The Basics Needed to Start an Orthodontic Practice

If you’ve been looking to establish a new orthodontic practice, taking the initial steps can be intimidating. There are several questions you can ask yourself to determine if you should start an orthodontic practice and how to make key decisions that will shape your future success. By focusing on these core components, you will feel more confident to take the plunge and start (or buy an existing) dental practice. 

Should I open my own orthodontic practice or buy an existing one?

The first question you should ask when considering starting your own orthodontic practice is if you should open your own practice or buy an existing one. There are advantages and disadvantages to both:

Advantages of buying an existing practice:

  1. Established client base: When you purchase an existing practice, you will likely inherit their existing patient base. If you continue to offer similar, or even superior, services and care, your patients will be more inclined to stay with you than leave for a new practice.
  2. Experienced staff: In addition to inheriting the client base, you may also inherit the staff, which plays a critical role in the practice’s success. The team will have experience in the field, know the clients, and understand the processes for running the practice like a well-oiled machine. They will also have knowledge and expertise in understanding the unique circumstances of your practice and know how to handle any issues that arise.
  3. Known profit and loss: Another tremendous benefit to purchasing an existing practice is being able to review their profit and loss statements prior to investing. While the exact numbers will vary annually, you will be able to make an educated estimate of what your profit will be after you buy the practice. Having historic profit and loss statements will also increase the odds for loan approval.
  4. Quicker profit: It’s probable that the practice will make a profit the first year you own the business since there is an existing client base. This is not the case with starting your own practice from scratch, as it can take at least two years to become profitable.

Advantages of buying your own practice:

  1. Marketing: You can shape the visual story and image of your practice through your marketing campaign. You may find it helpful to hire a marketing agency to help you with all aspects of effectively marketing your practice, including website design, SEO, social media, graphic design, and video production. If you buy an existing practice, the former orthodontist’s reputation may come with the deal. This can be a detriment if their reputation is less than stellar. With building your own practice, you can also build your own reputation through a strong marketing strategy.
  2. Control: You will get to make all the decisions, including your business location, name, design, layout, technology, staff, and equipment. In hiring your own staff, you will have an opportunity to hand select the candidates that are best equipped to carry forward your vision. The new staff will have an opportunity to form a dynamic together as the practice opens and begins to operate. This eliminates the possibility of a challenge with existing staff dynamics.
  3. Processes: You will have an opportunity to establish your own processes and business practices. Having the ability to influence how things are done, not only tactically, but through the technology, will make you feel more informed on how your business runs.
  4. Learning: Sometimes there is no better way to learn than going out and experiencing something for yourself. Starting your own practice allows you to learn important lessons that can shape your work and lead to substantial long-term success.

Where should my orthodontic practice be located? 

Location is an essential factor when deciding when and where to establish your practice. When searching for an ideal office location, there should be balanced consideration into the cost per square foot, proximity to public transit and other desirable businesses, parking restrictions, and the overall accessibility of the area.

How do I hire qualified staff?

Having an experienced team of health professionals and administrative staff is vital to a successful orthodontic practice. Business owners should take the time necessary to vet and interview all candidates thoroughly. For smaller practices, it’s critical to recruit staff members who are looking for longer-term employment, giving the business the resources it needs to build momentum. Of course, as mentioned earlier, if you buy an existing practice, the stress of hiring, training, and onboarding new staff is eliminated.

How do I build my client base?

It may sound like a no-brainer, but every successful practice needs patients to serve. When new businesses look for the best ways to source new clients, family referrals, local advertising and digital marketing efforts can be a great way to build awareness of their services. Make sure to leverage a strong marketing strategy to spread the word about your practice to your client base.

What equipment should I choose?

Every healthcare practice has the need for specialized equipment to run efficiently, and this is especially the case for orthodontics. Tradeshows and commercial medical supply companies are a great way to test equipment and source the needs of your business. You should also ensure the equipment you source will be suitable for the size of your office and workspaces.

What software should I use?

It’s essential that your business has the right tools and software to run efficiently. CRM (customer relationship management) tools and advanced calendar scheduling software will help business professionals stay on task and keep a steady stream of patients in the office.

How do I choose the right healthcare products?

There will be a need for a variety of healthcare products to support the needs of your patients. Dental cleaning supplies, sterilization products, and other medical essentials should be adequately sourced and kept on hand at all times.

What office furniture should I choose?

Other than specialized medical chairs and benches, a busy practice will also need regular office furniture for reception and waiting areas. Investing in quality office chairs will ensure staff members and patients remain comfortable while keeping areas clear from unnecessary walking traffic.

Should I hire a commercial supply company?

All offices should be stocked with more than enough supplies to manage the business properly. For many companies, it can be extremely beneficial to hire commercial supply companies to schedule regular visits and restock deliveries to ensure all staff members have what they need to do their jobs successfully.

What utilities do I need?

For business owners, especially in the healthcare industry, managing utilities in a new office space can be a challenge. It’s essential therefore to have a list of all the equipment needs in your building to ensure you have proper water and electrical sources for them to function correctly. Building contractors and commercial landlords will be able to assist in this effort.

What insurance do I need?

Dental providers need to have several types of insurance to cover a wide variety of scenarios that come with business ownership. A Business Owners’ policy typically includes policies that cover the four main categories of business ownership: property, general liability, business interruption, and employment practices liability insurance. You may also want to purchase entity malpractice Insurance, which is different from personal malpractice. Entity malpractice covers claims made against the practice while personal malpractice covers claims made against you. Contact your local insurance office for more information on the types of insurance you will need.

Starting an orthodontic practice can be an exciting and rewarding new business venture. By following this checklist and ensuring you have the tools and equipment to operate, you’ll better position your company for success and have a thriving future.

Ortho Sales Engine specializes in marketing solutions for orthodontists, combines more than 20 in-house services to create customized, repeatable marketing systems, and serves as a trusted partner to doctors and their teams. To learn more or schedule a free consultation, visit