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What is a Dental Associate Contract?

A dental associate contract, also known as a dental employment agreement, is a legally binding document between a dental practice and an associate dentist. This document outlines the terms of employment, which have previously been agreed upon through negotiations, between the dental practice (employer) and the associate dentist (employee).

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Key Parts of a Dental Associate Contract

Independent Contractor vs. Employee

Before discussing the key components of a dental associate contract, it is important to determine whether you will be working as an independent contractor or full-time employee. These are two very different classifications that can have big implications on both employer and employee obligations.

On a high level, full-time employees will receive benefits from their employer and take greater direction. Independent contractors are self-employed, need to pay for their own benefits, and have more flexibility on when and where they work.

Here is an article that go over the difference between an Independent Contractor vs. Employee.

Now, let’s get into the key parts of a dental employment contract.

  • Compensation, Wages, Salary: This is the part of the agreement that outlines the wage, salary, or earnings the employer is responsible in paying the employee.
  • Role and Duties: This is the part of the contract that goes over your day-to-day responsibilities as an associate dentist.
  • Qualifications: This is the part of the contract that goes over the required qualifications needed for the job.
  • Benefits: This is the section that outlines the benefits you will be receiving from your employer, which can include health insurance and retirement fund contributions.
  • Term and Termination: This is the part of the contract that outlines the length of employment and how it can be ended by either party.
  • Insurance: This is the part of the contract that goes over what party is responsible for securing malpractice insurance.
  • Non-Competition: This is the part of the contract that goes over the employee’s ability to work for other dental practices in the future. For example, it may limit a dentist from joining or opening a practice within a certain radius of the practice they work for or are considering joining.
  • Confidentiality: This part of the contract will require an associate dentist to keep certain information confidential, like business practices, patient lists, etc.
  • Dispute Resolution : This is the part of the contract that outlines the procedures in case there is a dispute between the employer dentist and associate dentist.

Here is a paper written by the ADA Center for Professional Success about the terms within a dental employment contract.

How to Become an Associate Dentist?

An associate dentist is a non-owner dentist that works within a dental practice. Typically, these are younger dentists that have not made the leap in starting their own practice and have chosen to get a job with a dentist that already has an established practice. However, older dentists can also become associates for reasons like work flexibility and reduced pressure of running their own practice.

Associate dentists can either be hired as a full-time employee or an independent contractor, depending on what the dental practice needs. As a full-time employee, you will typically be offered benefits, which includes insurance, retirement plans, etc. Independent contractors need to pay for their own insurance and benefits.

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Negotiating a Dental Employment Contract

As with any contract, dental employment contracts are negotiable. You just need to be willing to take the risk in hearing ‘no.' In some circumstances, if you take a negotiation too far you may lose your offer as the employer may not think it is worth the time or expect the employee to be a problem in the future.

If there are any parts of the agreement that you have questions about or may be troublesome, feel free to engage a dental lawyer for help. They will help guide you on what terms are considered ‘par’ for the industry and what terms you may afford to push back on. It is always wise to get outside help so you do not end up in a bad relationship without the rights you deserve.

Here is an article from Tufts School of Dental Medicine on considerations for your contracts.

Other Types of Dental Contracts

Employment contracts are popular within dental practices since dentists need a lot of help in the office if they want to grow their practice. There are other types of contracts that are also worth noting, which are below:

Getting Help with Your Dental Associate Contract

Many dentists earn high salaries, so it is worth investing in help to make sure you are signing a contract that protects your rights. Consulting with an employment lawyer that has familiarity within the dental and medical field is always recommended to make sure your rights are protected.

ContractsCounsel is not a law firm, and this post should not be considered and does not contain legal advice. To ensure the information and advice in this post are correct, sufficient, and appropriate for your situation, please consult a licensed attorney. Also, using or accessing ContractsCounsel's site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and ContractsCounsel.

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Dental Associate Contract


Asked on Jul 17, 2023

Dental associate contract malpractice insurance?

I recently signed a dental associate contract with a practice in my local area. I am concerned about the malpractice insurance that is included in the contract, as I am not sure if the coverage is adequate. I am also unsure of the type of insurance that is provided and what it covers. I would like to know what the risks are in regards to my malpractice insurance and how I can ensure that I am properly protected.

