How Much Does a Dental Associate Make?

Starting in the dental industry, you have several choices. So, How Much Does a Dental Associate Make? The standard choice among dental school graduates is to become a dental associate and eventually move up to own your practice. Keep reading to give you some salary-wise as to what you’ll be earning.

Compensation as Associate Dentists

When entering the dental field, you will commonly start as an associate. This means you will be made an employee or an independent contractor. Starting salaries vary greatly; you must investigate different positions to see the possibilities. To excel in these roles, understanding the necessary skills to be a dentist is key.

Associate Dentist Salaries

An associate’s salary is all over the map, depending on where and who you work for. Some say the salary can be as high as $480,000 a year; others say it ranges between $36,000 and $61,000. After many years of practice, any dentist associate can take home higher incomes. You may want to check The Bureau of Labor Statistics for more detailed information.

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Your Salary as an Associate vs. the Dental Owner’s Salary

A dental associate usually earns an average of $125,000 to $146,000 yearly. A dentist who owns his practice makes around $175,000 per year. That is a significant enough difference to make you wonder which career path you choose. However, remember the dental practice owner has many more responsibilities, costs, and overhead. Additionally, the job outlook for a dentist can influence your decision.

How It Works

As an employee, you may receive an hourly rate or perhaps a flat salary, but your compensation will often be based on a percentage of gross revenue. You might get 35% of the production you do, meaning you would get $35 if you produced $100 of dental work on someone. The remainder of the money goes towards the upkeep of the practice. If this dental associate wants to earn over $87,000 a year, he must produce $250,000 worth of dental work.

Doing Your Homework via the ADA

When joining a practice, you must do homework to determine the compensation. You also must look at any contract carefully, preferably getting it reviewed by a contract attorney to ensure everything is as you wish.

Are Dentists Independent Contractors?

Many ask dentists to be independent contractors. Dental business owners and associates need to know if a dental associate should be considered independent contractors or employees. This is important for several reasons, mainly due to IRS regulations.  The IRS has published rules on what constitutes an employment relationship regarding whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee.  These factors take into account state and federal considerations that a court would take into account.

IRS Rules Regarding Dentist Associates

Most dentists and hygienists who work for a dental clinic are deemed employees. When the clinic’s owner controls supplies, equipment, scheduling, receipts, hours of operation, and staffing, the worker is classified as an employee. These are IRS points when looking at the classification of workers. You can find more details on the IRS website.

How the Dentist Owner Controls His Employees

As stated, when the owner controls many aspects of the business, he exercises behavioral and financial control, much like a pilot has control over an airplane’s flight path and speed. He controls what work is taking place and directs how it is done, similar to a coach directing players on a ball field. The owner controls how the business pays the worker. This is all classified as an employee, just as a lifeguard overseeing swimmers ensures their safety.

The Exception for Independent Contractors

There are cases when workers can be considered independent contractors by IRS rules. Specialists may practice in a clinic for a limited time and supply their equipment and staff, much like runners bring their own gear to a race. They may generate separate billings for patients. Does the employer offer them HR services? If so, what can the human resources department offer them, similar to how a sports team’s management supports its athletes?

This is very much like a service that does office cleaning. In a service like this, the people work for several business owners, and they will provide their equipment, cleaning supplies, and cleaners, similar to how a contractor might work on different properties, each with its own fences and boundaries.

The contract must be reviewed as some employers in the industry would like to avoid paying FICA taxes, which they don’t have to pay when hiring an independent contractor. They also won’t have to have unemployment or workers’ comp insurance. So misrepresenting their employees as independent contractors would be dodging these expenses, akin to a runner trying to bypass obstacles on a track.

What is the Difference Between Dental Professionals?

Many ask what the difference between a dentist and an associate dentist is. When looking towards your career as an independent dental contractor, you will want to embrace all that it means, including whether to be a dental associate or embark on the adventure of owning your dental practice. First, you should understand the difference between dental parties. Then you can make informed decisions.

The Difference

Although there are several similarities between dentists and dental associates, there are things you should understand that are significantly different between the two. Dentists commonly own his or her practice and hire other dentists to work for him. Dental associates work in a dental practice but do not own the practice. They are hired under contract either as an employee or independent contractor. Dental associates have many more restrictions than dentists; they don’t make as much money as the owner (obviously) and don’t have as much freedom or resources to utilize. But let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

The Pros and Cons of Being an Employee

When you work as a dental associate, you only wear your hat as a dentist. You care for your patients; that is all you must worry about. You don’t have to manage other employees or office duties. You can take extended time off if needed because the owner or other dental associates are usually in the office to treat patients.

Of course, there are cons. Your schedule may be less flexible as the owner may want you to work particular hours or days. You must play by the owner’s rules and have less flexibility in the materials you use or the time to treat patients. Of course, your financial potential is less. It doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen to become very successful, but it doesn’t happen for everyone.

The Pros and Cons of Owning Your Practice

The Pros are many. You have much freedom when you are a dental professional who owns the practice. You can create your team of dental associates and office staff under you. When you don’t like something, you can change it. You have a schedule of your creation. However, conversely, you have to be many things, not just a dental professional. You must be a marketer, a boss, and a business owner. You have many more financial responsibilities, such as paying the bills, human resources, payroll, and buying equipment.

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At Dental Contract Attorney, we’re a seasoned legal team dedicated to dentistry contracts. Our experience in healthcare equips us to tackle your contract challenges, providing tailored advice to safeguard your interests. To negotiate your contract confidently, reach out for a consultation today.