Going into private practice is a lifelong dream for many dentists. You’re excited to build your business based on your mission and values. Perhaps you want to serve an under served community or be at the forefront of dental innovations. Before you can get into the exciting part of business ownership, though, you’ll have to tackle the more intimidating parts; specifically, dental practice financing. Luckily, there’s a high need for dentists in the US so there are a lot of options available to you.
Dental Practice Financing Options
Navigating the realm of dental practice financing can be overwhelming. To streamline the process, these financing options generally fall into four main categories: traditional, dental-specific, personal, and grant-based.
Traditional Dental Practice Financing Options
There are a lot of good reasons that dentists turn to traditional dental office financing options when they're new. These programs are established and familiar and they come with competitive interest rates as well as flexibility in how funds are used. The same goes for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. These offer competitive terms and can be very friendly to new dental practices getting off the ground.
Of course, with those upsides come some limitations. Traditional financing options typically have the most stringent qualification criteria when it comes to credit history, collateral requirements, and minimum time in business or practice. The application and approval process can also be very time-consuming. These are not emergency loans; it can take months to get funding. Finally, traditional lenders may require a higher down payment or collateral to secure the loan. While these are often the go-to options for new dental practitioners, they're not always practical given the circumstances. For that reason, some choose to turn to dental-specific lenders.
Financing companies that are specifically focused on supporting dental practices can be a great option for new practitioners because of their industry expertise. They understand what is needed to get a dental practice off the ground and they adapt their terms to work with that. These financers will typically offer funding for three categories of purchasing.
New Practice Loans
Dental Practice Acquisition Loans
Loans may be offered to open brand-new dental practices, including purchasing real estate and equipment.
Loans may be used to purchase an existing practice — though this process can be a bit more complicated and expensive than getting a new practice loan.
Some dental practitioners choose to rent their office space and finance their equipment. Dental-specific financers may offer loans or lines of credit to allow you to do this.
In securing these types of financing options, some practitioners choose to work with dental practice management companies. These companies will provide consultations and services to help you locate financers and prove your creditworthiness when it comes time to apply.
Personal Financing Options
Personal financing is the most straightforward but, for many, least practical solution to dental practice financing. This might include using your personal savings, retirement account loans, or home equity loans to set up your practice. While this is the least labor-intensive as far as applications go, it also puts you at the highest risk of liability and financial losses. In addition, some individuals don't have the assets necessary to fund a dental practice in full.
An alternative might be to investigate investors, partnerships, crowdfunding, and peer-to-peer lending. In this, a private party provides personal funding and loans in exchange for a financing fee or for a small ownership stake in your business. These arrangements can be very complex and have financial filing requirements; it's best to talk with an expert when trying to finance your practice this way.
For new dental practitioners that are short on funds, grants can be a lifesaver. Generally, grants are specific to your region, specialty, or your circumstances. They may be available to fund dental research, establish practices in underserved communities, or improve diversity among dental professionals.
It's best to search for dental grants based on where you're located, as nonprofits are often regional. However, there are a few national programs where grants might be available to help support your goals.
Here are some options:
- The Dental Trade Alliance: This nonprofit offers grants for programs that are exceptionally innovative, original, or creative. Preference is given to ventures likely to attract additional funding.
- The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: This organization offers grants for projects that further dental research.
- Small Business Administration (SBA) Grants: The SBA offers various grant programs and funding initiatives for small businesses, including dental practices. While grants are not as prevalent as loans, it's worth exploring their available programs to see if you qualify for funding opportunities.
- The Academy of General Dentistry-Grant Program: This grant program is dedicated to promoting oral and esophageal cancer awareness.
- The ADA’s AAPD Foundation Grants: These grants are aimed at practices that provide dental treatment for children of low-income families.
- National Institutes of Health Grants: This organization focuses on grants in the field of biomedical research.
Corporate and private foundation grants are very prevalent in the dental industry. Keep an eye out for these opportunities by subscribing to dentistry-focused publications and checking with any professional organizations you're a member of. Constituents are typically given preference in awards.
Preparing to Apply for Dental Practice Loans and Grants
Typically, dental practice financing with the friendliest terms will have the highest requirements for qualification. You may get a low-interest rate or even a grant to help support your practice, but you're going to earn it through the legwork you do while applying. Before you start the process, it's wise to get a few things in order that will be used to determine if you qualify.
1. Review Your Financial Profile
Traditional loans will require a full financial assessment to determine your risk. The bank will review your credit history, including your debt-to-income ratio, your existing net worth, and any expenses you have. This will be used to decide how much financing to give you, as well as if you'll receive financing at all.
One piece of good news is that typically, dental student loans won't prevent you from being able to obtain a business loan. It's expected that dental practitioners will have existing student loans. If they're in good standing and being repaid as expected, they typically won't work against you when you apply for financing.
2.Develop a Comprehensive Business Plan
A well-developed business plan is crucial when applying for financing. It should include details about your target market, services offered, competitive analysis, marketing strategies, financial projections, and repayment plans. The business plan demonstrates your understanding of the industry and your ability to generate revenue and repay the loan.
3. Review Your Collateral
In some cases, collateral can be used to help you qualify for financing. This is very helpful in situations where you don't have an income history that can prove future revenue. Look at your assets to see what items you could use to show that you're a safe bet for lending.
Some examples of collateral include:
- Commercial or residential property
- Dental equipment
- Accounts receivable
- Cash savings or CDs
- Vehicles (personal or business)
- Investment portfolios (stocks, bonds)
- Business inventory
- Intellectual property
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts (401(k), IRAs)
- Artwork or collectibles
- Boats or recreational vehicles
- Farmland or livestock
- Machinery or equipment
- Franchise rights or licensing agreements
- Future revenue streams or contracts
- Business ownership shares
- Royalties from intellectual property
- Precious metals or gemstones
Of course, it will be up to the financial institution to determine what they will accept as collateral and the value they'll attribute to it. However, it's good to have a solid inventory of anything that could qualify in case it comes up during the application process.
4. Gather Your Financial Documentation
Lenders typically require you to prove any income or collateral claims that you are making. You'll want to get all your financial documents in order so you can turn them over when the time comes. Lenders will want to see personal and business tax returns, bank statements, balance sheets, profit and loss statements, cash flow statements, and any other relevant financial records. If you are making financial claims in your business plan, you'll also want to include documentation that backs this information up.
When it comes to financial documents, it's best to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Get everything in place before you choose a lender and you'll be much more confident when it's time to take that step.
5. Get a Professional Consultation
It can be hard to pinpoint how much a dental practice is going to cost you and how much revenue you can expect when you're just starting. It might be helpful to work with a dental practice management company or dental business consultant as you lay out your business plan and target your lenders.
Getting a professional consultation earlier can save you money in the long run. These individuals will tell you what lenders to focus on and which ones to avoid. They'll be able to give you a thorough assessment of your likelihood of gaining financing and what you can do to improve your chances.
The world of dental practice financing is filled with pitfalls. If you make the wrong choices early on, you could wind up paying for them your entire career. By understanding your options, you'll know the best path to take so you can succeed in your new business venture