Merry A.

Answered Aug 15, 2023

I am a WA State attorney. For starters, obtain a copy of your policy, print it, and read it carefully, using a yellow highlighter to highlight your questions/concerns, while making notes on a notepad. Check with independent malpractice insurers in WA to determine typical amounts of coverage in your field and county. Consider buying more on your own and/or an umbrella policy. Check with instructors, mentors, and colleagues in your field to seek guidance on adequate coverage.

Read 1 attorney answer>


Dental Associate Contract

New York

Asked on Mar 31, 2021

Any special terms to include in dental employment contract?

I am hiring my first associate dentist.

Donya G.

Answered Mar 31, 2021

When dealing with patients and other people's information, HIPPA rules and laws will be important. DISCLAIMER The answers to these questions do not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship with the attorney and anyone who reviews these responses.

Read 1 attorney answer>


Dental Associate Contract

North Carolina

Asked on Jul 26, 2023

Dental associate contract practice sale clauses?

I am a dental associate looking to purchase a practice from a retiring dentist. I am in the process of reviewing the contract and have some questions about the sale clauses. I am concerned about the terms of the sale and would like to understand the implications of certain clauses in the contract.

Shelia H.

Answered Sep 1, 2023

Here are a couple of items you should pay close attention to: 1. Be clear about what you are purchasing. There should be an itemized list of personal business property. You will also want to make sure that you have included digital and intellectual property assets. For each item, you will want to make sure that there are no liens on the property and that no one else has any ownership interest in the property. 2. Be clear about any non-compete provisions that you need to have in the agreement. The last thing you want is for the seller to open a competing office or become an investor in a competing practice that's right across the street from you and have your anticipated clients move to the new practice. You need to pay particular attention to how this provision is crafted, given that there are major concerns about restrictions such as non-competes. Additionally, some states have already banned non-competes for employees who are doctors, and the Federal Trade Commission is expected to vote on new rules concerning non-competes in 2024. 3. Thoroughly research and analyze the profit and loss statements, taxes, and employment records. Make sure you understand the cash flow of the operation. It's best to consider having an accountant review all of these documents. These are just three things to think about when purchasing any business. There are many more. Hiring an experienced attorney is one of the best things that you can do to make sure that you are assessing the risks associated with the purchase.

Read 1 attorney answer>


Dental Associate Contract


Asked on Aug 1, 2023

How to track dental associate contracts?

I am a dentist who is looking to hire a dental associate to help with my practice. I need to create a contract that outlines the terms and conditions of the associate's employment, but I want to make sure that I am tracking it properly. I want to make sure that I am following all the legal obligations related to the contract and that it is enforced properly.

Merry A.

Answered Aug 25, 2023

It's not necessary to write a contract - you can write a hiring letter with the terms and conditions, with a reminder that the employee is an "at will" employee. This may give you more freedom to discipline or terminate the employee than an employment contract would. However, you can also write this up as a contract. In either instance, do not violate any laws, such as the state and federal laws against discrimination (some counties and cities, such as King and Spokane counties, and Tacoma, Seattle, and possibly Spokane may have additional provisions); watch out for RCW 49.44.211, a 2022 law about nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions; and, if you choose to include regular evaluations in your letter or contract, the most simple thing is to track those on a calender and remind yourself and your employee of the date a few weeks ahead of time. Some hiring letters and employment contracts provide for reimbursing the employer for the costs of training and/or any costs provided to the employee for moving expenses if the employee leaves before "X" amount of time.. Before hiring any new employee, do your best to conduct a national background check (not just state) and make sure it's extensive - prior performance at another job? Was the work history and education what they say it was? Any misdemeanors or felonies? What is their financial history and credit rating? Etc. Good luck on your hiring decisions.

Read 1 attorney answer>


Dental Associate Contract


Asked on Jun 22, 2023

Dental associate contract working hours?

I am a dental associate who is considering signing a contract with a dental practice. I am interested in understanding the working hours that are outlined in the contract, so that I can make an informed decision about the position. I want to make sure that the working hours are reasonable and that I am fully aware of my obligations before signing the contract.

Diane D.

Answered Jul 14, 2023

Without seeing the contract and without knowing exactly what you are looking for, it is impossible to answer your question.

Read 1 attorney answer>
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