Should you buy an existing dental practice?

If you're at the stage in your dental career where you are ready to take the next step and run your own practice, it's likely you'll find yourself wondering if it is better to acquire an existing practice or set a new one up from scratch. This is a critical crossroad as each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we have compared both options based on the most important considerations so that you can decide which will work best for you.


A primary benefit to buying an existing dental clinic is the consistent cash flow. Due to the practice having an established client base, there is money coming in from your first day. You will also be able to review the profit and loss statements before taking over to see how the business has previously been performing. This will often assist your chance of getting a loan by proving market potential, alleviating some of the risk for lenders.

While buying an existing dental practice may seem like an easier option, this critical business decision should not be made lightly. The seller will always want to put their best foot forward and present the practice in the best light during the purchasing process, so your expectations may not always meet reality. It's uncommon for a successful practice to sell, so if they're on the market there is often a reason for it. It's important to do your due diligence before agreeing to the sale otherwise you may find some frustrating surprises, such as the client base not being as high-quality as you were led to believe or the financial position not being as stable. The more you can learn about the investment, the better position you will be in to make an informed decision.

Often these concerns and uncertainties result in dentists starting up their own practices, but this also comes with its own set of challenges. Beginning any new business from scratch requires sufficient capital, however obtaining finances can prove difficult due to the unknown market potential. For dentists, however, there are financing options up to $500k available, which includes a 6-month repayment holiday upfront to give time to establish the business and build the patient base.

Dental practice for sale nz


When purchasing an existing practice, this acquisition will typically come along with an established team of employees. This can be helpful as they are experienced with the daily operations of the practice and can assist with any questions or issues while starting out. As they know their tasks, the patients and the other team members, the only adjustment for them is you. This existing patient rapport and staff consistency can help to reassure regulars as well as maintain their confidence in the clinic in the absence of their usual dentist.

Of course, taking on an existing team may not always be smooth sailing and can also present unique challenges. When coming into a well-established team with set dynamics, you may not gel with them straight away. Some staff can be resistant to change, so it's important to get a feel for the business first before making any big disruptions, you may also be inheriting staff members that aren't quite up to your standards. While there will always be some teething issues, rocking the boat too much may result in staff dissatisfaction or turnover.

If you opt to start your own dental practice, this will have human resourcing requirements. Even if you are planning on keeping the team small to manage initial spending, you will need to hire and train new staff, such as a hygienist and receptionist. Although building your team from scratch means that you will be able to select the best fit for your clinic and continue to develop them, creating a positive synergy and productive working environment. Unlike existing staff who may be set in their ways, new hires are typically more willing to adopt new operating processes.

Buying a dental practice

Patient Base

Purchasing an established dental practice also means acquiring an existing patient base. Already having appointments scheduled and contacts in the system can provide a big initial advantage, as it results in instant cash-flow and takes the immediate pressure off. This also gives you more time to nurture and develop the existing patient relationships, rather than having to primarily focus on driving new business.

While it's recommended that you have a 1-6 month transition with the seller to ensure a seamless handover, it's common to still lose some patients during the takeover period. Some patients will have developed a trusting relationship over the years with their previous dentist, therefore they may now have a less loyal connection to the clinic after that dentist's departure. However a lot of patients will be happy to stick with the status quo rather than seeking out an alternative practice. They'll usually give you the benefit of the doubt due to convenience, yet it's key to make the transition as smooth as possible and ensure they do not have a reason to look elsewhere.

It's also important to keep in mind that when taking over an existing practice, you are also acquiring the reputation of the previous owner and how they ran the business. While this can sometimes work in your favour, it can also be a gamble if they weren't providing quality service.

When starting up a new dental practice, it's critical that you spend time and money up-front on marketing efforts to attract a new client base. Establishing yourself within the local community is important, and this can be achieved through networking events, sponsorship, developing referral partners and promoting your services. Surprisingly it's actually quite common to grow a client base faster when starting from scratch. A fresh beginning gives you the opportunity to create your own quality patient base and set expectations with them around the service they will receive.

Download our free guide on setting up a dental practice

Buying a dental practice

Business Decisions

Taking over an established practice may have advantages in regards to an existing patient base, staff and cash flow, but it also means that many important business decisions are made for you. Starting up your own dental practice means that all the setup choices are in your hands, including:

  • Location: Where your practice is set up is critical to the business's success and starting new means that you are able to choose the most suitable location. Factors such as competition saturation, target market, visibility, accessibility and neighbouring businesses should all be considered. See here for tips on how to choose the best location for your dental practice.

  • Business & Clinical Systems: When going into an existing business there can often inefficient practices that haven't adapted over time. When starting a new dental practice, it's easier to put procedures in place to optimise efficiency and align the clinic with your preferences and lifestyle. Setting up your own practice means that you will be able to develop your own unique business name, missions and values, marketing strategy and dental treatment focus. Therefore you wouldn't need to fit into the business mould already created by someone else!

  • Layout: Older practices can come with layout inefficiencies and even modern practices can have a design that is illogical to the way that you work. Setting up a new dental practice means it will be purpose-designed to encompass your practice vision, therefore you can choose the ideal size, building, aesthetics and space for the type of dental treatments you intend to offer, in line with your target market. Get some design inspiration by downloading our free inspiration guide.

  • Equipment: When buying an existing practice there is also the risk of acquiring outdated or older dental equipment. These may need to be replaced in the near future, which will require additional spend. When setting up your own clinic, you will be able to choose modern dental equipment that improves operational efficiencies and patient experience. Why not start by checking out the top dental chairs available in New Zealand.

Building a dental practice

While purchasing an existing dental practice does seem to alleviate some of the risk in terms of the established patient base and an immediate cash flow, it means that the practice will be set up to best suit another practitioner and you may inherit an outdated clinic with hidden surprises. If you're able to tackle a few harder years in the beginning, setting up a new dental practice has many benefits in the long term. You'll have complete control over the process, resulting in a purpose-designed layout with efficient systems in place, a hand-trained team and a quality patient base.

planning on opening a new dental practice or renovating?

Whether you're looking to set up a new dental practice or refurbish an existing clinic, our team of dental fitout specialists are here to help! Contact Dentec today with any questions that you have and we'll be happy to provide a solution tailored to your practice requirements.


The team at Dentec operate across New Zealand. We are always happy to come to you and ensure we have a full understanding of your requirements and establish a strong foundation.