Retirement Planning For Dentists

In terms of planning for retirement—the ultimate dental practice transition—dentists must do more than accumulate investments to produce adequate retirement income.


As a dentist, your retirement plan must
often consider these key elements:

  • In-depth Debt Reduction Strategy
  • Practice Exit Plan
  • Retirement Funding Plan
  • Risk Management Techniques for Both
    Professional and Personal Perils

We encourage you to meet with your advisor(s) at least annually to review plan progress and make necessary adjustments. Further, we have long advocated that by the time you reach the point in your career when you estimate you are five years or less away from retiring from practice, you should have already planned, or be in the process of considering, the development of your exit strategy. Your exit strategy for this dental practice transition should include: having your practice and building (if applicable) value making reasonable assumptions on the sale of your dental practice net of debt and taxes, and determining if the retirement plan funding strategy you are using is sufficient

Should You Recruit an Associate for Your Dental Practice? One strategy that is often considered is recruiting an associate to eventually buy your practice. This is a technique that could be especially important if a doctor practices in an area where a practice sale could take a period of a few years. The process for this dental practice transition could be a phase-in/phase-out transition where you as the owner-doctor would reduce your work hours and let an associate pick up those extra hours.

This strategy can keep your dental practice running at full capacity and gives your patients the opportunity to begin to meet with the future owner. It also allows you to begin to adapt and assimilate into a retirement lifestyle, while allowing the associate to begin to learn their managerial and leadership skills to become the eventual owner of the dental practice.

As an initial thought, the phase-in/phase-out transition seems like a very appealing path for most dentists as they consider retirement. It seems logical that a gradual change in the ownership will have the smallest negative impact on the existing practice for both patients and staff. However, there are specific requirements for this type of transition to be successful.

Aside from the obvious issue concerning doctor compatibility, a very important consideration for the success of this dental practice transition is the ability for the practice to financially support both the owner and associate while working toward retirement. Changes in the practice are inevitable and must be considered thoroughly as this process is evaluated.

Hiring an Associate Is Not Often an Option for Retirement Planning

Many practices are simply not large enough to support both doctors during the associate phase, and a lack of appropriate pre-planning often leads to dissolution of the association before the planned retirement date.

Since most dentists practice without associates throughout their careers, many can find it difficult to adjust to having another dentist in the office. Due to these and other considerations, most transitions involve the immediate retirement of the seller and the immediate assumption of the practice by a buyer. Which transition strategy is best for you can only be determined by assessing your actual needs and evaluating your practice.

As you begin contemplating retirement, you also need to think about the lifestyle you are entering as well as the one being left behind. Quality of life in retirement is more than just being financially independent. It is also about having something meaningful to do with your new-found free time.

How Do You Envision Retirement?

Many dentists envision retirement as long days filled with their favorite leisure activities. However, as they soon discover, that enjoyment quickly fades. They miss having the daily social interaction they had for many years with their patients and staff. No longer are they the “Boss” or the “Doctor.” The dental practice transition of retirement is an adjustment that can take some getting used to. In this instance, an argument can sometimes be made for working part-time or volunteering their talents locally or abroad.

The decision to retire from the practice of dentistry and how to do so is not one that should be made in haste. There are many things to consider both in terms of the quantitative calculation and quality of life in retirement. These are questions that Henry Schein transition specialists will discuss with you in assisting you with your plan.


Henry Schein Professional Practice Transitions, Inc. is a national leader in dental practice transitions. A subsidiary of Henry Schein, Inc. they provide expert guidance for selling and buying dental practices, dental practice fees and management, assessing partnership and associate-ship opportunities, and performing dental practice appraisals and valuations.