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Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Dental Practice

How much do you know about buying a dental practice? Whether you are ready to start the buying process or you are still in dental school it makes sense to familiarize yourself how dental practice transitions work. Unlike buying a house or a car, there are no for sale signs in front of dental practices or big stickers advertising the price on the windows. For access to the best resources and information about available practices, you need a dental practice transition specialist such as ddsmatch Southwest. The specialists at ddsmatch Southwest typically represent sellers, but there are plenty of helpful resources available on our website for buyers at any stage.

One way buyers benefit from the ddsmatch Southwest website is our flexible search function. You don’t have to be in the market to buy a dental practice to use our database. Available associateships, partnerships, and practices available for merger are also listed. Simply create a profile on our website and you can filter results by location and size, see a practice’s revenue, staff size, number of operatories, advanced equipment, and more. So whether you are buying a dental practice or simply looking for an associateship you can find new opportunities on our database.

In addition, our algorithm tracks the areas you are looking at so when a new opportunity arises you will be in the know. This is beneficial to individuals who want to stay up to date with current market trends and industry conditions.

If you’re starting to consider buying a practice read our helpful tips below. Learn more about the buying process, and how to determine which practice is the right fit.

Types of Dental Practices

Before you start searching for a dental practice to buy you need to think about the type of practice you are looking for. Do you want to take over a practice from an individual? Are you interested in buying into a partnership? Do you want to become an associate? Before you start the process of buying a dental practice think about the following:

  • Atmosphere. Every office has a different vibe, which is typically dictated by the owner. The staff and patients are affected by the way the office feels. This vibe informs the flow of the office and attracts new patients.
  • Insurance. The business model you choose informs your client base, so it is important to consider how you plan to process payments and insurance. You may choose to base your payment plans as a fee for service, PPO, Medicaid, or HMO. It is important to note that if you choose to change your billing practices after taking over an existing office you will likely lose patients up front.

If you are fretting over whether you should acquire real estate when buying a dental practice you should know that the decision does not matter as much as you think. According to Thad Miller, founder and president of ddsmatch, owning real estate is more a matter of where you live. “In Indiana and Louisville . . . there’s a lot of dentists who own their own building,” says Miller  “. . . Whereas maybe [in] Los Angeles, Chicago, some of the bigger cities, Atlanta, they may not own their building as much and . . . you’ve got to weigh what does that real estate do for you?” 

Before purchasing real estate for your practice, you should research the tax benefits versus the upfront costs. Additionally, do not assume that every selling doctor wants to sell their real estate along with their practice. Many decide to keep the property as an investment, or sell it later as part of a separate transaction.

Location, Location, Location

Buying a dental practice is not something you will do often, so it makes sense to think carefully about the location of your practice. You probably have a general idea of the area you want to buy in, but you can narrow down your choices by thinking about the following factors:

  • Your Personal Home. If you own a home, or are planning to buy one before you buy a practice think about how close you want to live to your practice. How far are you willing to commute? Would you be willing to move your personal residence closer to your practice?
  • Your Lifestyle. What kind of lifestyle do you envision for yourself? Do you enjoy living in rural communities, or do you want access to the amenities of a city? If you plan to have children think about the neighborhood you want to live in and the school district they will attend. Buying a dental practice will affect your family as well as yourself, so it is important to think about these things even if they are years down the road.
  • Expanding Your Practice. Even if you are only looking to buy a practice with one location try to imagine your future wants. Your practice’s location may limit your expansion opportunities. If you think you will want to add another location or two in the future think about where these locations would be, and if traveling between them would be feasible. 

The location of your practice should match the way you want to practice. Urban, suburban, and rural practices have significant differences not only in atmosphere but in overhead costs, profitability, and patient base. Thad Miller explains “there are more profitable practices in rural parts of the States because it’s a percentage of dentists per patient, correct? So with these DSOs not setting up in these rural areas, there’s less competition.”

According to Miller, younger doctors should consider their thresholds when it comes to things like commutes and workdays before buying a dental practice, “if they can handle a 45 minute drive there and back, would they rather sit in traffic or they would rather drive straight there and drive straight home. It just depends.” 

However, just because the selling dentist ran their practice a certain way, doesn’t mean the buying dentist has to run everything exactly the same. Miller continues, “…say they buy a rural practice, they don’t have to run it exactly the way the rural dentist ran it. If they want to go from 6:30 in the morning until 3:00, two days a week and they’re home by 5:00, they can do that. You own your business. You can make those changes. If you want to see your son’s tee-ball practice on Wednesdays, don’t work Wednesdays. Work Fridays or just go from, like I said, 6:00 A.M. to noon. That’s what’s great about dentistry, you can do it a little differently than other people and still be very profitable. You just got to weigh how many patients you’re working on.”

Buying a Dental Practice With Financing

When you start your search for available dental practices remember that you are limited by how much financing you qualify for. If you create an online profile just to keep an eye on market trends, as many users do, you may not want to filter available options by price. But if you are planning to buy a practice in the next few years you should find out how much you can afford to spend, and familiarize yourself with how dental practices are valued. Visit this post on Dental Economics to learn the basics of dental practice valuation.

Both buyers and sellers are concerned with fair pricing during a dental transition. That is why ddsmatch Southwest uses a trusted, third-party accounting firm to perform dental practice valuations. In addition to a reliable business valuation we offer clinical appraisals using Dr. Charles Blair’s Clinical Treatment Analyzer. This appraisal looks at untapped revenue opportunities within a practice so the buyer knows where he or she can expand. As a buyer, it is important to review these details so you can make the right choice.

ddsmatch Southwest can also help individuals buying a dental practice by referring them to local dental practice lenders. As Miller explains, our brokers “have relationships in every area . . . so they’re going to actually work with these individual buyers and banks. If it’s national banks, if it’s regional banks or if it’s local banks, we do a lot of that in our process.”

If you are worried about qualifying for financing you should know it is easier than it seems. Historically, dental practice lending has been a favorable investment with low default rates. Even during the economic uncertainty of 2020 dental practice lending has remained steady.

However, like any loan, the lending bank will want assurance that the buying doctor can keep up with payments by maintaining production levels at their new practice. According to Dr. Howard Farran, of Dentaltown, “the big banks are telling the graduates who just walked out of school . . . that you needed at least a year’s experience before they’ll even talk to you” about buying a dental practice. Farran notes that, for banks, that year of experience is an important indicator of future production. He continues that banks are not “as concerned about the debt as they are with the speed of the dentist keeping up with the practice, being able to do the procedures that the selling dentist has. If they work for a year, that usually gets them over the hump to where they can keep up with the hygiene schedule. They can do the restorative and be able to keep up with the schedule. That’s their biggest concern. It’s not necessarily the debt as much as it is the speed.”

Understanding the Transition Process

There is more than one way to transition into a dental practice after a sale. Some selling doctors are ready to move on and leave as soon as the paperwork is done. Others stick around and work at the practice for a certain amount of time while the new doctor transitions into his or her role. There is no one “right way” to go about a transition, as long as there is clear communication on both sides. Before you start the process of buying a dental practice you should understand what is involved with each of these scenarios and be open to discussing them with the selling doctor.

Turn to Transition Experts When You’re Ready to Buy

Is it possible to go through a dental practice transition without expert help? Yes. However, just like in any legal or real estate transaction buyer representation is important if you want to get the most out of your experience. Thad Miller elaborates:

“It’s important to build your team. And most of the people that I encourage them to work with, they’ll sit down with [the potential buyer] in advance and they won’t charge them to talk about how they do things. They don’t need them until there’s an opportunity . . . Even if they’re not ready to buy right now, they need to build their team. 

“I had a great practice that was in high demand, we had six or seven people that wanted to buy this practice. And the dentist who took my advice—that had a team—he sat down with the selling dentist who needed to sell. He was actually ill, he had cancer and he needed to sell, but he had a great practice and he wanted it to go to the right person. 

“The person who sat down and said, “I’ve got an attorney in place, I’ve got an accountant in place, and I’ve got my bank financing in place. I would love to buy your practice,” that’s what sold my seller . . . Because they were ready. Because he knew he could move quickly, he knew he wasn’t just kicking tires, he knew he was ready.”

Buying a dental practice is not something you do every day. It is a large investment, and determines the path your career will take. That is why you need an expert team like the one at ddsmatch Southwest. The complicated financial and legal processes need careful attention by someone familiar with the specifics of dental practice transitions. Your team should be able to advise you along the way so you can avoid pitfalls and take advantage of opportunities you may not have known were present. At the end of the transition, you should be able to say you did your due diligence at every step, understood the information presented to you, and made informed decisions. 

Search Available Practices from ddsmatch Southwest

When we find the right buyer for our clients, everyone wins. So, while we typically represent selling doctors, we have an interest in finding buyers who are not only qualified, but will thrive once they take over a practice. The selling doctor has spent their career building up their legacy and solidifying their practice’s place in the community. That is why, when buying a dental practice, you are buying much more than the equipment or the real estate. You are committing to continue to grow and thrive in an established practice.

After years in the industry, we know that successful transitions are only possible when both sides are fair and transparent. Clients trust ddsmatch Southwest to provide up-to-date information and reliable resources so they can be sure they are making wise decisions. Our experts are ready to help you, too.

Visit our website today to search for available practices. Contact us today by calling 855-546-0044 to discuss your dental practice transition.

