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Starting a New Dental Practice Checklist

Is Practice Ownership Your Next Career Move?

You’ve mastered your clinical skills and now you’re ready to step out on your own. Starting your own dental practice comes with a number of responsibilities—from getting local zoning and building permits to complying with state and federal laws. You’ll have to make key business decisions and attend to some impactful odds and ends that come with opening a practice.

Business Structure

The business structure of your dental practice will determine the registration requirements, the tax forms to file, and personal liability. Ownership rules, liability, taxes, and filing requirements for each business structure can vary by state, so be sure to check what the requirements are for your area.

Whether you launch a solo practice, or share some form of ownership with one or more dentists, consult with your attorney and financial advisor for more information about the different types of entities, the tax elections for each, and other important factors.


As a dental practice owner, you are responsible for securing several different types of insurance to protect assets, property, and the health and well-being of employees. The federal government requires every business with employees to have certain types of coverage, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance as examples.

Federal requirements aside, many laws requiring insurance vary by state. Contact your state’s Department of Insurance or your local city government offices to learn more about your state’s mandatory insurance requirements for a small business.


Among the challenging aspects of running a dental practice is ensuring that you are adhering to current regulations and guidelines—especially since it requires dealing with a number of different agencies. Federal regulations set the minimum standards, so you always want to check with your state and local regulators, as their versions may be more stringent than those issued by federal agencies.

Keep in mind that regulations can and do change. As a dental practice owner, you have a legal and ethical responsibility to remain aware of any changes. In addition to ADA resources, your state dental society can help you keep track of all these changes too.

Waste Management

While waste management in the dental practice is both a complex issue and a complicated task, it is important for dental offices to accurately evaluate the types of wastes generated by the practice and ensure that each type is disposed of properly. Typically, practice owners develop and maintain written plans that detail their policies and practices regarding medical waste.

Again, be mindful that some authorities may have stricter laws than at the federal level. For more information and resources, including a tip sheet on medical waste, visit the ADA’s guide on Medical Waste Disposal.

Employees, Training and Compliance

Did you know that federal law requires employers to check the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) List of Excluded Individuals and Entities? The OIG has the authority to seek civil monetary penalties against an individual or entity based on a wide variety of prohibited conduct, such as employing or contracting with an excluded individual. Be sure to routinely check the list to ensure that new hires and current employees are not on this list.

A critical, and sometimes mandated, component of ensuring your practice success is comprehensive and ongoing staff training. As an example, you will need to provide training opportunities to ensure members of the dental team understand Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. As the leader of the team and owner of the practice, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring compliance not just with OSHA requirements, but with other regulations as well. Given that regulations change, keeping abreast of changes and regularly providing education and training to members of your dental team are necessary.

To further safeguard your practice and yourself, carefully document all practice activities that relate to regulatory compliance. During an audit, failure to provide documentation demonstrating all compliance activities and protocols could put your practice at risk.

While the path to ownership may seem a daunting task, starting out armed with a helpful checklist is a good way to manage the priorities and take off on the right foot! 

Download the “New Dental Practice Checklist” (PDF) by clicking the blue button below.

Additional Resources

Disclaimer: These materials are intended to provide helpful information to dentists and dental team members. They are in no way a substitute for actual professional advice based upon your unique facts and circumstances. This content is not intended or offered, nor should it be taken, as legal or other professional advice. You should always consult with your own professional advisors (e.g. attorney, accountant, insurance carrier). To the extent ADA has included links to any third party web site(s), ADA intends no endorsement of their content and implies no affiliation with the organizations that provide their content. Further, ADA makes no representations or warranties about the information provided on those sites.