What is the Difference Between a Dentist and an Associate Dentist?

When looking towards your dentistry career, you will want to embrace all that it means, including whether to be an associate dentist or just embark on the adventure of owning your dental practice. So, What is the Difference Between a Dentist and an Associate Dentist? First you should understand the difference between a dentist and an associate dentist. Then an associate can make informed decisions.

The Differences between an Employer and Employee

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

The Pros and Cons of Each Job

When you work as an associate dentist, you only wear your hat as a dentist. You provide care to your patients; that is all you have to 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 associate dentists 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 working 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 Benefits of Owning a Practice

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

All in all, there are pros and cons with any career. But one important thing to remember if you are pursuing the associate dentist role is to have any contract reviewed before signing it. This way, you can ensure you are going to be treated fairly.

How Much Do They Make?

Starting in the industry, you have several choices, so many ask 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.

When entering the dental field, you commonly start as a dental associate. This means dental associates will be an employee or an independent contractor. Starting salaries for dental associates vary greatly; you will have to investigate different positions to see the possibilities.

General Salaries

A dental associate’s salary is all over the map, and it depends where you work 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 dental associate can take home higher incomes.

A dental associate usually averages $125,000 to $146,000 a year. A dental employee 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 (such as ADA fees, individual society membership, company continuing education, fees for dental hygienists).

How the Salaries 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 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.

When joining a practice, you need to do your homework to find out what compensation will be. 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 are 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 employee.  These factors take into account state and federal considerations that a court would take into account.

IRS Rules Regarding 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.

How the Dentist Owner Controls His Employees

As stated, when the owner controls many aspects of the business, he exercises behavioral and financial control. He controls what work is taking place and directing how it is done. The owner controls how the business pays the worker. This is all classified as an employee.

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. They may generate separate billings to patients.  Are they offered HR services from the employer?  If so, what can the human resources department offer them?

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.

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.

DDS Contract Attorney

When an experienced attorney reviews dental contracts, you will find great financial benefits that outweigh the cost of the contract’s review.  If you need assistance with a dental employment agreement or dentistry contract review, schedule a Dentist Contract Review with Chelle Law today!