Buying a Dental Practice? Why Now Is a Great Time to Buy or Sell

How do you know when is the right time for selling or buying a dental practice? Many dentists ask us this question and, in the current economic climate, we are seeing it even more. Though it sounds counterintuitive, now is actually a good time for dental practice transitions. Older dentists are increasingly interested in selling their dental practices in order to retire. Younger dentists are also recognizing that the time is right to take their career into their own hands by buying their own dental practice.

For both buyers and sellers, there may be concern about whether the industry will survive the current economic uncertainty. However, according to founder and president of ddsmatch Thad Miller, “most of our clients have had an incredible June and beyond and it looks good going on . . . We’re seeing really good results.” 

One reason that the dental industry has been able to weather the current crisis is that they are an essential business. As offices have reopened, patients are returning for their regular treatments. Sterilization and PPE have always been part of regular operating procedures, and dentists offices are known as safe and clean places to receive care. While patients may be hesitant to go into a restaurant at the moment, they will likely see their dentist as both safe and essential.

Buying a Dental Practice: The Time is Right

Of course, dentistry has been impacted by the current crisis. In a recent interview with Dr. Howard Farran, founder of Dentaltown, the number of practices for sale and job postings at dental offices have changed drastically since 2019. Dr. Farran explains between 1999 and 2019, “there [were] usually about 1,000 classified ads of a dentist selling their practice and about 5,000 ads of dentists looking for an associate” on the Dentaltown site. However, Dr. Farran continues, “now it’s 2,000 dentists selling their practice with only 1,000 jobs.”

What does this mean for dentists wanting to transition their practice, or those looking to buy? There are two major impacts. First, many offices were forced to shut down at least partially for several months, stopping cash flow and making it difficult to pay employees. When dental offices reopened, they were often forced to reduce the number of visits per day to accommodate social distancing and new sterilization requirements. All of these factors mean less work per dentist, so practices that had planned on adding a new associate in 2020 held back. In addition, some associates who couldn’t wait several months to go back to work sought other opportunities.

Second, and important for those buying a dental practice, dentists who were within a few years of retirement have decided to retire now rather than deal with the current crisis. New sterilization procedures, special equipment, and changing practice methods take time and money that may not be worthwhile so late in one’s career.  Rather than deal with adjusting their practice to a post-COVID19 world, many dentists are moving up their retirement and putting their practices for sale.

Looking at these factors, Thad Miller notes that dentists looking to buy a practice right now are in a unique situation. “There’s going to be opportunities out there.” Miller states, “We all know that the baby boomers in our society are retiring in all different sectors. In accounting, in legal, in appraisers, whatever it may be. There’s a large group of our population that are retiring and there’s fewer buyers because there’s just the mass number of dentists that are transitioning over the next 10 years. I think there’s opportunity out there.” Even dentists who previously thought buying a dental practice was a few years off are realizing that now is the time to take charge of their career.

In addition to these two factors, dentists who are considering buying a practice should know there may be hidden opportunities available in the practices currently coming up for sale. At ddsmatch Southwest, part of our transition services includes Dr. Charlie Blair’s Clinical Treatment Analyzer. Using this tool we can determine what hidden revenue builders may exist in a practice. For example, as Miller explains, for example, “the dentist who’s selling, they stopped doing root canals 15, 20 years ago, and they stopped doing oral surgery.” The Clinical Treatment Analyzer will show opportunities like this, and other revenue builders, without increasing the sale price.

Selling a Dental Practice? Why Now is a Good Time

If you are looking to sell your practice, you may be wondering if now is really a good time to put it on the market. The answer is related to the above discussion on buying a dental practice. The pandemic caused professionals in many areas to reconsider their career paths. For dental associates working for an employer, this meant finally deciding to go into business for themselves. Owning a dental practice means doing things on your own terms rather than being subject to the decisions of your employer. Dentists who were waiting until the “right time” to buy are starting to realize they don’t want to wait to take control of their careers. As dental practice transition specialists, we can confirm there has been growing interest from buyers recently.

Before you think about placing your dental practice for sale, there are a few things you should do to make it more attractive for buyers and boost your practice’s value. First, focus on low-cost, high-impact cosmetic upgrades. Your office should make a good first impression on buyers so if your carpet or paint are looking worn it may be time to update them. If your practice is experiencing a lighter than usual patient load due to the transition back from closure it is a good time to jump on these types of projects.

Second, up to date equipment will attract more individuals buying a dental practice. If you are hoping for a certain selling price but haven’t switched to digital systems, it may be hard to reach that price. Newer dentists are trained primarily on digital systems and are less likely to be interested in upgrading out of date equipment after buying a dental practice. 

Third, if you do not have an updated website, now is the time to make one. Many established practices don’t need websites for marketing purposes, but, when it comes time to sell your practice, a website is the first thing buyers will look at. Your website does not need to be flashy or fancy, but if it doesn’t exist with basic information potential buyers will move on quickly. If you’re setting up a website for the first time you should include pictures of your office, information about yourself and your staff, and details about your sterilization processes. ddsmatch Southwest can refer you to a professional website builder who will create a basic website at a reasonable price.

Why Dentists Choose ddsmatch Southwest for Selling and Buying a Dental Practice

Expectations and Transparency

If you are in the process of buying or selling a dental practice, ddsmatch Southwest has the transition experts you need to reach your goals. Our team of specialists has in-depth knowledge of the industry, making us more than just business brokers. We pride ourselves on staying up to date with the latest market conditions, so each client has a successful dental practice transition.

Beyond our knowledge of the industry, we take pride in our dedication to transparency and finding the right match between buyers and sellers. Selling a dental practice is much more than money and titles changing hands. The selling doctor has poured their life’s work into building a successful practice. They want to make sure that legacy is preserved, and the patients they have come to know are taken care of. Our transition specialists work hard to ensure those selling and buying a dental practice are satisfied with the deal that is made. We accomplish this in several ways.

First, we offer transparency about every aspect of the deal by issuing a comprehensive letter of intent. This letter helps clients know exactly what to expect as the transition progresses. “We have about a five page letter of intent,” explains Thad Miller, “which was unique to the industry nine years ago, where they usually just got a price and then they kind of fought about everything until closing.”

In the letter of intent “we address every single thing that’s going to go on in the transaction,” Miller continues. “From the price, to the asset allocation for taxes. What are we doing for real estate, the lease, the breakdown of what they’re buying and what they’re not buying, noncompete . . . all in writing, ahead of time. Even though a letter of intent is a nonbinding agreement, we want that expectation set for our buyer.”

Second, we offer transparency to those selling and buying a dental practice through our Trusted Transition Process. This process provides a clear and consistent path which remains the same from seller to seller. In addition, we add a reliable business valuation from the team of certified valuation analysts at Blue & Co.. The analysts at Blue & Co. are experts in their field, having received training specifically focused on business valuations. Each detailed, 70-page report provided by their analysts includes details about production, collections, overhead, taxes, and other financial aspects a buyer needs to know. The report gives buyers much needed information about why the practice is worth the asking price.

What We Do For Buyers

Although we do not represent buyers during dental practice transitions, we still offer important services to them. The ddsmatch Southwest website is free to use, and is a great resource for dentists looking to buy, or even ones who simply want to keep an eye on the market. After creating a profile individuals can search a wide range of available practices. After searching for practices our algorithm keeps users up to date with opportunities in the area they were searching.

So, whether you are planning on buying a dental practice this year, or you are still in your second year of dental school, creating an online profile is a good way to stay up to date with current opportunities and trends in your area. We are always updating our website with new resources and opportunities, which is why even dental students benefit from registering and creating an online profile with ddsmatch Southwest.

What if you aren’t looking for a practice to buy? Our website allows you to search numerous opportunities including partnerships, associateships, and practices available for merger. Our search engine allows users to filter by location and size of practice. When you are logged in to your profile practice information such as revenue, number of operatories, size of staff, local area information, and details about equipment such as digital radiography and cone beam imaging, are available to help you decide if a practice meets your needs.

We are also committed to protecting our clients’ privacy and interests. To ensure the integrity of our transitions our website does not include doctor’s names.

Transitions are a big step for anyone selling or buying a dental practice. Our team of transition specialists is committed to making sure both sides are satisfied with the transaction. Our goal is to find the best fit so our clients can be confident with their choice to sell, and the buyer can take over the practice knowing they will find success. As Thad Miller puts it, “if [our clients] see a patient in the grocery a month after transition, they want to feel good that they don’t have to hide behind a stack of things because they didn’t have a good transition.”

Search available practices in your area by creating a profile on our website. If you are considering transitioning your dental practice contact us today. Our dental practice transition experts are ready to help you achieve your goals.

Post-COVID Strategies That Focus on Patients

Trying times give us the chance to discover our strengths and weaknesses and reevaluate our practices. In dental care, it’s a good idea to reevaluate how you’re doing from time to time. When you make an extra effort to show compassion toward your patients and their individual concerns, not only will they be grateful for your empathy, but it can also secure their long-term support. The steps you take to reshape your approach to dental treatment and patient communication post-COVID can work in your favor and help your patients see you as a healthcare provider who’s willing to adapt and work with them no matter the circumstances.

When you decide to list your dental office for sale, your financial “value” is measured in numbers. But no number can truly quantify the positive impact you can have on your community and your patients. Be an influence for good during this unpredictable time! Vow to give your patients the care they need and provide them with a sense of safety. 

