AS A DENTIST AND SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, are you capitalizing on a growing dental market?
Technology advances are pushing the industry forward, providing expanded treatment opportunities
to larger patient populations. More than 65% of the US population is covered by a dental benefits
plan, and an aging population will require more frequent dental visits. 1
Growing your business can be done in a
number of ways. It can mean increasing office
visibility through a more favorable location. It
can also mean adding space, which allows for
increased capacity to provide a wider range of
services. But how do you know if your practice
is ready to grow? And once you know, how do
you get started?
EXPANSION OPTIONS AND
A typical challenge for dental practice owners
in considering expansion is “when.” The “when”
can depend on many different factors:
• Are you creating positive cash flow?
• Do you want to move to another part of
town, one that provides better visibility and
helps grow your client base?
• Are you outgrowing your current space?
• Do you want to add more technology?
If you’re answering “yes” to these questions,
then it’s time to move from “when” to “how.”
• Relocation—Oftentimes, the location you
chose for your practice is no longer working.
It may not provide the space you need, or
it might not be in the place you desire. Re-
location, a common choice made by dentist-
owners, allows practices to overcome these
limitations. A new location can also allow
for growing your patient base. For example,
• Second location—If your first location
is successful, expanding to a second loca-
tion under the same brand is a good option
to broaden your visibility, patient base, and
workforce. With an established business
plan, strong patient base, and successful
associates, the upfront risk is often lower
than breaking into the market. However,
it’s important to consider that opening a
new location is no simple feat (as you un-
doubtedly know from opening your first
practice). You’ll need to ensure your first
location is a well-oiled machine, allowing
you to focus your efforts on your new
• Acquisition—Purchasing a competing
dental practice is another way to grow, and
this approach may have less risk than opening a second location. Be sure to weigh
transition risks carefully. For the practice
you’re considering buying, how loyal are
employees and patients to the owner? What
will be your immediate gain? How will your
cash flow be affected?
When choosing one of these options, consider purchasing the real estate. Owning the
real estate creates more opportunities, such
as tax benefits, property value, design control,
and potential rent income.
BUILDING YOUR VICTORY TEAM
No matter the path you choose, expanding your
business at the right time with the right partners
is key to being successful. Building the best team
to support your expansion helps ensure success.
Your team should include individuals and or-
ganizations who understand the dental industry,
speak the lingo, know your market, and can
consult you on the obstacles you’ll face.
You should include the following key
• A lender who has programs specifically for
• A real estate broker who knows the market
• Architects and contractors who have experi-
ence with dental or medical practices
• Dental equipment representatives
• A CPA and/or financial advisor to walk you
through short- and long-term financial im-
plications of owning property
• A business consultant to help you prepare
to expand your practice
Don’t forget about your current internal
team, who can be encouraged and rejuvenated
by growth opportunities. Keeping your employ-
ees informed and making them part of the vic-
tory team can boost morale and excitement.
Expanding your business can come with challenges, but with the right team, experience, and
location, the opportunity is undoubtedly some-
thing to make you, and your patients, smile.
1. Who has dental benefits? National Association of
Dental Plans website. http://www.nadp.org/Dental_
Benefits_Basics/ Dental_BB_1.aspx#_ftn1. Accessed
July 3, 2017.
LINDSAY HARKEY joined
Live Oak Bank in 2013. She
serves as general manager for
the health-care team,
overseeing the origination and
packaging of Small Business
Administration loans for
dentists and doctors across the
country. She can be reached at (910) 550-2277 or