What is a Dental Associate?

A dental associate is a non-owner dentist who works in a dental practice, typically as an employee of the practice or as an independent contractor.

This is usually the first type of position a dentist takes on right out of school. Associateship is usually found through school career fair or online job search. Associates work under an owner dentist in a private or corporate practice and goes in to treat patients. The responsibility of scheduling, marketing, administrative tasks, and navigating insurances lies with the owner of the practice. Though it is useful for the employee to learn how to be involved in these processes, these tasks are done for the practice. Dental associateship will, thus, never have the eventual payoff of personal followership.

The owner doctor takes on an associate when volume becomes an issue. This is usually when there is too big of a patient load and more demand than time allows. Taking on a general dentist associate allows a practice to see more patients and maximize on overhead. An associate also allows the owner to reduce his or her own involvement in the practice and to introduce the patients to a potential buyer down the line. The owner pays an associate a percentage of a procedure’s collection and builds profitability of the practice.

Dental associateship guarantees a young graduate income. This income comes without the risks that accompany buying a practice or having to build patient followership. Most students leave dental school without practice management exposure. Throughout associateship, they get to focus solely on improving their skills and developing a unique, professional style with patients.

Associateship also touts the benefit of getting to see the positives and negatives about practices. By working in different offices, the dental associate gains practice management experience on the owner’s dime. Though there are are many positive facets of associateship, it is also important to understand the limitations. Doing so prior to signing a contract will minimize disappointment down the line.

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