Dr. Jessica Meeske, vice chair of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, said, “My advice is not to practice in fear . . . patients need dental care and we have the responsibility and privilege to provide it.” In a time when patients are worrying about so many other aspects of their lives, you can help lessen some of their fears by offering safe, reliable, compassionate care.

How to Practice Compassionate Care

Your goal as an established dental professional should be to provide patients the best possible treatment while prioritizing their safety.

Maybe you’ve never taken advantage of technology in the past, but now’s a great time to start. Utilize tele-dentist visits and electronic communication with patients to show you’re willing to take extra precautions. Sometimes patients simply have questions that can be answered over the phone or over the Internet, so let them choose that option if it’s appropriate. You can save time and money with virtual visits because you won’t have to worry about sterilizing equipment and finding staff to be in the office.

Surveys can also be a helpful tool in determining what exactly your patients need from you at this time. You can give your patients the opportunity to rate their experience at your office or simply ask them after the visit if there’s anything that could have been done differently. Promote the idea of patient-centered care by implementing patient feedback in your daily practices. Many patients are concerned about infection control, so do everything you can to fulfill their safety expectations. 

With so much information available with the click of a button, patients may question your practices and want to know what measures you are taking to protect them. Don’t shy away from their questions. Take the time to discuss your new safety protocols and explain why you feel these measures are necessary and effective. Talk to your staff and be sure everyone is on the same page and knows what these measures are. In short, continue to provide your patients with a higher standard of dental care while increasing the amount of time spent disinfecting patient rooms and equipment between appointments.

Be Understanding in Your Patient Communication

What do you want your dental practice to be known for? The first time a patient sees a sign on your building, you are communicating with them. What kind of message do you want to convey? Marketing plays an important role in patient communication. Be sure your brand is known for the right reasons.

Many factors will come into play when you place your dental office for sale. Patients and other dentists will want to know just what you did post-COVID to establish more effective practices. Patients will want their questions and concerns answered, even if to you they may seem repetitive or mundane. Be upfront with your patients and share your protocols for infection control, treatment, PPE, etc so they can feel confident in your processes. To establish empathetic patient communication, strive to do the following:

  • Don’t act too casual about any topic a patient brings up. There is a lot of misinformation out there and patients want to know you take their concerns seriously.
  • Listen to what your patients are saying to you and respond to their questions. Be interested in what’s interesting to them.
  • Share your professional observations about the situation and explain the steps you and your staff are taking to address their issues.
  • Try to stay upbeat and positive and don’t dismiss a patient question or concern. 

You should always try to be empathetic with your patients, but go the extra mile to alleviate fears and concerns that may crop up due to the pandemic. Patients are already a little nervous and uneasy about going to the dentist, and may appear even more so post-COVID. If you can’t personally address their concerns, work with your staff to develop a more effective patient outreach program where patients can be heard and express their fears.

Think about your marketing goals and if they need to change. If your patients are primarily considered with equipment sterilization, trying to market your practice by emphasizing your background and experience as a dentist may not be enough. A simple message on Facebook like, “At our practice we protect you and your family with our thorough equipment sterilization procedures” can go a long way toward making patients feel comfortable with choosing your office for their dental procedure. If Twitter has been effective for you in the past, use that social media platform to connect with your patients. Engaging with your patients through social media is a great way to receive feedback to help guide your marketing.

If your business has declined dramatically since the pandemic, reach out to local news organizations to see if your office can be featured. In a news article or TV spotlight you’ll have the opportunity to talk about your health protocols and safety measures and ease the minds of your patients and potential patients.

How to Find Out if Your Brand is Working For You

Just like the McDonald’s golden arches are recognized worldwide, your brand says a lot about what your practice stands for. If your brand is not a great reflection of your practice, now is the perfect time to adjust it. Your brand includes your name, the name of your practice, and any other terms, designs, symbols, or marks that identifies your dental practice as distinct from all of the others. You want your brand to be recognizable and earn the confidence of patients everywhere. 

Ask yourself if your brand is who you want to be, and spend time reflecting on the values and services you want people to associate with your office. 

If you’re struggling to create an effective brand, write down words to describe your practice. Are you patient-focused? Do you create a friendly environment? What do patients feel when they walk into your office? This exercise will help you determine what your brand should look like.

To have an authentic brand, you have to be honest and accurate. You want your branding to be a reflection of your core values as an organization. You want to build trust among your patients. Trust is essential in fostering goodwill when it comes time to list your dental office for sale. Inaccurate branding can cause you to lose business, turning patients away from your practice before they even meet you or your staff. 

Now that you’ve established a reliable brand, look at your marketing to see if you’re presenting the kind of image you want others to associate with you. Your Facebook page, for example, should not be at odds with your website. Both platforms should highlight the positive qualities of your practice and your staff and maintain a consistent theme throughout. If you want to be seen as involved in your community, engage in community activities that promote your brand identity. Share pictures of you and your staff at the local food bank or whatever it is so your patients will know that you practice what you preach.

Helping Patients Find Financial Solutions

Currently in the United States, 11% of people are unemployed. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits over the last four months is worse than any other time in modern history.” from CNBC.com

Many people who have lost their jobs recently have also lost their health insurance coverage, meaning they’ll likely postpone dental cleanings and appointments for the time being. During this unprecedented time, you should be extra sensitive to your patients’ financial needs and be willing to offer financial assistance if possible. Some things you can do to help ease their financial burdens include: 

  • Offering incentives beyond the usual past promotions, such as dental cleanings at a set cost without insurance for a limited time. Encourage your patients not to put off their exams and remind them you care about their dental health.
  • Third-party financing can help patients in some cases. Find out which third-party financing options will work with your clinic and offer them as an option. Be aware of payback periods and interest requirements. Take time to do your own research and only pick a company you feel comfortable working with.
  • Membership plans or in-house financing can offset the cost of major procedures such as root canals or fillings. Allow your patients to make smaller payments so they can get the needed treatment without stressing about the cost.

For the past few months many dental practices have operated at a loss, and the financial solutions offered above take this into account. When you work with your patients to help them find the right financing options, you show them you’re invested in a long-term dental-patient relationship. 

Easier Scheduling Options 

With people out of work and kids home for the longest summer ever, some patients may have difficulty figuring out a time to see the dentist that works with their new schedule. Giving your patients a variety of options for their appointments will definitely be appreciated. 

Many dentists have made the decision to only see patients one at a time to prevent a crowded waiting room. Some have patients wait in their car until their temperatures have been taken and their face masks are in place. Be sensitive to your patients’ concerns and do all you can to make them feel safe while in your office. 

Consider the following options:

  • Offer early morning, evening, or even weekend appointments
  • Allow more of a time gap between appointments to limit the number of patients in your reception area. This will also give you adequate time to disinfect and sterilize your necessary supplies.
  • Use teledentistry if you need to pre-screen or diagnose patients. This option provides physical distancing and the opportunity to schedule their treatment when it fits their schedule (and yours).

Though the above-mentioned practices will require extensive time and planning, reinforcing great relationships with your patients is worth it. You want patients to leave your office feeling like you have their health and safety as your number one priority. They’ll be more likely to come back and see you for their next dental procedure if they feel you’re doing all you can to earn and keep their trust.

Want to List Your Dental Office for Sale? ddsmatch Southwest Can Help

ddsmatch Southwest are dental practice transition specialists focused on assisting dentists in the Texas and New Mexico areas. For buyers looking for a dental office for sale, you can view our available practices here. Our specialty is making your dental practice transition as smooth and rewarding as possible. Our benchmarks for success are your unique, individual goals being fulfilled. We are here to work for you. Contact us today. 

Recognize and Address COVID-Related Stress in Your Dental Office

Across the nation dental offices that were closed for weeks or months due to the COVID-19 pandemic are finally back up and running, at least part time. However, they are back with several profound differences that make a big impact in the lives of dentists and their staff. For the health and safety of the community it is important to follow the safety protocols set by your local government. However, we must still acknowledge that the current state of things may lead to increased stress and anxiety. When your staff returns to work it is important to be aware of how they are performing their daily tasks. Running a successful dental practice depends on having reliable staff members. If your employees are acting differently or seem distracted it can be a serious problem, especially if you are considering selling a dental practice in the next five years.

Stress and anxiety can come from many different factors related to the pandemic. Financial pressures from weeks or months without work may be mounting. You or your staff members may know someone who is sick, in the hospital, or has died due to COVID-19. Concern about keeping at-risk family and friends safe may cause your staff to feel unsure if they should return to work. Finding safe and reliable childcare options is especially difficult with schools and daycare centers closing or reducing their capacities. The bottom line is, COVID-related stress and anxiety affects everyone in some capacity.

For dentists, hygienists, and other dental office staff members, fears over contracting COVID-19 are not unfounded. A recent study looked at how likely individuals in certain occupations are to contract the disease. After evaluating data that considered the job’s frequency of contact with others, physical proximity, and exposure to disease, researchers assigned scores to different occupations. These scores revealed that dental hygienists are at the highest risk for contracting COVID-19 at work. In fact, dental hygienists scored 99.7 out of a possible 100. Dental assistants and dentists were not far behind at 92.5 and 92.1, respectively.

