, pegboard AR management, low overheads, ease in hiring new staff, advertising being unethical and second offices being investigated by the State Board. General practices were just that. Prophies, amalgam, crown & bridge, fixed and removable prosthetics.

Dentists approaching dental office transitions need to let the buyer carry the torch their own way.

Last-year dental students tendered offers on “For Sale” practices conditioned upon their passing the Boards. The typical practitioner profile two generations ago consisted of males with spouses tasked with raising children.

I recall the first female who acquired a practice from a retiring client who was concerned she may not succeed. She did extremely well.

In today’s playing field, there seems to be dental practices in every strip center. OSHA, HIPAA, ADA and HR are now part of the landscape. Delta Dental is flexing its muscles. Rents include NNN and CPI increases. Many practices are no longer general in nature as they now provide specialty services.

Dental professionals who have immigrated to the U.S. wish to pursue their passion in the greatest oral healthcare nation in the world. Corporate dentistry is gaining traction after failing in the 1990s and there are more dental practices for sale than ever before. Advertising is everywhere, including sophisticated SEO engineering and Google pay-per-clicks. Blue light specials are used to attract patients. Many dental practices have engineered themselves to be dental spas.

Not Your Parent’s Dental Industry Today

Your dental practice is constantly changing. Attitudes toward dental office transitions need to reflect this.

The new dentist interested in buying a dental practice you own is truly as passionate as you were when you started. They’re committed to survive on their smarts, skills, CE and the brand they shall create with the opportunity your practice presents. This new dentist did not recently graduate. They have been gaining valuable experience along with enhancing their skills since getting their degree.

Dispense the attitude that this young upstart interested in buying a dental practice is only focused on making money on “my” patients. The Delta Premier provider herd becomes one less every time a Premier practice is sold. Profit margins are getting thinner. New owners look at bringing more services inhouse.

Once you step down, the culture of your dental practice will change. Your successor has the pulse of what needs to be done for the practice to thrive. There will be patient attrition, but the dental practice will attract more new patients as the New Doc creates a broader appeal. This is what occurs in a generational change.

Further, that dentist talking to you with your dental practice being a second office is someone who has already figured out how to make this work. This buyer is not a DSO, i.e. corporate buyer. This buyer is a very viable candidate.

Your marathon is nearing its end. You have run a great race. Be realistic about your dental practice transition as you pass your torch to the New Doc and take the advice of that dental practice broker California dentists trust. If not, your dental practice will have a “For Sale” sign on it for an exceptionally long time, as the best candidates move on.