Practice Ownership: Dental Buildout vs. Buying [Part 2]

Expert Advice From Dental Whale Practice Management Focus Area Leader Dr. Steven Wingfield

Practice ownership is always a subject that crosses the mind of every dentist. In fact, dentists are more likely to go into private practice, more so than any other medical professionals. 

practice ownership

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), in 2017, around 77 percent of all dentists owned their own practice. 

While this number fluctuates from year to year, it’s evident that dentists wanting to become owner-dentists typically decide between building or buying their own practice.

In Part 1 of buy versus build, I explained the difference between dental startups and acquisitions. However, since these are both such complex topics and undertakings, I thought it’d be best to speak to an expert.  

That’s why I reached out to a practicing dentist, Steven Wingfield, who’s also Dental Whale’s practice management focus area leader since he specializes in practice ownership.

Choosing Between a Dental Startup and Practice Acquisition

To begin our interview, I asked Dr. Wingfield to share some much-needed advice for dentists who are considering going down the path of practice ownership. 

He confidently said: “Aspiring practice-owner dentists have a very important decision to make,  do I buy an existing practice or do a startup practice?” 

“Entrepreneurship does afford dentists the freedom of being their own boss, but also takes a lot to continually work on and build their brand,” he explained.          

While there are more components to figuring out which option is best for you (and we’ll get into that), ultimately, you have to figure out if it makes more sense to buy an existing practice or build one from the ground up. 

The best way to do that is to ask yourself if you’d be more at peace creating your dream practice from scratch? 

Or, if you’d prefer everything being set up already, and simply fixing issues or making improvements to optimize your practice?

Whichever option you choose, you must realize that each undertaking has its own set of unknowns. It just boils down to which you’re more comfortable with.

Echoing the same sentiment, Dr. Wingfield said: “Making the right decision for you is personal and will depend on your financial situation and your needs. By carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages of each position, you significantly improve your odds of making the choice that’s right for you, and your future practice.” 

When to Build a Dental Practice from Scratch

If you answered the question above by saying you enjoy creating, then you’ll most likely enjoy practice ownership through a dental startup.

Oftentimes, dentists choose this option because they want to start a dental practice, built on their personal vision, instead of shaping someone else’s vision into what they want.

Dr. Wingfield said, “Other benefits of a startup or denovo practice include a specially-tailored floor plan designed for efficiency, pre-chosen patient demographics, new technology, and a lease agreement negotiated on your terms.” 

In addition to those benefits, Dr. Wingfield says that “some dentists prefer to develop their own business processes and operational systems,” which is hard to do if you take the practice acquisition route.

When to Buy an Existing Dental Practice

If you like fixer uppers or developing efficiencies, then you’ll find more satisfaction through practice acquisition.

This is the best option to take if you’re looking for “immediate cash flow,” says Dr. Wingfield. However, he states, that’s only in the case of purchasing a profitable practice

He said, “If you purchase a dental practice that’s failing, the task of turning it around may take longer, but it’s still possible to turn a failing practice into a money-making practice.” This particular scenario is better for experienced, entrepreneurial dentists and DSOs he exclaimed.   

Additional benefits of practice acquisition include, but are not limited to, inheriting an existing patient base and staff, having systems already in place, and incurring less debt than a startup. Though, “startups done the right way, don’t always lead to debt,” shared Dr. Wingfield.

Practice Management Seminars Help Dentists Succeed

To Dr. Wingfield’s point, “Whether you choose to start a new practice from scratch or purchase an existing practice, setting out on your own for the first time is an adventure and you will learn valuable lessons along the way.” 

As a dentist, one of the best ways to understand the ins and outs of practice management is to learn from the experts. 

Why be guided by trial and error when you can bypass most inherent risks of dental startups and practice acquisition? 

To that point, leading industry experts and Dental Whale partners are hosting seminars on this very topic the first half of 2021! Check out the top three below, and click on the link to learn more.

  1. Buy vs. Build Webinar: a live and exclusive online event.
    • March 17
  2. Advanced Startup Seminar: an in-person event taking place in San Antonio, TX. 
    • Feb. 22-23
    • April 12-13 
    • May 20-21 
  3. Practice Acquisition Seminar: a pre-recorded, online event with unlimited access. 
    • Register anytime

Whatever you decide, buy or build your dental practice, make sure to gain some sort of expert insight. Given that both undertakings are full of intricacies, your best chance of success is to approach the task with a proven blueprint.

To learn more about dental startups and practice acquisition, visit