As a small business owner and healthcare professional, whether or not you plan on selling a dental practice in the near future, the health and safety of your staff and patients is vitally important. In order to reopen, many dental practices have spent thousands of dollars on new PPE equipment and cleaning supplies, and invested hours of time into training staff members. However, the health and safety of your staff relies on more than following physical safety protocols. The new normal of increased risk puts a psychological strain on your staff members who must quickly learn to work in this environment.

Speaking about the link between physical and mental wellbeing Bernadette Melnyk, dean of the College of Nursing and chief wellness officer at Ohio State explains, “physical and mental health are closely intertwined” which is why you must take time for both. Melnyk continues, “while you practice good hygiene and physical distancing in the office, you should also practice stress-reduction.” In addition, Dr. K. Luan Phan, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, explains that the current situation can affect everyone. According to Dr. Phan, “uncertainty and unpredictability can really create an unhealthy amount of fear and stress, especially when it’s sustained over such a long period of time.” 

It can be easy to take one of two approaches to working during the pandemic. Either ignoring the signs of stress and anxiety, or responding with fear. However, ignoring the signs and symptoms of stress, in yourself or your staff, will not make it go away. In fact, it can make it worse. In addition, anxiety the coronavirus has introduced is real, and for many it is scary. But responding with fear will not allow you to manage your stress in a healthy way. 

We want to encourage you to respond to stress and anxiety appropriately, by neither ignoring nor giving into fear. Below we will help you recognize the signs of anxiety and stress, and provide tips on how you and your staff members can manage your wellbeing. These tips are helpful for all doctors and their staff members, whether or not selling a dental practice is in your five year plan.

Identifying the Problem

Most of us can admit that even if we love our jobs, they are often a source of stress. Now that the day-to-day stress is compounded with COVID-related stress you and your staff are likely feeling its effects across multiple areas of your lives. However, not everyone will feel stressed about exactly the same thing. Here are some of the COVID-related factors that lead to added stress and anxiety:

  • Potential exposure to COVID-19 at work
  • Spending time away from family
  • Finding safe and reliable childcare
  • Lack of proper tools or equipment to do your job effectively
  • Adjusting to unfamiliar tasks and a different office rhythm
  • Concerns about job stability and the future of the industry
  • Fears that your efforts are not making a difference
  • Concerns about your practice’s valuation if you plan on selling a dental practice soon

As we mentioned above, stress and anxiety manifests itself mentally and physically. A recent survey of dental office workers revealed a wide range of discomforting symptoms in those who are now using PPEs due to pandemic protocols. According to the survey “workers… reported experiencing dry eyes, sore throat, rash, runny nose, pressure blister on nose bridge, coughing at night, TMJ discomfort, eyestrain, tight chest, chapped lips, ear pressure, occlusion changes, clogged ears, bloating, itchy tingling skin, bloody nose, intermittent PVCs, facial muscle twitches, and sleep apnea.” In addition, over 50% of respondents reported experiencing a sense of dehydration, headaches, mental fatigue, profuse sweating, and exhaustion.

The goal in identifying these stress factors is not to instill fear, but to help you and your staff members address them head on. As a dental practice owner it is important for you to create an environment where your staff feels safe to express their concerns and get help. When your staff is calm and confident your office will run smoother and it will be easier to ensure your patient’s safety and wellbeing. If you are selling a dental practice soon you should be concerned with creating stability for your buyer.

Be Aware of the Signs

How do you recognize the signs of stress in your dental office staff? You have likely worked with your staff day in and day out for years. Think about how they act in normal situations, and whether their “normal” has changed since returning to work. If their behavior and demeanor seems off it may be a sign that they have concerns about returning to work. Here are some of the signs you should be aware of in your staff:

  • Decreased productivity and difficulty meeting deadlines
  • Inability to concentrate and make decisions
  • Pulling back from work related activities
  • Changes in emotional behavior such as irritability, anxiousness, and depression
  • An increase in missing work or calling in sick
  • Difficulty adapting to changes around the office
  • Struggling with sleep
  • A general feeling of exhaustion and being overwhelmed
  • Difficulty concentrating while at work

Of course, everyone has bad days here and there whether or not there is a pandemic. But if you notice the above signs in your staff for longer than a week it is time to step in.

How You Can Help Your Staff

Creating a safe and stable environment in your office is important whether or not you are selling a dental practice. Make it a point to talk openly about stress and anxiety at your weekly meeting. Remind your staff members that you are here to help, and open to suggestions on how to lower stress in the workplace. Offer encouragement and understanding. Be open to staff members who come to you with problems.

If you notice any of the above signs in your employees take time to personally sit down with them and discuss how they are feeling. If your employee seems reluctant to share their concerns try relating your own stress and anxieties about the pandemic. Let them know it is important to talk together honestly so you can find a solution together. Be an active listener, and let them know you are looking to help them. You should also ask for recommendations on how to make changes that will make a difference. 

A major area of stress may arise from wearing additional PPE, a procedure which was likely unfamiliar to you and your staff pre-COVID. In order to cope with wearing additional PPE, consider the following measures:

  • Schedule frequent breaks in PPE for hydration, healthy snacks, and stretching
  • Require every staff member (including you) to take a lunch hour
  • Make sure you are getting enough fruits and vegetables, and stay away from salty foods
  • Consider putting off or delegating tasks if workloads are too high
  • Teach nasal breathing techniques
  • Make a habit of taking deep abdominal breaths when washing your hands
  • Encourage your staff to know and communicate their limits
  • Get outside daily for fresh air and exercise
  • Find activities you enjoy outside of work
  • Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night
  • Know that feeling a variety of emotions is normal
  • Take time to ensure children and other family members are being cared for
  • Seek out resources when you need help – check the ADA website for resources by state

Whether or not you have dealt with stress and anxiety in the past, the current pandemic presents a new dynamic for us all. With such a great amount of uncertainty it makes sense to feel anxious about the future. Remind your staff that it is ok to feel stress, fear, or anxiety, and that they are not alone. Open and honest communication will help your office work together for the good of everyone. Take time to tell your staff that they are an integral part of the work you do, and you recognize their dedication every day. 

Taking Care of Yourself

It makes sense to be proactive about the wellbeing of your staff, but remember that without you there is no practice for them to work in. The increased pressure and stress of the pandemic, which may coincide with selling a dental practice, will likely impact your performance and your ability to lead. But it can be difficult to recognize the signs of stress in your own life. However, as we mentioned above, ignoring these signs does not make them go away and will often make things worse. Take some time to think about your life over the past few months. Have you felt more tired or irritable? Are you sleeping less than usual? Are you drinking more or eating less? These are all physical manifestations of stress and anxiety. Read through the advice given above and take some time to implement it in your own life.

It is important to remember that significant changes need to be made in your life in order to adjust to the current situation. We are still in control of how we respond to each new problem that comes our way. Responding immediately with an emotional reaction will only serve to heighten your stress and fear. When you accept the reality of these changes and adjust accordingly you will be much better off. 

If you are having trouble dealing with the current situation don’t be afraid to reach out to someone for help. A trusted friend or family member may be able to help you sort through your feelings and find a solution. If you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or discouraged you should consider seeking out a professional for help. Use the ADA resources to find someone near you.

Selling a Dental Practice? ddsmatch Southwest is Here For You

At ddsmatch Southwest we are not experts in mental health. But we do know that transitioning your dental practice can come with added stress and anxiety, even in normal times. Our experts are investing in helping you successfully transition your practice. If you are considering transitioning your dental practice in the next five years, you likely have a lot of questions. We encourage you to reach out to our transition experts to learn more about selling a practice during the pandemic, or preparing your practice for sale in the future. 

As industry experts, we are here to help you make the best choices for the future of your practice. Call us today to learn more.

Building Patient Trust: Protect Your Most Valuable Asset Before Placing Your Dental Practice for Sale

If you are like most dentists, your office is open, but it is not like it was before the pandemic. 

If or when things return to “normal,” it’s unlikely they will be exactly as before. Right now, we are in a time of transition, with new information and guidance each week. The key to keeping your practice going smoothly is the ability to adapt with the changing circumstances. 

This is especially important if you have been considering listing your dental practice for sale. As we’ve previously written, you are going to want to hit a production goal of about 80% of your monthly 2019 production average within the coming months. Below, we discuss some ways you can help your patients feel comfortable coming to your office, confident in their treatment, and will help you keep your office on track toward this goal.

As a doctor, you are in a unique position to engender patient trust through reassurance.. Dr. Jessica Meeske, vice chair of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, recently said “My advice is not to practice in fear,” she said. “Patients need dental care and we have the responsibility and privilege to provide it.” In doing so, you can be a reliable and trusted leader in your community on issues related to infection control.

Recognize the Stress

Everyone has been rather stressed out by what we’ve seen and experienced over the last few months. In addition to the concern about becoming ill, your patients have had compounded stressors by the economic impact of stay at home orders and social distancing. According to a recent survey, “60% of U.S. parents say they’ve had no outside child care during the coronavirus pandemic” and “millions have spent the duration attempting to work from home while also caring for kids,” including being responsible for their home education. 

There are also medical issues not related to, but impacted by COVID-19. People with illnesses have gone untreated or had treatment postponed. Families have been separated from each other, often to protect elderly or immunocompromised family members. Families have also laid loved ones to rest without a traditional funeral service and the comfort that can provide.

As a healthcare provider, be prepared for patients to have these things on their minds. They may raise some of their concerns, even if unrelated to dental care. Look for evidence of unhealthy responses to their stressors, such as increased drinking, smoking, and overeating. 

