How to add an Associate to your Practice…and be Profitable from Day 1!

By Tonya Burns

So often, I hear Dentists ask if they can add an associate or do they have enough patients for an associate.  The better question is, what do you intend an associate to do for you?  The bottom line is, yes, you can always add an associate.  But does adding an additional provider make sense, in your goal and vision for your practice and your career?

In dentistry, there is a culture of act first and measure later or act first and hope for the best.  What is missing is that proactive approach of, what do I truly need.  If we are being honest, adding another dentist to your team isn’t always about increasing production.  Many times, it is about giving you a life outside of the practice or the freedom to follow another dream you have always had for your talents.  Whether you want to make more money, help more people or give yourself more balance in life, having a clear vision is necessary to make adding an associate successful.  The second part is you must measure your current reality and the growth going forward.  Or for some of you, the roller coaster ride you are about to embark on.

What things to measure is the key to all of this.  KPI’s or Key Practice Indicators are a great place to start.  There are many sources for this information available to you or you can build or utilize a spreadsheet.  It does not matter how you get the information, only that you have information consistently that is accurate.  Some KPI’s are:  Active Patient Base, Production Per Visit, Hygiene Pre-Appointment, Cancellations/No Show Appointments, Treatment Case Acceptance and so on.  Let’s break this down to what is going to help you the most.

If your goal is to add an associate because you are too busy, you need to look at your Active Patient Base.  Most General Dentists have an 1800-2000 Active Patient Base.  Most Pediatric Dentists have 5,000-6500 Active Patient Base. This is for a single provider working 4 days a week with two columns of hygiene. If you are evaluating adding an associate, so you can increase revenue, the Active Patient Base will be important for retention, but your New Patient and Treatment Case Acceptance numbers are going to very important.  Do you have enough new treatment coming into your practice to support a new dentist having dentistry to do?  If you are adding an associate because you want to cut back your hours, then all the KPI’s are relevant.  Dentists who want to cut back are typically not as strict with guidelines to keep patients in the schedule, because they don’t want to “work that hard” anyway.

Regardless of reason to add an associate, the process is very similar.  You need to have a schedule for them to be productive from day 1.  How do you make that happen?  You plan for a transition more than 8 months in advance.  You need time to ghost schedule hygiene, set the expectation for the patients and your team and advertise that you are going to have more options for your patients in the future.  The success is making your patients believe that this is in their best interest, not in yours.

Overall, if you want to have success in adding an Associate and being profitable from day 1, you would be wise to search for outside help.  Adding a coach or consultant to your team to help make the necessary changes to make a transition successful, is priceless in the dental world today. This makes you happy and stress free, makes an associate want to stay and let’s your patients know you care enough to give them more options to meet their needs.


Tonya Burns has dedicated her professional life to the dental community!  Her career started over 23 years ago, as a dental assistant and has progressed to Practice Management Consulting at the national level.  She is active in her community, serving on the local youth soccer board.

Her experience in so many areas of the dental practice, pushes her exceptional success rates in the dental practices she and her team consults in.  She formed Complete Dental Practice Consulting in 2017, to continue helping and inspiring people and clients to a better quality of life.

View Tonya’s full bio