Are You Ready to Hire a Dental Associate? 6 Metrics to Consider

April 22, 2021

At a Glance:

  • New Year, New Team Member: There are many benefits to hiring a dental associate to your team, from higher production rates to more support and flexibility.
  • Are You Ready? There are six metrics you should consider to determine if your practice is ready to accommodate another team member at this stage.
  • Preparation is Key: If you’re ready to hire an associate to your team or want to start the planning process, contact Aprio’s National Dental Practice today.

The full story:

Are you considering hiring a dental associate for your practice? The benefits of having extra hands are endless: increased production and patient support during paid-time-off periods are just two of many.

However, there are risks associated with bringing a new person onto your team, and there are several factors to evaluate to determine if it’s the right move for your practice. Here are six metrics to review before you make this decision:

Patient spend

Before you can hire an associate onto your team, you first need to understand your individual patient spend. If your individual patient spend isn’t meeting the appropriate benchmarks (roughly $X spent per patient for an average dental practice), then you need to strategize ways to increase those numbers. Introducing more innovative procedures or diagnoses, outside of the realm of traditional oral care, can help you reach the appropriate threshold to warrant hiring an extra doctor.

Office production

Production levels in your office will help determine if you’re ready to hire an associate doctor. This metric varies by market, but you can consider consistent per-month production around $140,000 or higher as a benchmark for adding an associate to your practice. You should also consider your treatment room production. In terms of benchmarks, look for roughly $25,000–$30,000 in production per room, which signals you’re hitting your production capacity.


In the past, many local and community dental practices embraced traditional marketing avenues to help build their patient base — think print mailers or billboard advertisements, among other examples. However, the problem with traditional marketing is that it’s extremely difficult to quantify the ROI from those efforts.

On the other hand, referrals can give you a strong sense of how your patient base perceives your services. You should aim for a 40%–50% referral rate (or higher, if possible); this means that it’s costing you less to bring in new patients, and you are still providing quality service to your existing patients. More referrals mean more patients in the door, which can fill your associate’s schedule.

Capital sufficiency

Cash flow is a major consideration in the decision to add an associate to your practice. Keep in mind that an associate does not generate cash on day one; therefore, you need to be prepared to cover that additional cost for your practice.

From a financial perspective, plan on covering your associate’s salary until they are producing enough to cover their costs. You should also consider additional costs such as benefits, larger supply orders and more.

Physical space

If you feel confident in your ability to hire an associate, there is one remaining factor you should consider: physical space.

Is it feasible for two doctors to work in your office? For two-doctor practices, the ideal setup is five doctor chairs (two for each doctor and one shared space), plus four hygiene chairs (again, two for each doctor). With that said, a nine-chair setup isn’t always possible due to size or location restraints. If that’s the case for you, consider alternative options, such as scheduling split-shifts, increasing your office hours or alternating doctor workdays.

The bottom line

As you review the metrics above, don’t be discouraged if you feel your practice isn’t strong enough in one area. Instead, think of this article as a guide you can use to build your practice and prepare it to hire an associate in the future.

Like most goals related to your business, preparation is key. The more time you devote to the planning process, the greater your chances of developing a strong working relationship with your future associate and creating more success for your practice.

On that note, one of the most important aspects of hiring a new associate is developing a written plan that outlines all aspects of how they will join the practice. Spend time with your Aprio Dental advisor to prepare the written plan and ensure all your bases are covered. Planning for the associate’s arrival, as well as your desired outcome for their first year with your practice, will help guarantee success.

Related Resources

If you’re ready to hire an associate to your team or want to start the planning process, contact Aprio’s National Dental Practice today.

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About the Author

Brad McKeiver

As partner-in-charge of Aprio’s National Dental Industry Practice, Brad McKeiver arms dentists with real-time financial data about their practices. He has helped numerous dental practitioners make informed business decisions that focus on driving increased practice profitability, growth and value.