With so much upheaval, avoiding the obvious struggles all are dealing with feels inauthentic. Don’t be afraid to just ask them straight out how they have been doing during the pandemic. You may be the first healthcare provider they have encountered in a long time, and your professional expertise and knowledge can be very helpful. You may want to consider scheduling patients for longer appointments to allow time for conversations you may have not had with patients before. Have compassionate, validating responses ready: “Wow, that sounds very hard,” and “Of course you’d feel that way,” are simple acknowledgements that help people feel heard and seen.   

Dentistry is a profession built on relationships. Your patients trust you. This is a time where you can make good on that trust and build even stronger community connections. From an economic standpoint, your patients are your most valuable asset. When you treat them as such, you will be rewarded—both immediately by strengthening your bond with them, and also when it comes time to place your dental practice for sale and pass on the goodwill you have created to the right person who will maintain that level of trust.

Let Patients Know What to Expect

Start educating patients on how their experience in your office will be different before they arrive. Either when appointments are scheduled, or when calling to confirm appointments, have a script ready for your office staff to explain the check-in procedures, whether the reception area will be available or not, whether they can have a family member or not, whether masks are required for non-patient family members, and so on. Going to the dentist can be stressful for some patients and providing information about how they are being protected will be reassuring. 

The American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID) has released a new checklist to help people prepare for their next dental appointment, What to Expect: Going to the Dentist After Stay-at-Home Order Is Lifted. This helpful document was produced by doctors who own practices across the nation and have followed infection control procedures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for years. These practices now are implementing extra steps to protect patients and employees.

Be proactive in communicating your sterilization measures. The OSHA guidelines are essential and effective, however, patients may still be worried. When they arrive for an appointment, you can explain or show your patients what measures you have implemented to keep them safe. This will bolster their trust in you, show your diligence in the care you provide, and increase the credibility of your dental practice. Again, this will pay off when it comes time to place your dental practice for sale.

Define Your Protocols and Train Your Staff

For many of your patients, it will be imperative that they see a smoothly functioning operation to feel at ease. Given that you and your staff are having to modify your office procedures, take the time to specifically delineate what needs to happen for each appointment and train your staff to run the new procedures effectively and efficiently while maintaining a friendly atmosphere. Some things you may want to consider include: 

  • Verbal check-ins for appointments rather than requiring patient contact with touchscreens, keypads, or pens. 
  • Scheduling consistent disinfection throughout the day of your reception area and front-desk, the places that have the most traffic. Also, make sure there is a thorough disinfection occurring after you see your last patient in preparation for the next day.
  • Remove anything from your reception area that people can handle, including magazines, television controls, toys, books, or any beverages.
  • Rearrange your reception area to allow for adequate social distancing. Space out your chairs. Remove some if necessary. 
  • Allow space in your schedule for flexibility, to accommodate social distancing, and to reduce the number of patients in your office at a given time.

These kinds of measures will both help keep you, your staff, and your patients safe and healthy, and will communicate to your staff and your patients that you have their well-being in mind.

Use Social Media to Inform and Educate

Social media is a great way to get the message out to your patients about how you are taking precautions to safeguard their well-being. If you haven’t already, now is a good time to pivot your messaging to focus on building trust and maintaining your reputation. 

Let patients know if you are offering extended office hours or will be open on weekends, or whether you are changing the availability of services to focus on the most critical needs, such as teledentistry options. Also, you can post the safety measures you and your staff are taking to protect patients. You are also advised to consider putting a notice about the safety measures on your website’s homepage and social media channels. 

While doing this, however, be careful to not make it sound like everything is different. Be reassuring about what remains the same. Some suggestions include: 

  • Keep the focus on dentistry, but with a sensitivity to health-related concerns. Let patients know what services you can provide and why your patients can have confidence in their safety while under your care. 
  • Keep your content relevant. Use your channels to promote oral health education along with more general information about infection control. Promote the safety of dental appointments. Provide practical home care tips. Highlight the connection between your patients’ overall health and their oral health.
  • Use social media to keep patients updated to any changes to your office’s procedures, services, and availability. 
  • Be sensitive to current circumstances. It can be helpful to make patients aware of what services you are offering, so they know their options. But if it feels too much like advertising, you may get a negative response. Your messaging should be one of helpfulness and compassion. 

Protect Your Practice 

While this is less directly related to building patient trust, you won’t be able to follow through on that goal if your practice isn’t prepared or isn’t operating effectively. You may need to take some steps to make sure you are in full compliance with the best practices regarding infection control and are ready to adequately provide treatment in a safe environment.

  • Regulations: Be informed about what you can and cannot do under your current local regulations, as well as any national guidance on when and how to safely operate a dental practice. The ADA offers an interactive map detailing current state regulations. Keep in mind that each area is being managed differently and the timeline for expanding the reopening will be different for each state and sometimes for individual cities.
  • Safety: Do not assume that simply because you are allowed to have your office open that it is necessarily safe to do so. Infection rates vary from state to state, county to county, and city to city. Be informed about whether cases in your area are increasing or declining and why. Consider your patient base and staff and how many of them may be vulnerable to infection. Don’t open or expand your services unless you have confidence that you are doing so in a way that can guarantee the safety of everyone who walks through your door. 
  • Supplies: Masks, gloves, disinfectants, and other personal protection equipment are in short supply. Take an inventory of what you have on hand and verify your ability to restock. Train your staff on being careful with how your supplies are used to safeguard against needless waste. Keep a close eye on your supply levels and track how they’re being used. Build up a surplus, if you can responsibly. You don’t want to start seeing patients only to have to shut down again because you were not properly prepared. That will send the wrong message.
  • Staff: Clinicians and employees who are ill, who have been exposed to COVID-19, or who are immunocompromised, may not be able to work for some time. Others may have issues such as lack of childcare. Communicate with your team, verify their availability, and address their concerns compassionately and wisely.

Be Patient

Your goal is to re-establish a successful and thriving practice. If you had one before the pandemic, you will likely have one again, but it will be a gradual process. Don’t try and rush it. There are many areas where we must simply wait and see—supply levels, infection and testing rates, and safety precaution effectiveness, both in terms of not spreading infection, and in terms of creating a functional office setting. Once you have a better handle on those issues, you can consider relaxing restrictions and treating more patients. While it can be inconvenient, in the long run, your patients and staff will appreciate the cautious approach.

The situation is still very fluid. Social distancing and extra precautions may be necessary until a vaccine is available. Because of this, you need to stay flexible in order to be functional.

Do You Have Questions About Listing Your  Dental Practice for Sale? ddsmatch Southwest Has Answers

If you have considered listing your dental practice for sale, we here at ddsmatch Southwest are here to help. You likely have a lot of questions about what a dental practice transition will look like post-COVID, or if they are even possible right now. We are part of a nationwide network that has been actively consulting with dental industry professionals, including dental CPAs, dental attorneys, dental lenders, and other dental practice transition specialists, to keep up-to-date on how the landscape is changing. The good news is that dental practice transitions are still happening, and however difficult change may be, it always comes along with new opportunities. 

If you are considering transitioning your dental practice in the next five years, call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation—it all starts with a conversation.

Buying a Dental Practice Post-COVID

When is the best time to think about buying a dental practice? The current COVID-19 pandemic may have you rethinking your original plans. But should you? Though it may not seem like it, this uncertain time is actually providing buyers with unique circumstances. As they take the time to re-evaluate their long-term goals, the health crisis is reaffirming to many buyers that it’s more important now than ever to have a self-sufficient, stable future. Transitioning to a new dental practice is still possible, and even advantageous, in today’s world.

We’ve had many discussions about the current market with an increased number of buyers and sellers, as well as our wide network of dental transitions professionals—lenders, CPAs, business valuators, lawyers, other dental practice transition specialists—and we’re finding a consistent theme: dental practice transitions are still not only possible, but quite active.

Before COVID-19, many potential buyers thought about owning their own dental practice as a worthwhile goal to be achieved at a later date. Now, the COVID outbreak has many dentists questioning if they are completely satisfied with being employees or if they’re ready to do things differently. Also, some older doctors see the pandemic as an opportunity to jump into retirement early and leave their practice in the hands of a capable dentist.

At any rate, change continues to happen despite the effects of COVID-19. Now is a good time to evaluate which action you’re ready to take that will contribute toward your long-term goals. Here are some factors you should be aware of as you contemplate your decision.

Are Reliable Dental Practice Valuations Still Possible?

The more we’ve talked to dental industry professionals, the more we’ve found that business valuations will work similarly to the way they did pre-COVID. Valuation was previously largely done through income valuation, looking at the specific economics of a practice (production, collections, overhead, etc.) over the three previous years. The valuator today will zero in on the numbers for 2019—as it’s the period with the most pertinent, available information—to create a baseline for the historic performance of the practice. Then, the valuator will look at the numbers for the practice after COVID hit in 30-day “snapshots”, and compare them to pre-COVID statistics. Practices that are getting close to 80% of pre-COVID numbers after reopening strongly suggest to lenders that the figures will continue to improve and the office will resume normal operations in the near future.

Should I Be Concerned About Losing Patients?

When COVID started spreading, most dental practices decided to close for a period of time, and no new ones opened up. But this isn’t necessarily bad news for your patient base. Patients that had to cancel appointments during closure will most likely return to the dentist they were already seeing rather than seek out a new dentist they aren’t familiar with. 

