top of page

5 Bad Practice Owners You’ll Meet in Associateships

Well first off, a big thanks to Dr. Ryan Dulde of the great dental blog,, for suggesting I write this.

“Thank you, good sir.”

Okay, so I’ve worked as an associate/independent contractor for a few dentists over the years.  It was, uh… interesting.  You’ve probably worked some other jobs growing up so you know how bosses can be horrible sometimes.  Hey, that reminds me, wasn’t there a movie about a dentist being a horrible boss?

I can't say I've run into this problem, though...

I’ve spoken with young dentists across the country about their experiences and I think I can set some order to it.  Here, for your consideration, are the 5 types of bad practice owners you’ll meet:

(1) The “It Still Works” Guy

“Sure, this operatory chair has seen better days but it still works!”

Red Flag: Office is severely outdated.

We are not a superficial generation, but we are products of one of the greatest technological booms our profession has ever seen.  Compare dentistry in 1960 to dentistry in 1970.  Not too much changed in ten years.  Now let’s compare dentistry in 2000 to 2010.  Yup, quite a bit changed.  And the public knows it, too.

We graduate from dental schools that often incorporate the latest and greatest in dental tech only to work in an office that hasn’t been updated since 1980.  That’s a problem.  Yes, I know the equipment still works.  But that practice owner is telling his staff and patients that he doesn’t want to reinvest in his office.  We don’t need to have a CEREC 5000, which allows you to telepathically mill full-mouth reconstructions out of recycled baby diapers.  No, we don’t have to have that.  But be wary of an owner that never upgrades.

(2) The Bummer

“The economy is really hurting our office.  Oh well, that’s just how it is.”

Red Flag: Lot’s of complaining but little action.

Dentistry can be stressful enough without creating more drama on top of it.  But some people are masters of making life harder for themselves.  Maybe they’re a Debbie Downer and nothing is ever good enough.  Maybe they’re disorganized to the point that financial disaster is always hovers over them as a real threat.  Maybe they’ve just lost that loving feeling for dentistry and they let the quality of their work deteriorate.

Whatever the reason, these people are their own worst enemies.  The lack the self-reliance, mental clarity, and/or entrepreneurial spirit to pick themselves up and make things right.  Don’t let them drag you down with them.

“I can’t believe you handed the instrument to me the wrong way!  Rraaaaaaaaaaaaah!”

Reg Flag: Lots of staff turn over.

There is never a reason to humiliate someone.  I don’t care how angry and frustrated I may get, I have never taken it out on the people I work with.  Not only is it rude and unprofessional, it only hurts your practice.  It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to fill a staff position because someone quit.  And if that staff member stays around, their mood in the office will be understandably depressed.  Patients can sense these things.

(4) The Unethical Dentist

“You can do a molar root canal in 30 minutes, right?”

Red Flag: Their efficiency and profits seem too good to be true.

I’ve collected some amazing stories about this in a post you can read here.  This is pretty self-explanatory.  Dentists who think they are God and/or intentionally do inferior work will hurt you.  Their cavalier attitudes can be contagious.  Their bad reputations in the dental community can rub off on you.  Get out while you still can!  Your license is at stake.

(5) The Carrot Dangler

“You’re going to make so much money here!”

Red Flag: Many promises of future glory.

I get it, believe me.  We graduate from years of education with crippling debt.  We can’t wait to finally realize our dreams in private practice.  Some bad practice owners take advantage of our hunger and make big promises that can’t possibly be fulfilled.  We’re desperate so we follow the dangling carrot.  They get our energy, talent, and enthusiasm for a discount price.


If you’re an associate right now and you’re wondering whether or not you should quit, check out this post.  If you’re a dental student check out my post about the phases of associateship to guide you through the process.  If you’re an owner, then enjoy the sweet ride.

bottom of page