Contract Negotiating Tips

  • by AGD Staff
  • Oct 17, 2022
Dentists have many responsibilities in addition to providing oral healthcare for patients. Many of these responsibilities involve researching and signing contracts pertaining to the business side of dentistry — employment, building leases and other financial matters. 

With this in mind, AGD Impact asked five experts who specialize in various common dental contracts for insights into their areas. What should dentists know before entering into a certain contract? How much room is there for negotiation? What resources should they take advantage of to ensure they get the best possible outcomes?

Employment Contracts: Both Employers and Associates Require Due Diligence 
By Richard C. Engar, DDS, FAGD

For both associates and their senior employer dentists, employment contracts are some of the most important parts of the business of dentistry. Whether the agreement is strictly to outline terms of employment or to set terms for an eventual buy-in, particular aspects beneficial to each side must be part of the contract. It cannot be unilateral, and it cannot be produced by one party with no input from the other.   

The most important aspect to remember about these contracts is that each party must have their own representation, e.g., a lawyer, to review the contract and make points favorable to their client. It is often standard for a seller to produce the initial contract with language that has been used previously with former associates, but the new prospective associate must have his or her own legal counsel review it and add, remove or adjust provisions that are concerns. 


Richard C. Engar, DDS, FAGD, is retired CEO of Professional Insurance Exchange Mutual Inc., a Utah-based professional liability insurance carrier created by Utah dentists in 1978. He is also retired from the faculty of the University of Utah School of Dentistry and is the former AGD Impact Risk Management columnist.

Leave No Stone Unturned When Evaluating Supplier Agreements 
By Jennifer Steadman, BSDH, RDH, DAADOM

Even though the cost of running a business is increasing, your supply expenses don’t have to. You can decrease your monthly supply spend and maintain the quality of the products you use to treat patients. You may be automatically ordering higher-cost items because, when you started, they were the only kind you could get. I have noticed that the supply chains have opened more, so now is a great time to evaluate your supply spend. Schedule time to sit down and meet with your dental supplier to go over your options. Your dental supplier and their local representatives are there to help you. Start by discussing your top three categories of spend. A common top spend category is disposables. 


Jennifer Steadman, BSDH, RDH, DAADOM, is president of Steadman Onboarding Solutions and director of operations at New England Dental Partners. She is the founder of the Boston Chapter of the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM) and AADOM’s 2020 Practice Administrator of the Year.

Negotiating a Dental Tenant Office Lease in the Post-Pandemic Landscape 
By Dale Willerton

I’ve been negotiating dental tenant leases for 29 years. The world turned upside down for about 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in late 2022, the commercial real estate world is back to spinning on its usual axis. In terms of leases, it’s pretty much like the pandemic never happened. 

For most dental tenants, especially those in the middle of a 10-year lease term, the pandemic will not factor into your new lease or lease renewal negotiations. In my experience, I saw very few permanent closures of existing dental offices — unlike the restaurant industry, which saw about 100,000 permanent closures and many more tenants who crawled, wounded, to the end of their lease terms and then did not renew, but also closed permanently. In fact, six dental offices I am aware of that closed due to the pandemic have been reoccupied by new dental tenants. 


Dale Willerton is The Lease Coach, and, since 1993, he has exclusively worked for tenants. Formerly a shopping mall manager and leasing representative for landlords, Willerton is author of three books on the subject. To receive a complimentary copy of his 330-page book, “Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals for Dummies,” visit or email 

A Team of Trusted Advisers Can Help Guide a Smooth Partnership 
By Thad Miller

You’ve invested your time and your talent into your practice, patients and staff. You have nurtured your practice for years or decades, and maybe you’ve reached a point where a partner would be ideal. How do you begin the process? The good news is that you don’t have to figure this out on your own. The key to a smooth partnership is building a team of trusted advisers. These professionals can help you analyze your situation, prepare you for success and help you find the best match possible, all while avoiding common issues. 


Thad Miller, a practice transition professional and founder of DDSmatch, a dental practice transitions brokerage company, specializes in guiding dentists through their practice transitions. He is also vice president of the Dental Lifeline Network Indiana section.

Know Your Practice Before Becoming an In-Network Provider 
By Jennifer Bell, DDS, FAGD

The landscape of dentistry is changing every day. Financial pressures from the cost of dental education, the competitive landscape in many urban areas and the possibility of midlevel providers all force clinicians to stay educated about dental insurance networks. I have been an in-network provider for the past 10 years, and it has been a bumpy road to say the least. 

For those of you considering joining or leaving networks, most practices should focus on four key areas of their practice financials. A practice that understands these key performance indicators (KPIs) will be better prepared to enter into conversations with insurance networks. These KPIs are also critical if you are considering hiring a third party to help with negotiations and contracts. Being an educated consumer about the financial status of your practice will ensure you choose the right company for you. 


Jennifer Bell, DDS, FAGD, is a general dentist from Fayetteville, NC. 

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 Pennsylvania AGD newsletter.