Dentists – What to Know Before You Accept an Associate Position

Finding a new associate position can be a daunting process for both new and experienced dentists. While making a good impression on an interview is important, it is equally important to learn as much as possible about the practice. Here is a compilation of questions from job seekers who I have worked with over the years. I hope that this list will make the decision process less intimidating.


  • Employee or Independent Contractor?
  • Employee at will?
  • Is the doctor open to restrictive covenant in case of future ownership?
  • Is the doctor going to stay on PT for some time or can he, if needed (After purchase)?

Type of Practice

  • How the practice is set up (family, Pedo, or dentures)? Pedo: what age?
  • Age of the practice?
  • When/what do you refer out?
  • Place or Restore Implants? Which system?
  • # of operatories
  • # of Hygienists. Hrs of operation?
  • # assistants
  • Will the associate have their own assistant?
  • How much is the practice overhead?
  • How long has each employee been there?
  • What does the practice do to market itself?
  • How many FT and PT staff?


  • What is the patient pool like?
  • Have the number of active patient records been reviewed?
  • Is the practice growing or declining in number of patients seen, new patients attracted, and young patients?
  • Average number of cancellations per week?
  • Average number of patients seen by associate per day?
  • How far ahead is the doctor book filled?
  • How far ahead is the associate book filled?
  • How far ahead is the hygienist’s book filled?
  • Discounts/Bartering/payment plans?
  • PPO type of insurance? Insurances: accept all kinds or just selected ones?
  • How much is the discounted price of the PPO compared to the fee schedule?
  • Medicare or Medicaid acceptance?
  • How much of the practice relies upon capitation programs, PPOs, HMOs, Medicare or Medicaid?
  • What percent is FFS, cash and discounted PPO?
  • When was the last fee increase?
  • Are the fees low, high or average for the immediate area?
  • Do you offer patients credit?


  • Days, hours, on call, etc.
  • How many office hours and days per week is the office open?


  • Job description (separate document) or general description
  • Is the associate expected to check hygiene of other doctor’s patients? If yes, will the associate be compensated for it?
  • Will the associate be expected to perform hygiene/prophy?
  • Does the doctor do any procedures other than regular general dentistry?
  • What were the most of the cases being done by the associate?
  • Will the associate be placing Implants for the practice?


  • Supplies, equipment, support. Etc
  • What type of PMS (Software) is used?
  • Implant surgical set up? Who finances to get that set up if NOT already in place?
  • What is the square footage of the office? Can it be expanded?
  • Average age of equipment?
  • Is the practice left-handed, right-handed, or ambidextrous?
  • Do you have a confirmation system for appointments?
  • How do you deal with NO Show?
  • Digital X-ray?
  • Intraoral Digital Camera?

Term of contract

    • How long?
    • What is the required notice period should either party wish to terminate the relationship?


      • Is there a guaranteed salary, draw, daily rate or hourly rate?
      • Is commission determined from collections or production?
      • If collections, what is the collections rate in the practice?
      • What percentage of production/collections is used to calculate income?
      • Is there a chance to increase compensation in the future?
      • Is the associate responsible for my own lab fees and expenses?
      • Taxes withheld?
      • How will the associate be paid? (Weekly/bi-weekly/monthly)
      • How much on average was the last associate making?
      • What was the average associate production per day?
      • Does the associate production include hygiene exams and x-rays?
      • Can I get a fee schedule of the practice?


      • Medical Insurance: health and dental?
      • Malpractice insurance?
      • Disabilities insurance?
      • Required CE courses? How much and for how many hours a year? Are they paid for/reimbursed? Is there a stipend?
      • Retirement?
      • Sick days – # allow per yr
      • Personal days/vacations – # per yr allow
      • Holidays?
      • What benefits are given to the staff?


      • Define, list, when paid, lab, etc.
      • What Lab do you use? Use different lab for different lab orders?
      • Will the practice support the acquisition loan (in case of future ownership), pay the overhead expenses and can afford a reasonable income?

Other Questions and Notes

      • What is your practice Philosophy and Goals? For the Practice and with new pt’s tx?
      • % of implant surgeries
      • Have you had associate before? How many? How long they stayed? What was the reason for the associate resignation?
      • How do you advertise?
      • Will most dental insurance dictate pt’s Tx plan??
      • Do you deal a lot with EMERGENCY pt? Separate operatories for that?
      • Average number of emergencies per week?
      • Will I be doing hygiene/prophy when I don’t have pt?
      • Who determines how long I have when spending with new pt/initial exam and record?
      • Do I have a separate apt to do comprehensive exams and record, or do I perform the TP when pt comes in for cleaning?
      • How long does a hygienist spend on their recalls?
      • Is there a particular doctor in the area who is your main competitor?
      • Who sees the patient first (Doctor, hygienist, associate)?
      • Why was the partnership offer turned down by an associate (if applicable)?
      • Will I be able to visit the office during regular working hours?
      • Does the doctor have a report showing how much treatment is treatment planned?

Partnership/Buy in/Sale

      • Discussion/Formula/Price
      • What is the time frame for an associate position before we can talk about partnership/buy in/buy out?
      • Is there an option for future ownership? Are you considering a move out of state?

Restrictive Covenant

      • Define

Posted by Morgan Pace

Morgan Pace is the Southeastern U.S. Account Executive and Senior Recruiter for ETS Dental. He can be reached at or 540-491-9102. ETS Dental is a Dental Recruiting firm specializing in finding and placing General Dentists, Dental Specialists, and Dental Staff throughout the United States.


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