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How a new approach to practice transitions is making the process more predictable and successful

Nov. 5, 2020
The ADA has introduced a new way of handling practice transitions. It puts more dentists in contact with each other, it costs less, there is ample follow-up, and dentists will find their perfect matches. Introducing ADAPT.

By Suzanne Ebert, DMD

Think about the last time you made a major life decision. Was it buying a home, moving to a new town, choosing a dental school? You probably made your decision after carefully considering how that house, town, or school fit with your personal goals, plans, and personality. But you may have done that informally or subconsciously. When it comes to buying and selling a dental practice, finding a job, or hiring a new associate, I believe it is best to take an intentional approach to achieve your desired outcome.   

The traditional dental practice transition process often overlooks the qualities that make you and your practice unique. This can lead to impersonal transitions that are detached from you and your practice’s needs and values. That’s why American Dental Association Practice Transitions (ADAPT), a service backed by the ADA, was developed. We believe the process should be transparent and predictable, with matches rooted in shared practice values, which will ensure long-term success for patients and practices alike.

Traditional practice transitions can overlook what matters most

Traditionally, dental transitions are based on finding a match based on finances and location, with little consideration for finding a practice that matches a dentist’s approach. The focus is on getting to a closing; once the paperwork is signed, the dentists are on their own. That approach focuses on the transaction, not the transition.

Ignoring how a dentist actually practices—work style, preferences, and treatment approach—greatly affects the transition’s success and the practice’s long-term vitality. A disconnect in simple matters such as whether a dentist prefers to run a single operatory as opposed to multiple can lead to frustrated patients and staff down the road.

Ultimately, when two dentists’ priorities and preferences are not aligned, transitions can fail. That can leave patients without a dentist and staff without a job, not to mention the sacrifice of a community legacy that some dentists dedicate their lives to building. There has to be a better way.

Practice transitions must change to keep independent dentistry thriving

As dentists retire, they want to ensure that their practice doors stay open and their patients are cared for. Research leading to the creation of ADAPT made one thing very clear: dentists expect more from the current transition process to ensure continuity of care and a thriving profession. Sellers want to retire with confidence, knowing that their long-term patients will be cared for. Buyers are searching for a practice where they can establish a rewarding career while ensuring quality time with family.

Every practice is unique, as is every dentist. So why should they follow the same practice transition blueprint? The world is moving toward more customized services, built on digital platforms that enable transparency and choice. Why shouldn’t dentists have a way to buy or sell practices that gives them that same transparency and choice, while helping them find the perfect fit? Dentists expect, and deserve, better than the old one-size-fits-all practice transitions process.

ADA Practice Transitions, the new way to buy and sell dental practices

After an extensive research process, surveying dentists at all phases of their careers, we developed ADAPT as a better option for dentists looking to enter or leave a practice. Rather than simply focusing on the closing, ADAPT looks beyond the transaction to help dentists find the right practice or person, then offers the tools and support they need to foster a successful relationship. Making the right fit helps ensure high-quality care for your patients and enables your independent practice to thrive for decades to come. How does ADAPT facilitate those relationships?

1. A focus on philosophy of care

First and foremost, ADAPT takes a more holistic look at matching two dentists. While location and finances are important, we believe that a dentist’s practice approach, his or her “philosophy of care,” is just as important. When two dentists are aligned on their philosophies of care, they are more likely to be aligned on both the day-to-day and long-term decision making.

Examples of philosophy of care include:

  • Does a dentist take a more conservative, “watchful monitoring” approach, or prefer to treat at the first sign of a problem?
  • Does a dentist prefer to focus on “bread and butter” dentistry—cleanings, fillings, extractions—or do they also do a lot of cosmetic procedures?
  • Do they do most of their own treatments or do they refer out?  
  • Do they like to consult with another dentist on cases or work relatively independently?
  • Do they delegate work to auxiliaries or are they more hands-on with patients?  
  • Do they need to always have the latest technology?
  • Are they more talkative with patients or do they prefer to keep things all business?

