2024 Dental School Graduates Should Look to Group Dental Practices for Future Career Satisfaction

dental school graduates

Attracting the next generation of skilled dental clinicians this graduation season is critical to both new graduates forging their future paths as well as the success of group dental practices. It’s expected that around 7,000 bright and enthusiastic new clinicians could be joining the workforce this spring. Recruiting them to be a part of a group dental practice offers a range of benefits, including long-term stability clinically, continuity for patients, and enables practices to grow alongside their communities, while creating a path toward practice ownership for the best and brightest new dentists.

In today’s competitive market, the best dental students will have their choice of options. Here’s how group dental practices can stand out from the rest to recruit and retain new clinicians.

Create certainty

New dental school graduates are estimated to have $294,000 in debt, according to the latest data. A high debt load combined with an unclear career path pushes most young recruits to look for not only a secure compensation plan, but also a stable organization where they can continue to grow and develop. As a group practice, focus on offering a clearly defined compensation plan that demonstrates where you are most competitive and makes it easy for candidates to weigh compensation opportunities as part of the overall recruitment package.

Most young dentists want to know that they will continue to be valued and have ample opportunities to grow. This investment in their career can be demonstrated early on through an onboarding plan that defines their first 12-16 weeks on the job. This onboarding plan should include their role on the team, an overview of organizational processes, who and how their mentor will foster their development, and more.

This development should ideally work in lockstep with a clinical development plan that outlines their first 2-3 years with your organization. Ambitious individuals want to understand how they can cultivate their skill set and envision the potential outcomes of investing in training, whether in terms of time commitment or financial resources. This can include in-house training sessions, seminars, webinars, and conferences. It may also reflect access to experienced clinicians who can provide guidance on complex cases and help new dentists improve their clinical skills. Encouraging dentists to pursue additional certifications and specializations can also help them grow professionally and benefit the practice and its patients.

Put your cards on the table

Group practices should prioritize clarity by defining and articulating their core values. By consistently communicating these values from the outset, you can ensure that associates understand what is expected of them and are committed to upholding these values in their daily work. This alignment benefits both patients and the practice by fostering a cohesive environment.

According to Dr. Jason Tanoory, owner of Finger Lakes Dental Care, a seven-practice enterprise, ensuring there is value alignment is critical for streamlined growth. “Other group owners should continue to prioritize vetting and selecting associates that already embody the values and motivation desired by the practice.”

A key extension of these values are concrete guidelines around effective patient communication and services, ensuring that excellent customer service is not compromised in the process of growing a group practice. This clarity will help new clinicians be most successful in their new roles.

Group dental practices thrive on collaboration and teamwork. New dentists should be encouraged to work closely with other team members, including dental assistants, hygienists, and administrative staff, to provide comprehensive care to patients.

At Finger Lakes Dental Care, all associates receive regular check-ins, meetings, and one-on-ones contribute to ongoing associate alignment with the practice’s culture, values, and clinical systems. “The cumulative advantages derived from a win-win equity model and supportive systems have helped maximize commitment and productivity across our locations,” said Dr. Tanoory.

Co-plan for the future

As part of their selection process, potential recruits want to know that they are joining a well-regarded, successful practice. After all, most ambitious professionals want to be part of a winning team. This requires a clear articulation of your vision. You should not only talk about where the business will be in the next three to five years, but also how they will be a part of that future.

This may include some insights on how they might join you on the path to ownership. With many dentists being entrepreneurs at heart with a desire to be a business owner, having this conversation up-front will set you both on a path for success. Just as they want to have a stake in the future they’re helping create, you’ll similarly benefit from coming prepared with a structure that facilitates them earning in or buying into your business. Consider giving your new recruit an overview of different types of ownership options, emphasizing that not all approaches require cash up front or require owners to give up large amounts of equity, like restricted stock units.

As we welcome 2024 graduates to the dental workforce, group dental practices have an incredible opportunity to strengthen their practices, futures, and create win-win partnership with the next generation of experts. By investing in the training and development of new dentists and communication clearly and often, group practices can ensure that they are well-equipped to provide high-quality care to their patients and contribute to the success of the practice.

Perrin DesPortes, cofounder of Polaris Healthcare PartnersWritten by Perrin DesPortes, cofounder of Polaris Healthcare Partners. Perrin heads the strategic consulting and M&A advisory firm that helps group dental practice owners and clinicians unlock potential and create generational wealth. Perrin brings more than 25 years of experience in the business side of dentistry, having started as a fourth-generation family member of Thompson Dental Company, then as a general manager for 15 years with Patterson Dental Supply. For more information, visit polarishealthcarepartners.com.