Once an office reopens, patients who had appointments before the closure may want to be seen as soon as possible. However, some patients may have experienced job loss or other economic struggles, and they may want to push their appointments out further. Still, other patients may feel uncomfortable entering a public office with current restrictions still in place and may choose to wait until treatment is absolutely necessary before they come in.

Regardless of where you live in the states, all of the dental practices in your area will be experiencing the same difficulties. An office can retain its patient base by focusing on the immediate needs of the patients and taking a proactive approach. When considering buying a dental practice, you should look at how the practice handled their reopening and see which type of efforts are being made to preserve patient loyalty and keep business steady. 

When looking at a potential dental practice, you should also examine if COVID-19 has impacted other aspects of the business. For example, “How much will face masks for every employee cost?” or “Does dental equipment sanitization need to take place more often than before and will this cost extra?” As procedures are adjusted, pricing and marketing may also be affected. Be sure the practice you’re considering is continuing to be profitable with the new COVID-19 related costs and limitations. 

Will COVID-19 Impact My Ability to Get a Loan?

Lenders have generally been amenable to loaning dental professionals the finances required to establish a new practice, as the dental industry claims some of the lowest default rates. Right now lenders don’t seem any less willing to do so, despite the present crisis. While COVID-19 is an interruption to business as usual, it doesn’t fundamentally change the nature of dentists or the dental practice. 

Much like the business valuator approach, the lender will look at 30-day snapshots of the post-COVID financials, focusing on production and costs, to determine if a loan is any more or less risky. They will compare the current statistics to the numbers from 2019 and see if the practice will achieve proportional levels of production and costs in the current market. If the numbers are on track, the lender will likely value the practice as a worthwhile investment.

Even so, many potential buyers may find that the application process has changed. Some lenders will prioritize certain buyers (those with more cash in the bank or a stronger track record of production), and some may collect applications and single out the strongest ones. Still other lenders may want to wait to finalize the loan until things stabilize a little more.

When selecting a lender, take the time to do your research and have your ducks all in a row. Though the process may take longer than usual, if you are a strong candidate for a loan, you will most likely find a lender willing to work with you. The current economic situation means you can also take advantage of the financial support currently available from recovery stimuli for small businesses.

How Do I Prepare to Buy a Dental Practice?

If buying a dental practice is the next logical step for you, prepare for the process by doing the following:

  1. Stay flexible. The practice transition may evolve as the economic climate changes, so stay patient as the process adapts to new situations. 
  2. Gather your team of advisors. You should not buy a dental practice without the help of trusted professionals to guide you through the steps. It’s a good idea to have a dental-specific CPA and tax professional on hand to answer your questions and make sure you do things right the first time. It’s also important to consult with a dental-specific attorney to review documents, identify potential issues, and be sure you’re in compliance with all laws and regulations. You’ll also want to talk to a lender who has dental practice experience. All of these individuals can assist you with your decisions about buying a dental practice.
  3. Research your options. Each dental practice is unique and comes with its share of advantages and disadvantages. You should take the time to review all the aspects of the dental practice you’re considering. There should be no lingering questions about the type of responsibility you’re taking on and you should be completely comfortable with your decision. As practices will be adapting post-COVID, you need to look carefully at the logistics of those changes to be certain they are both adequate and sustainable.
  4. Look at the practice from the seller’s perspective. While this is a financial business transaction, for the seller it can also be a very emotional one. The selling doctor’s practice is a culmination of their own blood, sweat, and tears, and they will have deep and mixed feelings about letting it go. Be aware of this as you engage in negotiations and make arrangements for transfer of ownership. You want to ensure an outcome where the transition is as smooth and straightforward as possible.
  5. Recognize what you are buying. When buying a dental practice, you are buying a career. You are essentially starting your life’s work as the selling doctor is ending theirs. Make sure the dental practice is one you can be proud of and in a place where you see yourself living for years to come. 
  6. Consider “the right fit.” Both the selling doctor and the buying doctor should be well matched if you want the dental practice transition to be successful. The selling doctor’s individual characteristics and their relationships with staff and patients are fundamental factors in the practice’s achievements. You shouldn’t come into the picture with vastly different attitudes and objectives unless you want to be met with adverse reactions from patients and staff members. You don’t have to be a clone of the seller, but you do need to be compatible with those aspects of the practice that have kept patient satisfaction high and employees content.

With All of this Uncertainty, What Can I Do to Protect Myself?

It is still unknown whether or not the practice transition process will change now or in the immediate future. Some deals between buyers and sellers that were arranged before COVID-19 are on hold for the moment while they reassess the logistics. With summer beginning, some deals are moving forward while others are still on hold. Other deals are being restructured to account for increased risk to the buyer.

During a dental practice transition, it’s common for the selling doctor to write a letter to patients explaining that he or she is selling the practice. The selling doctor may also work in the practice with the new doctor for a period of time before leaving for good. These measures can prevent patients from leaving and ensure a successful transition. Transitions happening right now during this uncertain time will require extra attention to help things run smoothly.

When a deal is being made between a seller and a buyer, sometimes money is withheld under certain circumstances, called a “holdback.” When a “holdback” happens, a percentage of the selling price is placed into escrow for a period of time after the sale. If, during the “holdback” period of the transition, the practice hits specified performance benchmarks, the money is released to the seller. This is an option available during a dental practice sale to protect you as a buyer in case the practice doesn’t bounce back as quickly as expected. Before buying a dental practice, talk about this option with your attorney and CPA to determine whether this or another strategy would make sense in your current situation.

Find Available Dental Practices for Sale with ddsmatch Southwest 

At ddsmatch Southwest, we represent selling doctors, but we also do all we can to cultivate good relationships with the buyer. We strive for transparency, clear communication, and flexibility among all parties, and seek out quality buyers to create the perfect match. We want everyone to walk away from the table satisfied with the final outcome.

Our goal is to encourage open lines of communication and help buyers and sellers work towards mutually agreeable solutions where everyone wins. If you are considering buying a dental practice in New Mexico or Texas, you can view our available practices here. If you’d like further information about our available practices, or wish to discuss any dental practice transition you are considering, please contact us today.

How To List Your Dental Practice For Sale Post-COVID

There is no doubt that recent events have left us all unsure what the future will bring. In a matter of days, normal life was turned upside down and most of our plans were put on hold, if not cancelled altogether. While we are still unable to say when life will return to normal, or even what the new normal will entail, we can begin to prepare for the future in the best way possible. Knowing this, our ddsmatch Southwest team, along with our colleagues in the nationwide ddsmatch network, have been hard at work talking to industry experts including doctors, CPAs, industry lawyers, and other key players in the dental practice transition industry. We hope that the work we have put in will give you a clearer picture of what dental practice transitions will look like in a post-COVID world. 

If you are considering listing your dental practice for sale in 2020, signs point to this being an attainable goal.

We understand that most of our clients are curious how dental practice transitions will work in a post-COVID world. While we cannot give definitive answers as to how the industry will look after the pandemic, we do have insights into the new process of practice valuation, tips for doctors looking to sell in the near future, and information about post-COVID transition deal structures. Below we will lay out these insights to help you prepare your practice for sale. 

Dental Practice Valuation During and Post-COVID

An accurate and reliable valuation is essential to the process of transitioning a dental practice. At its essence, a valuation tells buyers and lenders what the fair market price for your practice is. After pouring years of work into your practice you deserve to get what it is actually worth when you decide to list your dental practice for sale. Typically, valuation is heavily influenced by the income your practice has brought in over the past three years, leading to the question, how do you value a dental practice in the current climate?

How Valuations Will Likely Be Done in 2020

According to industry experts, the income valuation model, which is widely used in dental practice transitions, will still be used for the foreseeable future although with a few tweaks. This model closely examines your practice’s production, overhead, collections, and more for the previous three years. Right now your practice’s valuation will look at this information, with a special focus on 2019 as that data is most relevant. As we move forward into July 2020 and beyond, experts expect valuators will utilize a post-COVID “snapshot.” What does this mean? Valuators will take your pre-COVID numbers and compare them to your post-COVID numbers, with the goal of reaching 80% of your pre-COVID numbers within a few months of reopening. This goal is indicative of your practice heading toward recovery, which is what potential buyers and lenders want to see. 

What Will Change When You Put Your Dental Practice For Sale in 2020

While it is comforting to know some key aspects of selling your dental practice will stay the same, there are still some things that will change. Most, if not all, dental practices around the country were closed for several weeks. Reopening has come with some important restrictions that require creativity and trust.

Fortunately, your patients and staff are all used to seeing you in a mask and trusting that your instruments are properly sterilized. Still, there are several new cleaning and sterilization procedures you will need to implement in order to keep patients and staff safe. In addition, you will likely see production and collections slow as a result of social distancing. Increased costs related to cleaning procedures combined with the anticipated decrease in collections will result in a very different financial picture if you are not carefully monitoring it.

Remember that the goal of the next few months is not necessarily to return to the way things were in 2019, but to keep your numbers proportional. It is now more critical than ever to be aware of your financials, particularly how all your costs are shifting. If you are planning on putting your dental practice for sale in the near future you need to be highly aware of the way your practice is changing financially. Moving forward, remember to adapt where necessary and do not make assumptions. 

