What Is An Associate Dentist?

Updated: Jul 4


Associate Dentist
Associate Dentist

Table of Contents:


What is an associate dentist?

Dental associates are dentists that are working in the practice but they are not the owner of the dental practice. Associates work as either an employee of the practice or as an independent contractor. The main differentiating factor is that they have no equity in the business or any stake of ownership as compared to the owner dentist.


Depending on the agreement with the dental office that they are at, they may or may not have a written contract for the job. Some contracts specify a minimum duration that they must remain at the practice and cannot leave before that time is up.


There are also some restrictive covenants that may be included in the contract.

  • Non-compete clause. Prohibits the employee from practicing within a specific geographic area if they were to leave their current position.

  • Non-solicitation clause. Prohibits the dentist from soliciting former coworkers and patients of the previous dental practice.

Aside from that, the duties and responsibilities are pretty much universal for all dentists.



Job description and responsibilities

Associate dentists are fully fledged and credentialed dentists. Associates are not dentists in training. They are responsible for everything that a dentist should know and do.


Clinical competencies:

  • Dental exams and x rays.

  • Teeth cleanings and deep teeth cleanings.

  • Cavity fillings.

  • Dental crowns and porcelain veneers.

  • Root canals.

  • Tooth extractions.

  • Removable dentures.

  • Dental implant crowns.

  • Good hand skills and spatial perception.

Administrative and Soft skills:

  • Managing their schedule.

  • Managing their staff.

  • Be knowledgeable about dental insurances.

  • Strong communication skills.

  • Good bedside manner.


Requirements to be an associate dentist

Once again, associates are fully licensed dentists. This means that they've fulfilled these criteria according to the american dental association (ADA):

  • Completion of an accredited 4 year dental school for a DDS or DMD degree.

  • DDS - Doctor of Dental Surgery.

  • DMD - Doctor of Dental Medicine.

  • Completion of any post-graduate residency training.

  • Licensure for practicing in their respective state.

  • Maintaining an active license which requires a certain number of continuing education (CE) credits every 2-3 years.

Some of the CE requirements may vary depending on the state.



What should associates look for in a practice?

The first thing that associate dentists look for in a practice is employment. This is where they will be practicing dentistry and receiving compensation to support their career. This includes living expenses and any student loan payments.

The second thing that dental associates should look for is the practice with the right fit. This not only includes getting along with their team members like the dental assistants but also the practice's values and philosophies. Those have to be consistent with what the associate wants. If their values are inconsistent with one another, it will typically lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness in the long run.

  • An example would be treatment planning philosophies where one can be more conservator or more liberal.

  • How to approach patient care and valuing the patients as human beings.

The third thing that dental associates should want is a path to ownership. That is correct, associates should be able to become partners with the owner dentist if this relationship is to last long term. An associateship position that does not lead to ownership will eventually fail or at the very least, will not be an enduring relationship.



Where to look for a job position?

There are a variety of places to look for an associate position.

You can always do it the old fashioned way and just try giving the dental offices in your area a call or you can go visit in person. Just be sure to dress your best and bring your resume.



Associate dentist salary

The national average salary of associate dentists is $159,740/year according to ZipRecruiter. The average dentist salary in new york is $157,805. Hopefully that helps with some of the statistics, if you click on the ziprecruiter link, you can find information for all of the states.


This article is brought to you by Dr David Chen.

David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!