Bringing on an Associate Dentist [8 Steps to Success]

Carly Rhea with text, "Real-world insights from AADOM authors"

Bringing on an associate dentist may seem scary and daunting.

How will they keep busy? Will patients like them? Will they contribute enough to the practice?

These are legitimate concerns. But, this process will go smoothly as long as you plan properly.

At my office, we have three associates. We have learned a lot about hiring new doctors, and I’d like to share some of our best practices with you.

How to bring on an associate dentist

1. What to gather

The first thing I like to do is make sure that I have all of their credentials in hand before their start date.

Documents to collect include:

  • Their driver’s license number
  • Dental license number
  • Social security number
  • National provider identifier
  • DEA registration number
  • And their address

Do this even if you are not an in-network provider.

2. The introduction

The new associate is going to be working with the team day in and day out. Everyone should get to know them.

Start by getting the doctor’s bio and photograph. This information can be used to update your practice website and add to social media.

Remember, though, that not all patients are tech-savvy or use social media. I recommend drafting a letter to mail to your patients as well. The letter should introduce the new dentist, and remind patients that they can expect the same level of care as before.

Every team member also should receive the doctor’s bio so that they can answer patient questions when those arise.

3. Make them feel welcome

Make sure that the new dentist’s name is added to marketing materials, the front door, and anywhere else you have your doctor’s names listed or mentioned.

Remember to update your voicemail recording too, and order business or appointment reminder cards with the new associate’s name. The idea is to make them feel welcome in your practice.

You may even consider hosting a little get together, or suggest that the practice treat the team to a catered lunch to give everyone a chance to chat with the new doctor. It doesn’t have to cost much. Even coffee and doughnuts for a morning team meeting will send a warm welcome message and bring everyone together.

4. Getting patients on board

Your patients are loyal, which is why they continue coming back to your practice.

While some may be reluctant to see another dentist, make sure that everyone (including team members and doctors) understands that patients belong to the practice, not individual doctors!

To help patients warm up to the new doctor, capitalize on opportunities to introduce him or her to the patients. Hygiene can talk to their patients about the new associate, and dental assistants can do the same.

Remember your vendors too! When your dental supplies rep comes by for a visit, introduce them to the new dentist.

5. Owner-doctor struggles

Whether your owner-doctor has been running a practice for a short while or for decades, ensure that they have clear expectations of the new associate.

They will be sharing the wealth of the practice. With that comes sharing responsibility too – responsibility for growth, increasing revenue, and bringing in new patients.

Remind your owner-dentist that they no longer are the sole bearer of carrying the practice’s growth. The new associate is responsible for bringing in new patients, increasing case acceptance, and producing revenue.

It might be difficult at first for your owner-dentist to share these responsibilities, but be sure that everyone is on the same page.

6. New associate growth

The main thing an associate can do is to put themselves out there socially. Get out and about, join a Rotary, or other local clubs or organizations to contribute to generating new patients.

Community outreach is a great way to help your new associate get their name out there to attract new patients. Maybe they spend personal time volunteering or providing dental care to disadvantaged members of the community.

Another easy way to help your new associate build a patient base is for them to offer a specialty that no other dentist in your practice offers.

For instance, maybe the new associate does root canals, dental implants, or orthodontics. That way, patients needing those specific services are referred only to that doctor. You might not be able to offer this right away, but make it an option for your new associate to take additional courses or expand their knowledge base through training.

7. Maintain consistency

Make sure your new associate is trained in how your office does hygiene checks, talks to patients, and diagnoses treatment needs. It is important to have consistency among diagnosing, treatment plans, and handling patients.

Everyone will be a little different, but try to have your practitioners be as consistent as possible. If your owner-dentist or other associates within the practice take a conservative approach with patients, the new associate should as well.

Conversations with patients regarding their treatment or recommendations for follow-up care should be similar.

8. Putting a plan in action

We have three doctors and four dental hygienists. Every day we start our morning by printing out the hygiene schedule and then decide which doctor conducts each exam. The hygienist can make the call and request a specific doctor if they feel they would be better suited to handle that patient.

For instance, if you have a patient that needs a root canal, and you have a certain dentist qualified for this procedure, have that dentist see the patient. The idea is to maximize your doctor’s strengths while providing the best care possible for your patients.

We’ve learned a lot through the years at our practice. I’ve seen a lot of changes take place, and there is one thing for certain, we always learn from it and work together.

Bringing on a new associate dentist is an exciting time. My most significant suggestion is to make it a team effort.

In a dental practice, no one person stands alone or should be left expected to carry the load. Not to sound cliché, but there is no “I” in the word team!

Meet the Author

Carly Rhea smiling wearing a red top outsideCarly Rhea, FAADOM is the office manager at Devine Dentistry… This text opens a new tab to Devine Dentistry’s website…, a multi-doctor practice in Nashville, TN.

With nearly two decades of experience in the industry, Carly enjoys ongoing training through institutes such as LVI, Franklin Covey, and the Dawson Dental Academy.

She is currently Vice President of her local AADOM chapter… This text opens a new tab to the Nashville AADOM Chapter website….



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