Dental Associates vs. Hygienists: Who’s More Profitable?

Examine the Bottom Line When Considering a Hygienist and/or Associate
Editorial by Jim Du Molin

Have you ever wondered what your real profit is on your hygienists or dental associates? Have you ever wondered whether a hygienist can be more profitable to you than an associate? If you have an extra operatory available, would it be more profitable to hire a dental associate or another hygienist?

In last week’s column, I explained how you can earn a profit of $493 per day from a hygienist who produces $962. How much would an associate have to produce to yield the same profit? Here again, the Comparative Value Analysis is helpful.

Comparative Value of One Day’s Production

Provider: — Hygienists — Associate
Mary Tim Goal Equiv.
(Commission) (Salary) (Per op)
Production $700 $700 $962 $1,176
Collections (96%) 672 672 924 1,129
Less…variable costs (9%) – 63 – 63 – 87 – 106
…commission (41%) – 288 n/a – 482
…salary n/a – 288 – 313 n/a
…employer taxes (10%) – 29 – 29 – 31 – 48
Profit $292 $292 $493 $493

Let’s assume that you would pay the dental associate 41% of his or her production. (In reality, we normally recommend that the associate be paid a percentage of his collections. However, we will keep things simple here.)

Further assume that the associate would pay his or her own lab fees and assistant, and that you would not have to add any front desk staff to handle the associate’s patients and scheduling.

Your net profit rate on the associate would be as follows:

Net Profit Rate on Associate

Collections 96%
Less: variable costs – 9%
Less: commission – 41%
Less: payroll taxes – 10%
Profit 36%

The associate would have to produce $1,176 per operatory used to give you the same profit as a hygienist. If the dental associate used two operatories, he or she would have to produce $2,352 per day to be as profitable as hygiene would be in those same operatories.

In our experience, it is easier to bring hygiene production up to $960 per day than it is to find a dental associate capable of consistently producing $1,176 in each operatory, or $2,352 in two operatories. Also, the associate must have a sufficient flow of patients to make this production level possible.

When structuring both hygiene and associate compensation, we advise that you compare what the hygienist or associate is earning on the relationship, compared to what the senior dentist is earning. The relative compensation levels should reflect a fair distribution based on the parties’ investments of time, energy, and financial risk.

For help in increasing hygiene production, a key element to increasing doctor profitability, contact J.P. Consultants or Advance Hygiene Concepts.

Dental Management: Dentists Prefer Owning to Being a Dental Associate (video)

Dentists prefer boss to dental associateOne dentist in four prefers to be a dental associate, but three-quarters of dentists would rather be in charge, this survey found.

“I didn’t go to dental school for four years to be somebody’s employee!” declared one dentist.

“What if you could have both?” asked another. “Have your own business, be your own boss, and have a professional dental management company do all the business/marketing, etc., so you could focus on dentistry?” (Indeed, dental management consulting can make a dentist’s job a lot easier!)

Read more: Dental Associate vs Owning a Dental Practice

Dentist Satisfaction with Dental Associates

Dentists' satisfaction with dental associatesMany dentists have been left unsatisfied by their dental associates, this survey found. Of the dentists who have had associate dentists (71% of respondents), 31% have been mostly satisfied, 46% have been partly satisfied, and 23% have been left unsatisfied.

“The associate in my practice expected a six figure income without having to WORK for it!” complained one dentist.

Here are some additional comments from dentists:

  • “Associates never or rarely cover their expenses.” (General dentist)
  • “I hired the wife of a friend. Big mistake! She thought practicing dentistry was like going to a country club.  We start at 8 am and go to 5 pm. She would get to the office by 10 am and sometimes 10:30 am, see one patient, go out for a long lunch and shopping, maybe come back and see a 2 pm patient, and leave us with no help when we needed it.” (Illinois dentist)
  • Dental graduates have the impression that they should demand a salary that is well beyond their ability to produce it.” (Florida dentist)
  • “Associateships should be exclusively for dentists who are ready to leave a practice, not for dentists who are mid-career.” (North Carolina dentist)
  • “Don’t add an associate unless you are already too busy to handle all of the appointments that are scheduled and your schedule is currently overbooked.” (General dentist)
  • “Neither of my two past associates provided restorative dental treatment up to my standards.” (Connecticut prosthodontist)

Read more: Dental Associate Satisfaction Among Dentists

Dental Associates Can Lead to Disaster and Financial Ruin

Dental Associates Can Lead to Disaster and Financial Ruin (video)Having the right dental associate relationship can ease a dentist’s workload considerably and help add to the bottom line, but the wrong dental associate can lead to disaster and financial ruin.

Many dentists have been left unsatisfied by their dental associates, a The Wealthy Dentist survey found. Of the dentists who have had associate dentists two thirds of the respondents said they have had serious trouble with a dental associate in the past.

Complained one dentist: “My associate sexually harassed an assistant and did not deny it! Horrible experience.” Another advised, “Have everything, every detail, spelled out in a contract.”

Specialists were slightly more likely than general dentists to have had negative experiences with dental associates.

One dentist complained, “Associate DDS developed a relationship with an office employee. Associate resigned and opened a practice nearby taking two employees with him along with contact information for patients. Divorces followed and DDS is now married to the office employee. Lawsuit was settled out of court. The whole ‘affair’ was a nightmare.”

To hear more of what dentists had to say about their experiences with  dental associates, Click on Play to watch the following video–

What has been your experience with dental associates?

Dentists: Consider Dental Associate Relationships Very Carefully (video)

Consider Dental Associate Relationships Very CarefullyA dental associate business relationship is a long-term relationship that can be either mutually profitable or ill-fated. It is not a relationship dentists can afford to consider carelessly.

Having the right dental associate relationship can ease a dentist’s workload considerably and help add to the bottom line, but the wrong dental associate can lead to disaster and financial ruin.

The Wealthy Dentist conducted a survey asking dentists if they have had bad experiences with dental associates.

One dentist summed up his dental associate disaster as, “Greedy. Dishonest. Stole patients. Stole leases.”

Some dentists love their dental associates, while other dentists hate them. Click on Play to hear what the remaining dentists in our survey had to say about dental associates

What has been your experience with dental associates?


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