Static Competitive Pressure

One helpful thing to keep in mind as you prepare to make changes to your dental practice is that competitive pressure is mostly static. Around the country dental offices have been shut down for weeks or months, and reopening will require the same type of restrictions across the board. Other dental offices are not stealing your patients while you are closed because they are also closed. In addition, your patients are highly likely to return for their regular treatments as soon as you reopen. Treatment schedules may have been paused momentarily, but not stopped altogether. 

Of course, you should not expect to be back to 100% production within the first few weeks of reopening. Some patients will be wary to return, particularly if they have certain health related risk factors. Many patients have lost their jobs and insurance coverage which may cause them to put their treatments on hold. However, as we stated above, every dentist in your area are in the same position.

Lenders See Dental Practices as a Good Risk

Historically, lenders have seen dental practices as a good risk due to extremely low default rates. According to the lenders we have spoken to, there is no reason to believe this trend would change. Buyers should have the same access to lending as they did pre-COVID. However, the application process will probably be slightly different than it was before. Some lenders will prioritize certain buyers, such as those with a strong record of production or those with a large amount of cash. Lenders may also take more time and pick only the strongest applications resulting in a longer wait time for application processing and a reduced pool of buyers.

On the valuation side, lenders are expected to use the same approach as the business valuation experts outlined above. In order to properly estimate the value of a dental practice for sale, lenders will take a “snapshot” of your post-COVID numbers and compare them to your 2019 pre-COVID numbers. Lenders will primarily examine your production and costs, making sure that your practice is on track and proportional to your 2019 financials. As long as your costs remain proportional and your practice is on track to its 2019 levels of production lenders will likely deem it worth the same now as it was worth in 2019. 

Steps You Can Take Now to Prepare Your Practice

While it may sound counterintuitive, we have seen an increase in potential buyers recently. Rather than shying away from purchasing a dental practice in 2020 many dental associates have decided now is the time to take control of their careers. After the upheaval of the past few months, these associates are realizing the benefits of owning their own business rather than simply being an employee.

Taking the current landscape into consideration, if you are ready to put your dental practice for sale, here are some steps you can take to prepare.

  1. Maintain Flexibility. Keep in mind there are still a lot of uncertainties when it comes to post-COVID dental transitions. Experts can make their best guesses, taking into consideration current and historical data, but the truth is we don’t know exactly how the process will change. We have certainly seen buyers and sellers put their transitions on hold as the pandemic ramped up and now must reassess their deals. The process may take longer than it did in the past, so try not to set expectations in this regard. Deals may need to be restructured to account for increased risk and uncertainty the buyer is taking on. The best thing you can do for your peace of mind is to remain open to every possible scenario.
  2. Gather a Trusted Team. Even pre-COVID, dental transitions were complex, however now more than ever, it is crucial to have a team of dental-specific experts on your side. Before you list your dental practice for sale you must gather a group of trusted advisors. At minimum your team should consist of a dental-specific attorney, CPA and tax professional, and a practice transition specialist. Your team will help you make the most of your time and money, and create a plan that will guide you through the process.
  3. Move Toward Normal. Things may never return to exactly the way they were pre-COVID, but we should still strive to be as close to “normal” as possible. As we have stated repeatedly, getting your production back to 2019 levels with proportional costs is one of the most important things you can do to prepare your practice for sale. Make sure your staff is back, patients know they will be safe in your office, and your community still trusts the care you provide.
  4. Maintain Office Staff. The news is full of reports about unemployment, with nearly every sector affected in some way. Hopefully your office and staff are still operating as usual, but we realize that may not be the case. If you are forced to reduce your staff or their compensation while trying to prepare your dental practice for sale you must consider how this will impact your practice as a whole. Your staff plays a major role in your bottom line and you must have reliable people in place to ensure your office runs smoothly. 
  5. Protect Your Patient Base. As important as reliable staff is, your dental practice could not run without a solid patient base. In fact, your patient base is the core asset of your practice. As stated above, your patients are highly likely to return to their regular treatments as soon as you reopen. However, patient loyalty is not a guarantee and requires a bit of work on your part. As you make changes to your processes, such as extra cleaning and social distancing measures, make sure you communicate them clearly with your patients. Utilize your online presence to announce important changes around the office. Through your website, social media, and additional marketing efforts, educate your patients on the efforts you are making to keep them safe. Consider making a short, friendly video highlighting your new safety protocols, sterilization procedures, and PPE equipment. Share the video to social media, through an email newsletter, and on your website. In addition, your staff should begin calling patients to inform them the office has reopened, what the new safety processes are, and answer any questions your patients may have.
  6. Tap Into Your Creativity. Preparing your dental practice for sale in the post-COVID world will take creativity. Right now most dental practices are seeing limitations on the number of patients they can see a day. In order to accommodate these new rules, and help patients who are worried about missing too much work, we have seen some doctors extend weekday treatment hours or open their offices on the weekend. In addition, doctors are getting creative to help patients who have lost jobs and insurance coverage recently. One option to consider is an in-office dental membership or subscription plan. For a monthly fee patients gain access to certain treatments, such as exams and x-rays. Finally, some doctors are considering how they can make their offices run more efficiently. These doctors are hiring basic wage employees to handle sterilization protocols so higher-cost employees can attend to collections and production.

How  Post-COVID Deal Structures Will Work

Doctors who put their dental practice for sale in a pre-COVID world could reasonably expect a successful transition, as long as they put a little bit of work into it. Whether they wrote a letter to patients explaining the transition, or continued working alongside the new owner for a period of time, there were steps the doctor could take to keep production levels steady. At this point in time it is too early to tell what steps a doctor can take to ease practice transitions, and this uncertainty adds risk to the buyer. Deal structures will have to change to reflect this added risk.

One new deal structure we are already seeing is what is called a “holdback.” A holdback adds extra cushion that protects the buyer in case the practice does not climb back up to its expected production. According to the typical terms of a holdback deal a percentage of the selling price is held back in escrow until the practice reaches certain performance levels. After reaching these benchmarks the money is released to the seller. If you are putting your dental practice for sale in 2020 or beyond be prepared to encounter this type of deal structure and discuss it carefully with your team of advisors.

We’re Here to Help Your Dental Practice Transition

It is never too early to start planning your practice transition. In fact, the earlier you start, the better off your practice will be when it comes time to move on. If you are considering transitioning your dental practice, even if you are four or five years away, talk to one of our dental practice transition specialists. The experts at ddsmatch Southwest offer unmatched experience and professionalism in the industry, meaning your dental practice transition will be as simple as possible.

The past few months have proven to be difficult and stressful for everyone. We understand that you likely have questions and we are working hard to gather all the information you need to feel comfortable with your dental practice transition. Remember that we are here to answer your questions any time, with no obligation. Contact us today to learn more.

Planning for Pandemic Recovery

You may be tired of hearing about how we are living in an unprecedented time, however, there is really no other way to describe it. If you are like most people, you are unsettled about being away from your office, about the structure of your life being upended, and about what you’re going to do once you can get back to your practice. You are worried about your staff and your patients. The fact is that we are all feeling the same way—we are in this together. While we can’t do much about the uncertainty that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.

Even if you aren’t able to work in your business, you can still work on your business. The reality is that the practice of dentistry is going to change—even if only for a time—until we’re certain that our normal routines can be returned to. It’s not too early to be thinking about— and planning for—how you need to adapt to the new landscape.

In thinking about how your practice will need to adapt, there is some good news. First,  dentistry is largely a relationship business. There is a reason that as most of the value of a dental practice is goodwill. If you’re well established in your community, the odds are in your favor that your practice can return to pre-pandemic levels of production (with the exception of cosmetic procedures, which may lag behind general care). It certainly won’t be in the first month or two, but, with patience and ingenuity, you can get there. People are going to want to go to the dentist, especially those who have had to postpone treatment. And given all of the change we’ve experienced, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be looking for a new doctor.

With this in mind, here are some things that you can be doing right now to keep your practice alive and ready to open again.

Stay in contact with your staff. They are your most valuable asset. Be sure that you are speaking with them at least weekly to reassure and update them as to your plans and the status of your practice. Regardless of the status of your practice, you can even keep up weekly office meetings and brainstorm ideas for recovery.

Make sure someone is available to answer your phones. If you have to cut staff, whatever you do, make sure the phone is answered. Always. If there is a chance to lose patients (or a chance to bring in new ones) letting calls go unanswered will encourage them to go elsewhere.

Stay in contact with your patients. People are tired of COVID 19 based marketing emails, so be judicious. Your message should be one of compassion. Let them know you are concerned about their health and safety. Let them know that you are available for emergency procedures, if you offer that. Set up a teledentistry system and let your patients know you are available for treatment that way. The message here is that even if your office isn’t open, you are still available if they need you. Make use of your social media channels to keep these messages out there. Use them to provide education and information about post-COVID dentistry.

Be working on a marketing plan. Keep your finger on the pulse of your community so you can reflect its take on the current situation. People everywhere are frightened, frustrated, uncertain, and, often, unsure of who to trust for accurate information. As a doctor, you are uniquely qualified to provide reliable information. With an empathetic approach, you can use that position to reassure your patients and community. Again, the goal here is not to sell but to communicate compassion and to educate.

As time to reopen draws closer, send an email to your patients describing (perhaps in detail), your sterilization methods and protective measures. Make a few short videos demonstrating the process to include in the email, on your website, and on your social media. Emphasize that your methods are at or above hospital standards.

