Starting a dental practice is scary. Not gonna lie. 

But it’s also been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. And every single day I continue to be inspired by the practice I’ve built from the ground up over the last decade plus. 

Seriously, if it’s your dream to start a dental practice—I say go all in. The rewards just might be more wonderful than you’ve ever imagined. But just because there is a lot to be gained does not mean that the road is easy. 

Luckily I’ve walked this path before, so I’m excited to share my best tips with you. 

Starting a dental practice: location, location, location

When I say it’s all about location, I probably don’t mean what you think I mean. 

When I moved to Charlotte and started Ballantyne Endodontics, let’s just say the area was saturated with dental practices and even a good number of endodontists. So I’m not saying “go seek out a spot where there are more dental practices than you can count on your fingers and toes,” but what I will say is this: 

Find a place to start your dental practice that feels like home. 

That means the city that feels good to you. That might be your hometown where you have a great support system, or it might be the city 1,000 miles away that excites you. (When I moved to Charlotte, I knew NOBODY.) But make sure it feels right, and you are excited to be there and serve that community. You’re going to be building your career here, raising kids here, and making friends here, after all!

Then, when it comes to the space itself …. When you walk inside, pay attention to how you feel. Ballantyne Endo felt like home to me all those years ago when I opened the door for the first time, and it feels like home to me now. It is a place to dream, to practice, and to work on my big ideas. Even now, years and years later, I still get that same feeling when I walk into work.

Find a space like that—one that matches your energy. And if you can’t find it outright, work on creating it over time. 

One of the potential pitfalls of the practice is that it’s located in an office park without good signage. It’s honestly kinda hard to find! I wondered, “How am I going to attract patients with a spot like this?”

This is something that ran through my head a lot in those early days: “If you build it, they will come.” Trust the process. And work on your community-building skills.

Be a part of your community 

Even before Ballantyne Endodontics opened its doors I was in these streets promoting the hell out of it. 

I went to events. I talked to people. I invited other dentists out to lunch. I left my card with everyone who would take it. I cold called. I knocked on the door of every neighbor. 

This kind of relationship building and on-the-ground marketing is irreplaceable. And my fear is that fewer and fewer people are doing it. Yet, if you’re starting a dental practice, you’re asking your community to trust you with a crucial aspect of their health. That trust should be a two way street—get out there and patronize your community’s businesses, get into conversations with the people you meet, be engaged. 

Remember, every single person with teeth is a potential patient for you! And you never know who is looking for a new dentist.

Putting yourself out there like that is worth more than any paid ad or social media strategy, I promise. 

Our work is about making connections—never forget that. 

Bigger isn’t always better 

I started Ballantyne Endodontics in 2008, but I didn’t hire a new associate at my practice until 2012. That didn’t mean I wasn’t scaling in the meantime. When it comes to growth, keep in mind that growth for growth’s sake isn’t the move. When it comes to starting a dental practice—and then growing it—you have to be intentional. 

You can scale by offering new services (endodontic diagnosis and treatments being one of them—want a great start? Check out E-School: Everyday Endo Made Easy) or by creating efficiencies in your practice that help you see more patients.

When your business is new, you’re agile. You get to define the future and what you want it to look like, making slow and intentional moves to reach the next phase. 

The Takeaways

How do you start a dental practice? 

First and foremost, I want you to remember to be intentional. Get clear on how you want to feel when you’re in your space, the experience you want to give to your staff and your patients, and where you want to take this thing. 

Focus on the feeling. Put yourself out there. And lastly, be open to growing in ways that don’t necessarily look like MORE associates and a BIGGER space (though that’s cool too!) 

When I look back at when I started my practice, I remember it as one of the best times of my life. So don’t forget to enjoy the process, too. 

I can’t wait to hear your success stories. 

Want support when it comes to adding endo to your repertoire? We talk all things endodontics—and lots of practice efficiency, too—in E-School.

– Sonia