There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. Dentists have built wildly successful practices with delighted patients with the full spectrum of answers to these questions. While a difference on any one of these will not doom a relationship, significant disconnects can lead to an unsatisfying and frustrating working relationship. In fact, ADAPT research shows that matching dentists on questions like these helps improve the long-term success of a practice transition.

2. A team of expert advisors, dedicated to success

Even the best relationships can benefit from some guidance, especially early on. That’s why ADAPT assigns a dedicated ADA advisor to each participating dentist. This ADA advisor works closely with dentists at every step of the transition.

  • Helping dentists articulate their preferences and weigh their options
  • Facilitating relationship-building conversations between potential matches 
  • Providing the right resources when they’re needed, such as a contracting toolkit
  • Serving as a long-term advisor, with periodic check-ins long after the transaction

ADA advisors are experts in practice transitions. They have navigated their own or helped facilitate transitions of all shapes and sizes. They serve as an objective third party, providing a wide array of support and educational materials to help answer the questions dentists may not have considered. For example, the ADA advisor can help a new associate understand what to look for in a contract or help a potential buyer spot a diamond in the rough practice that can be transformed into their dream practice.

3. An extensive network for practice sales and associateships in every state

ADAPT has developed an expansive network throughout the United States. After a successful eight-state pilot, ADAPT is expanding nationally in the fall of 2020. By working with state and local dental associations, ADAPT is recruiting hundreds of new dentists to the platform. This means that unlike a broker who is generally focused on a single city or region, ADAPT can help dentists find matches wherever they want to practice.

This flexibility gives dental students more options than ever before, as they are no longer limited to regional networks and sometimes limited job boards. It also gives established dentists access to the widest possible hiring pool, helping them find the best possible person for their practice. Not to mention, dentists who want to relocate for family or any other reason can work with ADAPT to find matches across the country.

4. Significant cost savings compared to traditional options

ADA members can save significantly compared to the traditional transition model. ADA members pay just 4% of the practice sale price, compared to 7% to 10% for many traditional options. It costs nothing to join ADAPT, and there is no monthly fee. Dentists only pay when the deal is closed. Recent graduates looking for their first associateship pay nothing to help their transition into the profession be as smooth and successful as possible.  

What to expect from a better transition process

The entire ADAPT process is more accessible than traditional options. The online platform and guided transition experience allow dentists to get help when needed but also take control of the experience, customizing the process to fit their life and schedule.

ADAPT doesn’t keep you guessing. At every step, you can log into your online profile and see where you stand, which matches have been suggested, what you have accepted or declined, and what your next step is in the process. To protect you and your matches’ privacy, you will only see anonymized details about potential matches, such as approximate location and high-level details. No photos or specifics will be shared until both sides agree that the match has potential.

The process is simple: complete the online profile, work with your personal ADA advisor to assess potential matches, navigate the transaction with advisor support, toolkits, and resources, enjoy long-term success for you, your patients, and your practice, and use your ADA advisor to help solve any issues long after the transition.

We created ADAPT to focus on what matters most to you. We believe that by matching based on your values, we enable both dentists in your transition to be more confident, more satisfied, and better positioned for the future, ultimately creating a better experience for the patients you serve.

To celebrate ADAPT’s national launch, dentists who complete a profile by December 1 will receive special pricing on their ADAPT facilitated match. Start your profile today at adapracticetransitions.com.

Suzanne Ebert, DDS, graduated from University of Louisville College of Dentistry. After completing a residency, she started a solo private practice then became the dental director at a local federally qualified health center. Under her tenure the clinics expanded, ran efficiently and profitably, while addressing real needs in the community. As an adjunct faculty member for the University of Florida, she worked directly with senior dental students. To learn more about how ADA Practice Transitions is making dental transitions more predictable and successful, email Dr. Ebert at [email protected]