If you’re planning to open a new practice, it’s very important to know how much time it will likely take to go through the process. And once the building is ready, it will be extremely helpful to have a practical plan for spending wisely as you build your patient base.
Knowing how long it takes to open a dental practice allows you to start planning according to when you want to open. The timelines outlined below are typical and realistic, but be aware that weather and municipalities greatly impact the project delivery time. Here’s what you can expect.
If you’re building a ground-up facility, plan to open your doors 12 to 18 months from when you start the process. Keep in mind this timeline may be fluid because of weather delays and how fast you’re able to select civil engineers, architects, and general contractors. A typical timeline would be:
- Site selection (1-2 months)
- Purchase contract negotiations and closing (3-4 months)
- Obtaining a construction permit (varies depending on municipality) (2-3 months)
- Site preparation (2-3 months)
- Completing the building shell (3-4 months)
- Interior finish out (2-3 months)
If you purchase or lease an existing site, the timeline will be considerably compressed. It’s important to understand your construction timeline so you can accurately build realistic dates into your lease. This way, you’ll be open for business before you’re paying rent. It’s also imperative you don’t wait until your lease or contract is executed before starting the process. A realistic timeline for build-out is:
- Site selection (1 month)
- Letter of intent (LOI) and lease/contract negotiations (2-3 months)
- Construction permitting (varies depending on municipality) (1-2 months)
- Interior finish-out (2-3 months)
Financial Planning Tips
When it comes to starting your new practice, the building is only half the battle. Once your new or remodeled site is ready, you still must get patients in the door. Building your client base, paying for construction and design, and running a practice can drain your energy and bank account. We recommend the following strategies:
You don’t have to be open 24/7 to make money. For a private practice, consider starting with three days a week. Add a day when patients wait 3+ weeks for an appointment.
Most practices open with 2 to 3 operatories, so start there. There’s no need to spend more money when you don’t have the patient volume to keep chairs filled to capacity. Add an operatory when you’re operating five days a week, have the ability to add staff, and patients wait 3+ weeks for an appointment.
Most equipment and furnishings range from low-end, baseline models to high-end finishes (with a high-end price to match). As with most purchases, remember you get what you pay for. However, keep in mind your clientele, service, and future plans; and invest in equipment and furnishings that make sense for your practice.
Start marketing at least 2 months before you expect the practice to open. Establishing a website should be the first step in your marketing—all your other marketing strategies should ripple from your site. Build your website early; Google’s search engine won’t find a new site right away. With very few exceptions, new sites take about a month to begin appearing in searches.