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Starting your own dental implant clinic: Is it possible?

May 19, 2016
Starting a practice for dental implants? I would not have thought it was possible, but I started my own dental implant clinic at age 28.

Michael D'Hondt, DDS

I would not have thought that it was possible, but I started my own dental implant clinic at age 28. My doors opened on a Saturday this past March. I saw my first patient, a friend, for an implant consult to replace a missing No. 20.

Being impatient has always been my greatest weakness, but it recently became my biggest strength. I had a burning desire to make my dream of ownership happen. My first years in practice as an associate were challenging for more than just the usual reasons. A little background: I had been successfully treated for Ewing's sarcoma of my right leg in 2002 prior to dental school. In the winter of 2014, about halfway through residency, I found out that the allograft tacked down by the erector set that had repaired my leg had epically failed. It was painful, pus was pouring out, and I knew the repair wasn't going to be a lot of fun either.

Dr. Michael D'Hondt: "Outside the office, I enjoy graphic design (all illustrations on his website are his own original art), biking in the Driftless (more than 5,000 miles last year), and swimming."

I had seven major surgeries to repair my tibia defect with a vascularized fibula. I experienced every complication: My graft failed twice; I had an infection; a dehisced wound required a vacuum; I was in so much pain that I was on ketamine for four days straight . . . all when I should have been beginning to reap the benefits of four years of dental school.

Once I healed, I turned the jets on. Everything I had to do needed to be done yesterday. My two primary goals were to reach the peak of my physical fitness and to learn how to place dental implants. Life is short, and to me, six months of unimaginable pain and being wheelchair bound were more than enough reminders.

ADDITIONAL READING |How opening a dental practice is like cooking a steak

Being from Metro Detroit, I like my implants just like I like my watch (Shinola) and my truck (Chevy)-made in America. I did some research and found that Implant Direct would be able to offer me what I was looking for. My local sales representative got me set up with a series of small-group discussions to teach me everything I needed to know to place implants. A week after the first course, I bought pig jaws from a local meat-processing plant and practiced. After I placed my first implant on a patient (my uncle), I knew this was what I wanted to do. But what would it take for me to start my own practice focused exclusively on implants? What would that business model look like?

I did the math:

• $8,000-$10,000 Implants, motor, and surgical tray

• $1,250-Oral surgery instruments

• $1,500-Biomaterials

• $2,000-Clinical and office supplies

• $2,000-Laptop

• $1,000 per month-Online marketing (classifieds in state dental association journal and Facebook/AdWords)

My rough business plan is to (1) still work five days a week as an associate, (2) rent a chair one day a week from a dentist nearing retirement and add days as I get busier, and (3) market implant services to dentists and to the public.

ADDITIONAL READING |The future for dentists is better than you think, if . . .

And thus was born Simply Dental Implants LLC. I started renting a chair on Saturdays, and I already am looking to add Wednesday nights thanks to the demand. In two years, I hope to take over the dentist's lease when he retires.

My life experiences have taught me that our time on this planet can be short. So if you have an idea to start or grow your own business, what are you waiting for?

Michael D'Hondt, DDS, studied chemical engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After working as an engineer for a Fortune 500 company, he returned to attend the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. His dream was to become a periodontist, but health issues related to childhood bone cancer changed his plans. He chose a general practice residency instead at Meriter Hospital in Wisconsin. You may contact him by e-mail at [email protected].

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