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Being a dental associate, owning a practice or being an employee?

According to the Journal of American Dental Association, practice ownership is steadily declining amongst dentists of all ages, with the largest drop seen in dentists aged 35 and under. This is most likely due to the freedom enjoyed by dental employees who don’t have the burden of running a business and all the responsibilities that come with it to deal with.

If you’re unsure about whether owning a dental practice or working for someone else is right for you, here are the pros and cons of both cases.

Pros of owning a dental practice

You’re in charge of your own future

As a dental practice owner, you decide where your business is going and when you want it to get there. You get to choose your schedule, your team and even which patients you’re happy to treat. If there’s any aspect of your practice you’re unhappy with, there’s a good chance you can change it.

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More control and flexibility

When you own a practice, you’re in charge of the days and hours you open. If you’ve got a special event like a birthday or celebratory dinner coming up, you can block out appointments and close your practice early to make room. You’ll never have to cancel another special occasion ever again. 

You can design a practice to reflect you

While it’s important to maintain a professional appearance, you’re free to add a personal touch to the design of your dental practice. Using your favorite color palette or hanging up some artwork you really love is a great way to show off a hint of your personality and make yourself feel at home as soon as you walk through the door. 

Cons of owning a dental practice

There’s a lot of responsibility

When you own a dental practice, you’ve got to be prepared to take on many roles. From a qualified dentist and professional business owner to an on-the-ball marketer and no-nonsense boss, you have to be able to juggle all these roles simultaneously if you want to be successful. Sometimes there simply won’t be enough hours in the day to get everything done and you’ve got to accept that. 

Financial pressure

There are considerable overheads when it comes to running your own dental practice. From the cost of rent and payroll to new equipment and lab bills, it’s your job to make sure there’s enough money in the bank to over all these costs and be sure your dental practice is turning a profit at the end of the day. 

Limited flexibility

While being a dental practice owner does allow you increased flexibility in some aspects, it limits your flexibility in others. When employees want time off, you can hire additional temp staff to take their place. But when you want some time off, there’s no one to fill in for you and you’ve still got your overheads to pay. This can sometimes mean you go without a vacation, simply because it’s cheaper and easier.

Pros of being an employee or dental associate

You don’t have to manage staff

No matter how excellent your leadership skills are, being in charge of a team of employees can be a challenging role. This is especially true when it comes to hiring the right people, firing the wrong ones and disciplining those who have taken things a step too far. As a dental employee, you simply have to get along reasonably well with your colleagues and nothing more.

Read: 5 ways to have it all as dental practice owner >>

You have one job to do

There’s a good chance that you became a dentist because it’s what you’re passionate about. And when you’re a dental associate or employed as a dentist, you get to concentrate exclusively on your job. You don’t have to worry about any of the outside noise. You simply have to treat the patient in front of you. 

You’ve got plenty of options

When you work for someone else, your options are wide open. You can decide to relocate to a new state, go back to school to enhance your education or take a year off for personal reasons, all without any major repercussions. Although it might not be at the same practice you once worked at, there’ll always be a job waiting somewhere for you. Especially if you consider working as a dental temp on a freelance basis.

Cons of being an employee or dental associate

Your schedule is strict and decided for you

As an employee, you don’t get to decide how many days or hours you work per week. The owner will give you your schedule according to what works best for them and their practice. If you’ve got a particularly kind boss, they might be willing to be flexible, but don’t count on it. 

If this kind of strict schedule doesn’t work for you and you’re determined not to run your own dental practice, there is an alternative. Consider working as a temporary dentist and listing your profile on a site like Cloud Dentistry. This way you can set your own hours to suit your schedule. 

Limited financial potential

When you work on an hourly rate, there’s only so much money you can make. After all, you can only work so many hours in a day and there’s no scope to scale up. 

If you’re not working as many hours as you like or your boss has denied your repeated requests for a pay rise, signing up for a cloud-based matching network like Cloud Dentistry could also solve your problems. Working this way allows you to work on a temporary basis in addition to your current permanent hours or ditch the fixed position entirely and only work on a freelance basis. 

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You’re not in control

Even though you might be doing most of the work in the dental practice as an associate, you don’t get the last say on important decisions. This could mean something as unimportant as using the owner’s favorite cement instead of the one you prefer. Or something as important as sticking to unrealistically tight deadlines when you’d prefer more time to do a good job.