Consider how your office appears to patients. Walk through the front door and try to imagine their experience. Consider what you might want to change if you are limited in the number of patients you can have in your office at a given time. Think about how you want to present your sterilization procedures. You may want to open sterile packages in front of patients and let them see the cleaning procedures. While it is not necessary that they understand everything, the goal here is reassurance. Help them to feel they are in a safe environment.

Consider opening in stages. For instance, start just with exams. Patients can come into the office for a short, low cost appointment and get used to the new circumstances. This can help them feel more comfortable but also address some issues they may have since they’ve gone without treatment. Then add in cleanings and so on.

Reconsider your pricing. Where you may see some of the biggest change is in the amount of unemployment among your patients. Many of them have lost their jobs. Some will get right back to work again, but not all. There will be both a loss of income and loss of dental insurance. This is something you need to be thinking about as you get ready to open your office again. You may want to consider doing special promotions with discounted exams and cleanings, especially for new patients. You may want to consider a subscription service where you offer a packaged plan of preventive care and offer it to uninsured patients at an affordable price point. You want to make it easy for patients to come in and get treatment.

Also reconsider how you present treatment plans. Instead of presenting everything all at once, you may want to break it down into stages based on importance. You will need to be sensitive to costs to your patients and provide them with flexibility in being able to accept treatment. 

Be flexible in your thinking. There is no question that it will be some time before we are back to business as usual. We’ve offered some suggestions of things you can do but, like everyone else, we are not certain how things will play out. We will all need to be adaptable as circumstances change. And though we may struggle with the unpredictability, that is not a reason to lose hope. Rather, make the most of a unique situation to brainstorm solutions and explore interesting options.

ddsmatch is Here to Help Where We Can

If you have been thinking about selling a dental practice, or buying a dental practice, there is good news there as well. Lenders across the country are echoing what our partners at Blue & Co. are saying about the effect of this crisis on the dental industry—its an interruption of business but not a change to the business. Banks have always been very favorable to dental practice loans because dentists are very good at paying their bills on time. Lenders are anticipating this will still be the case. 

We’ve had a number of doctors reaching out to us during the last several weeks. It is clear that many older dentists are considering moving up their retirement plans rather than deal with the recovery. Also, younger and mid-career dentists are thinking it may be time to leave their dental associateships and go out on their own. If you are curious about your options and want to talk it over, we are here for you, with no obligation. Please feel free to give us a call at 855-546-0044 or message us through our website

COVID-19 Practice Management Resources from the ADA and TAGD

During these uncertain times it can be difficult to know where to turn for information. Many doctors and their staff are wondering what will await us on the other side of the pandemic. While it’s difficult to say, there are some good resources that can help guide you as you make decisions about your dental practice, staff members, and patients. We recommend you take time to review some of the following links.

The ADA has a page dedicated to COVID-19 Practice Resources. It includes links to pages with information about employment and staff issues, security, patient communication, vendors and third party payers, and general practice guidance.

The Texas Academy of General Dentistry has sponsored several free CE webinars about different issues related to COVID-19, including ones on best human resource practices, infection control strategies, and on mitigating the impact of the disease. They have been recorded and made available through the TAGD website

Here at ddsmatch Southwest, we had been looking forward to gathering with many of you at the annual spring events, the Texas Dental Association Meeting (which has been cancelled) and the New Mexico Dental Association Fiesta (which may occur in an online capacity, if feasible). We will miss interacting with you in person, for the time being, and wish you and your loved ones the best during these trying times. Please stay safe and be well.

Tips for a Successful Dental Practice: Read Before Buying a Dental Practice

As you know, not all dental practices are equal. What makes one successful and another not? In this post, we address some general principles to help you understand what you can do to ensure the success of your practice. It’s best if you can understand these principles before buying a dental practice, but they can be of use to you no matter where you are at in your career. 

If all it took to make a dental practice successful was an adequate set of clinical skills and competency, then everyone would be on an even playing field. This is, however, not the case. There are factors outside of the quality of care your training and experience can provide. Perhaps the three of the most important factors are: 

  • Technology: Staying current with dental technology matters. First, it provides your patients with a better experience. Patients respond positively to things like digital imaging and quieter handpieces. Second, it makes you more efficient. The new equipment can cut down your time in procedures, allowing you and your hygienists to increase your production per hour.
  • Business acumen: While you got into dentistry to provide quality care, you can’t accomplish that goal if you can’t stay competitive. Organizing your office in a way to maximize your efficiencies, give quality customer service, and reducing overhead will make sure your practice provides that high quality of care to as many patients as possible.
  • Identity: There is no other dentist like you. Sure, there are dentists that will offer the same services with the same equipment in similar environments. But there is one variable: the doctor. What is it that sets you apart from the other doctors in your area? What, in essence, is your brand? This is what you have that will make you stand out. If you can, it’s best to have identified this before buying a dental practice so you can build your practice around it from day one. 

A Good Doctor Has Good Communication Skills

Everything we do communicates something, whether we mean it to or not. This is why it matters where your office is located, how it appears to new patients, what your signs look like, and where and how you advertise. These are the “first impressions” you give to new patients. And it continues when they walk through the door. Is your waiting room comfortable, clean, and inviting? What is the demeanor of your front desk staff? You want all of this to communicate that your patients are in a caring environment where their interests are being heard and addressed.

Consider how you interact with your patients. Do you actively listen? Active listening means that you closely observe your patients, hearing their words and watching their body language. By paying close attention, you’ll learn more about what they are thinking and feeling, making you better able to understand and respond. Patients who feel seen and heard will appreciate the attentiveness.

Compare active listening to an experience where you were speaking to someone and they were engaged in other tasks, waiting for you to finish talking so they could move on, or, worse, showing disdain for what you were saying. This isn’t someone you want to speak to again. And it wouldn’t be a dentist your patients will want to return to.

If you don’t have these skills, work on them. If you already have a practice, be sure to incorporate these skills and encourage your staff to do the same.

Implement a Management System

Fortunately for you, you’re not the first to run a dental office. It’s been done before and done well. If you’ve had experience working in other offices, consider what worked well and why (and what didn’t and why). If you are buying a dental practice, look closely at how its managed and whether that seems to be working. You don’t need to have all the answers on day one, but you do need to be thinking about things like division of labor among employees, patient flow from making an appointment through checking out after treatment, how to address and resolve employee issues, keeping inventory, and so on.

Some dentists like to be involved in every aspect of practice management. Some prefer to delegate to an office manager. Whichever works for you is fine, but, remember, at the end of the day, it’s your practice so it’s your responsibility. If you have a manager, keep in close communication with them to be aware of what’s happening. 

Create and Use an Online Presence

More and more, our communication is becoming electronic. When people want to know about a dental office, they’ll look at the website, read Google reviews, check out their Facebook page. These are all opportunities for you to communicate what you are and, perhaps more than you think, interact with your patients. 

You can create a patient portal on your website where patients can schedule appointments, see their records or results, and message with you and your staff. Make sure that someone in your office is checking for messages submitted through your website or any of your social media channels and promptly responding. 

Use your website, Facebook page, and social media channels to highlight what sets your practice apart. Highlight your services and products and your staff members. Have a page with your picture and bio, include a little personal information. Let your patients know you are a real person, not just a doctor behind a mask. 

For more on how to use social media to promote your practice, check out our article on this topic.

Have a Marketing Plan

It’s not enough to put up a sign, pay for advertising on the local baseball diamond’s back fence, and sponsor a float in your town’s Fourth of July parade (although you should do all of those things). Marketing requires a strategic effort in which you consider what patients you want to attract and how to best communicate with them. What works will vary from market to market, however, in the 21st century, this is increasingly electronic. This means the online efforts described above along with email and coordinated social media efforts. For more on this, check out our recent post on marketing.

Pay Attention to the Details

There are a million details to keep track of and instead of listing them all, we’ll discuss an example: inventory. Who is in charge of inventory? Who is tracking use of supplies, what is remaining, what needs to be ordered, and how soon? Do you know how quickly you go through your supplies, meaning, do you know when you need to reorder so you don’t run out? You don’t want to find out the answer to that question when you are in the middle of a procedure and it’s too late. Carefully consider the details required to have a smooth running day in the office, make a list, and then think through how those details are managed in your office. Look for where you can be more efficient.

Consider a Flexible Financial Options

This one might not work for every practice, but, if you are considering buying a dental practice, you should think carefully about the pros and cons of flexible financial options.

One thing is that not every office offers these options. That is something that can set you apart. Another thing is that the flexibility gives patients a reason to accept treatment. The more reasons they have to accept, the more frequently they will accept. It encourages patients to accept more expensive treatment plans that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. This means you get to capture those patient’s business and they get the care they need. 

Remember what we said in the beginning: a major factor in your success will be dependent on what sets you apart. Your unique qualities—as both a person and a doctor—should be baked into your practice’s brand. You are giving your patients a reason to choose you. Most likely there are other doctors in your area that offer the same services and products with a comparable level of skill and experience. It’s your unique personality and perspective that will set you apart. It will resonate with patients. Leverage it.

Considering Buying a Dental Practice?

If you are considering buying a dental practice in Texas or New Mexico, ddsmatch Southwest has practices available. Review our listings here. At ddsmatch, we believe a good match is one where both doctors walk away happy with the deal. We work closely with our seller clients and potential buyers to find the right doctor to build on the success of our clients. If you are interested in any listings you see on our site or would like more information, contact us today—it starts with a conversation.