Are you considering opening a dental office in California? If so, congratulations, and welcome to the world of private enterprise. Although you may find it difficult to believe right now, you will soon be wearing two hats: those of medical professional and business whiz. The steps you take today can spell the success or failure of your efforts over the long haul, so before you think of opening your office door, here are ten things you’ll want to consider.
1. Getting a California Dental License
Any dental school graduate who plans on opening a dental office in California will need to obtain a dental license in the state of California. There are three potential ways of getting there. To be eligible for application, he or she must have either:
- Passed the WREB exam.
- Completed one year of post-graduate residency.
- Practiced for at least three years as a licensed dentist in another state.
If the Dental Board of California approves your application, it will issue your license within 7 to 10 days after receiving your submission. It will remain valid for no more than two years and come up for renewal on the last day of your birthday month.
2. Deciding on a Business Type
Since your dental practice equates to a business, setting it up as an independent legal entity will both lessen your tax burden and protect you from potential liability. While California prohibits dentists from setting up as limited liability company, a lawyer can help you decide on a viable alternative. Many California dentists opt to register as a professional corporation. Your attorney will assist with filing paperwork and explain the regulations concerning the proper naming and registration of your dental corporation. If you choose to do business as a corporation it is very important that you treat you follow all corporate formalities which will ensure that you remain shielded from liability.
3. Joining a Professional Association
For many reasons, any dental professional who hopes to keep current on the latest trends and methods will find membership in a dental association to be indispensable. Affiliation with one or more of these organizations can offer new opportunities, help you plan for the future and certainly increase your clout and credibility with patients and colleagues alike. Internet postings and email correspondence do serve a purpose, but when it comes to discussing issues that affect dentistry on the whole and your practice in particular, nothing beats the benefit of face-to-face communication. In a world that continues to change by the minute, this becomes increasingly important.
4. Checking Your State and Local Requirements
The rules and regulations concerning your dental practice will vary depending on the locality in which it operates. Since local laws are subject to constant change, the thoughtful dental professional will make a point of staying current on rulings concerning such things as:
- Certification and licensing requirements.
- Basic principles of ethics.
- Adherence to standards of professional conduct.
- Mandatory continuing education.
The state of California believes in giving a dentist exclusive control over billing and coding procedures, insurance concerns, the choice of suppliers and the hiring of employees. Other locations may be less lenient.
5. Comply With OSHA Requirements
Federal law insists that dentists provide their employees with safe places to work, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration permits its inspectors to cite any dental facility for existing hazards. In addition to general safety concerns, violations in the areas of handling blood-borne pathogens, preventing dental infection and dealing with medical waste are particularly liable to result in a citation.
6. Understanding Taxation
Once you have formed your business entity, you will need to obtain a federal tax identification number. This permits the Internal Revenue Service to identify your practice as a taxable entity. If and when you hire employees, you will also require a California State EDD number, and if you should ever issue stock, you will have to file form 25102(f) with California’s Department of Corporations.
7. Choosing a Good Insurer
Every business will require insurance coverage. When opening a dental office in California you need at least three types. These include:
- General liability insurance.
- Dental malpractice insurance.
- Workers’ compensation insurance.
Depending on your specific circumstances, business insurance, stop-gap insurance, ERISA bond insurance and others may also have their place.
8. Dealing with Employees
When hiring new staff members, you’ll want to ensure that they have sufficient training or experience in their chosen fields. That, however, will not be all. It is also essential to ensure that they adhere to your guidelines and preferred methods of operation. An employee handbook can be an invaluable source of information concerning the policies of your practice as they relate to pay, work hours, duties, vacations, continuing education and terminations.
9. Choosing a Supplier and Dental Lab
Your selection of external labs and suppliers can significantly affect the health of your practice. This is no place to skimp. While every business wants to save money where it can, the dental services and equipment suppliers to which you subscribe must be of the highest quality. Any attempt to save money here could harm your reputation as well as your patients’ well-being.
10. Finding a Good Dental Attorney Familiar with Opening a Dental Office in California
Although each of the points above is vital in itself, they only scratch the surface of things you’ll need to consider when opening a dental office in California. The advice of a responsible dental business attorney can help you do this right. Don’t get your new business off on the wrong foot. Let competent legal advice smooth the way.