Buying an Existing Dental Practice versus Starting from Scratch

Rhode Island cityscape

If only the decision to buy a dental practice were so simple. Aside from deciding on the type of transition you want to engage in, the literal million-dollar question is whether to buy an existing practice or start from scratch. Both options have their pros and cons specific to your financial and personal situation. Here are some considerations to take into account before making the leap.


Starting any business from the ground up will ultimately take more time than taking on a previously existing practice. However, if time allows, you can design and customize the practice to represent you personally and professionally based on your vision, including a floor plan that allows for increased productivity and efficiency, as well as determining rather than inheriting the culture within the practice. But if making money is your first priority, then a dentist who purchased an established practice will make more money within the first few years than one that is started from scratch.

New versus used

While it may seem fun to pick out all new equipment, it will, of course, come with a price tag. But used equipment can prove to be costly, too. Consider that equipment and technology might be outdated and in need of a little sweat equity to get the office up and running in terms of software and even aesthetics. However, with a new practice, time must be spent negotiating pricing for equipment and construction based on national pricing.

The numbers

Any new business venture requires a significant amount of number crunching. With a new business, debt commonly ranges from $500K to $1 million with profitability projected between six and nine months, plus an attrition rate between 15% and 20%, compared to an existing practice in which you can expect a profit from day one but an expected 7% to 10% of the existing patient base to leave after the transition.

Location and demographics

Just because you opened the practice of your dreams, doesn’t mean patients will automatically come in the doors. However, when you choose the location of your practice based on precise demographic data, the right location will expedite that growth. Starting a dental practice from scratch in the location of your choice will ensure pre-chosen patient demographics are in your favor, while having an established patient base with proven market potential means you won’t need to spend much on bringing new patients in the door.


With a new dental practice, factor in the time spent implementing and executing training for all employees, as well as interviewing and assembling a complete list of vendors. Along the same lines, a new practice requires time and money to market yourself and the practice, as well as a forecast and plan for your growth strategy.


All things considered when buying an existing dental practice, make sure you have a proper third-party valuation prior to purchase so you know what you’re getting into, including “goodwill.” If starting from scratch is not an option for you financially or personally, it doesn’t mean any existing practice is the right one.

What’s next?

Read more about the transition options available in the “Transitions: Your Next Adventure Awaits” e-book, then contact the experts at Professional Transition Strategies to determine which option best suits your needs.