Angie Svitak is a Certified Public Accountant and Financial Planner at Cain Watters and Associates (CWA). She works with dental practice owners all over the nation to guide them on the path to reach their goals and feel confident about their future. She spends her time outside of work baking, cooking, and enjoying time with her husband and two sons.

Christy Ratcliff is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Valuation Analyst.  She leads the valuation and consulting team at National Dental Placements (NDP), an affiliate of CWA where she works with both young and established dentists as they transition into or out of dental practice ownership. Outside of the office, Christy enjoys spending time with her husband and two young daughters, when she has free time she enjoys cooking and reading a good book.

Cain Watters & Associates LLC (CWA) is an investment advisor registered with the Securities & Exchange Commission. CWA and National Dental Placements (NDP) are affiliated firms.  Information provided does not take into account individual financial circumstances and should not be considered investment advice to the reader. Request form ADV Part 2A for a complete description of CWA’s financial planning and investment advisory services. There is no assurance that other client actual results will be similar to information presented. Estimated future results may not be obtained due to economic, business and personal circumstances.

Women in Dentistry: The Flexibility and Reward of Ownership WC


The choice to own your own dental practice is, of course, applicable to both men and women. However, even today it is hard to deny the extra sociological pressure that a woman carries in the workforce. 

Much of the time, women put pressure on themselves to “do it all,” and the thought of the associated risk of ownership adds to that stress. But, consider the facts when contemplating ownership versus associateship. 

Same Dentistry, More Money

It’s no secret that ownership leads to more compensation.

Think about it this way—most women in dentistry will work approximately 35 years.  Let’s presume you worked at a one-doctor practice that produces approximately $62,000 of doctor production a month. This is, on average with hygiene, a $1 million practice.

As a long-term associate paid 30 percent of your doctor collections, you may average somewhere around $223,000 annually. On the other hand, if you were an owner of that same practice and presume an overhead of 60 percent, you could make $400,000.

You would make considerably more money as an owner for the same amount of dentistry. 

Does Reward Outweigh Risk?

Imagine what that extra $177,000 per year could do for you and your family over the long term. That income, used strategically, could accelerate the time towards reaching your personal and retirement goals.

To illustrate this, let’s look at the Rule of 72—a common tool used by financial planners. It is a simplified way to determine how long an investment will take to double, given a fixed annual rate of interest.

It says that if you divide the number 72 by your annual investment rate of return, the result is equivalent to how many years it will take for your investment to double.

YEARS = 72 / Rate of Return

Now you’re back to imagining an extra $177,000 in your pocket per year. Based on the Rule of 72, if we assume your investments are receiving a 7.2 percent rate of return, your money would double every 10 years.

10 (years) = 72 / 7.2 (rate of return)

If you work for 35 years, your money will double three-and-a-half times. Assuming you save all your additional earnings, doubling $177,000 three-and-a-half times results in $2,124,000 of accumulated wealth. Which means the decision to not be an owner in a practice for one year is now not just a $177,000 decision, but a cumulative total of $2,124,000 based on only one year of additional earnings alone.

Other opportunities of ownership include future financial flexibility and the opportunity to build equity in your dental practice. 

Building ownership in a practice that you can sell down the road will help build your nest egg for retirement. You will also have the ability for more efficient tax planning, as ownership can mean more opportunity for tax write-offs.

Then there is the additional flexibility with retirement planning. By maximizing a 401(k) retirement plan, you have the ability to save $54,000 every year into a retirement plan and receive a tax deduction for it. Assuming you are in the highest Federal tax bracket, that amounts to $21,600 of Federal tax savings every year.

Beyond the Financial Freedom: The Beauty of Partnership

Truth is, money isn’t everything.

Increasingly, time and flexibility have become more important in our society.  Balance is essential and means something different to every person. Whether it be family, personal or social obligations, more and more women are hesitant to start a new business because they don’t want it to consume them.

Yet, as a strong woman with a drive to be a leader in your community and dentistry, do you have to make that choice? What if you could have both?

Here is where the beauty of a partnership comes in. There are solutions that can attempt to resolve this battle between realizing the benefits of ownership and mitigating the risks of being the sole provider for your office family. The saying “two heads are better than one” is also true in ownership.

More frequently we see two colleagues, especially women in dentistry, merging forces to create a single practice which allows them both to be in control of their dentistry and destiny. They share the burden of running the business, which allows   them to reap the financial benefits of ownership. 

So how does it work? The beauty is that there are many ways it can work and many ways to structure it. The goal is to create a partnership that has a structure and ownership that fits what you need.

More often we see women in dentistry buying into a practice in stages, which allows for flexibility in ownership–something you may need depending on your phase of life.

Look at this scenario—it’s early in your career and you need more time at home for family or personal activities. You could buy into a practice at 33-percent ownership, then as your children get older or your personal activities at home change, you may choose to buy an additional percentage to get you to 50-percent ownership. As you near the end of your career, you may wish to slow down again and reduce your ownership to begin transitioning into retirement.

Strength in Numbers

Not only does this type of ownership allow you to manage your individual production, but it also allows you to mitigate some of the business risk and responsibility. Not only can you share the administrative functions and expenses, but you also have another trusted person to share in your vision of the practice and to lean on when you need time off or things of that nature.

Based on the CWA 2016 How Does Your Practice Compare? report, a typical one-doctor general practice has a profit margin of 40 percent of their collections. A typical two-doctor general practice profits 46 percent of their collections. This increase in profit is due to the ability to share the fixed expenses. With a partnership, not only do you receive the increased benefits of flexibility, but you can also be more profitable. There truly can be strength in numbers.

As you can see, like any self-employed individual, harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit can allow women in dentistry the opportunity to create a practice and ownership solution that works for their life, both professionally and personally.  Ownership can be daunting, but it can also be fulfilling and rewarding—you just have to find the path that works for you.