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Tips for finding an associate dentist position

Our advice team can offer recommendations to help you throughout the process of finding an associate role.

Michael Fnton Advisor 650X650
Michael Fenton Practice Management Consultant

We offer support to guide you through finding an associate position, an overview of the options available, and important points to consider regarding your contract.

Finding a new associate position

In addition to general job boards, the jobs section of the BDJ website is a popular tool which shows a wide range of jobs in dentistry from across the UK. It is also worth checking with the relevant Local Dental Committee for jobs near you, or jobs in the area you would like to move to. If you have any friends who are dentists, they might know of positions that would be suitable for you too. You should consider things like the type of practice and location you would like to work in and keep these things in mind when considering roles.

You should consider things like the type of practice and location you would like to work in.

Location and working hours

Is the job in a city, town, or village that you like? Consider the local demographic and how this would suit you. Is it accessible by public transport or is there parking? Will you be expected, or would you like, to work shifts, late nights or even weekends?


If you have access needs, check that it is easy to get in and out of the premises and use all the areas of the building that you need to. Would the building be pleasant to go to every day? You would probably rather work in a spacious, bright, well-maintained building than a cramped clinic in a state of disrepair. On the other hand, a clinic that has seen better days may mean that the owner has plans for renovations. Although remodels are disruptive, they can present an opportunity to help shape the workplace or even invest into the business in the future.

Check whether the practice has the onsite facilities you want. Can they mill their own crowns? Do they have the most recent radiography machines? It may be that they generally refer to the local area instead.


During the meeting with your potential colleagues, it is important to assess whether you would be a good fit working with each other. Look for personality clashes with the other dentists, dental nurses, or administrative staff. You may meet staff members with an abrupt manner of speaking, who are disorganised, or who do not let you get a word in edgeways. If the character traits you see would bother you in a friend, it may be worth continuing your job search.

Try to find out how long everyone has been there, and how long people generally stay. This is because a high staff turnover could be a red flag, suggesting people don’t want to stay. However, it might just be because they train apprentices on short-term programmes giving new starters a chance to develop. If there are apprentices or trainees at the practice, find out how closely you would work with them, and whether training them would be part of your job.

NHS, private or mixed practice

Patient demographics can vary enormously depending on location and average income. In deprived areas, patients often struggle to see an NHS dentist, or put off treatment so their oral health deteriorates over time. However, this high-need group can actually be more interesting for some dentists because patients tend to require more complicated work.

Different practices allow you to specialise or take a special interest in distinct aspects of dentistry. If you would like to enter a specialist field, is there someone there who may be able to mentor or even train you? Alternatively, the practice may want to offer a wider range of treatments to its patients, perhaps driven by patient demand for those services.

Your associate contract is one of the most valuable documents you will sign.

The importance of a fair contract

Dentists (along with most people) usually find associate contracts dense and boring, but they are essential reading because all contracts are far from equal. In fact, your associate contract is one of the most valuable documents you will sign because it can make or break your working relationship.

It is therefore essential for you to read your own contract thoroughly because there are a host of points that can trip you up. Once you have read it, please pass it to us to check that nothing important has been missed and to ensure it does not leave you open to anything that is not in your best interests.

Why is it so important for our experts to check your contract?

You need to be aware of what would happen in the event of practice equipment breaking down, what happens when you need parental leave, or if you have to arrange for a locum to cover for you. You might not think you need to define these aspects now, but the last thing you want to happen is to find you need them, and it has not been detailed in your contract.

None of the scenarios above may come to pass. However, it is likely that you will face “restrictive covenants” when you leave the job meaning that you cannot practise within the local area for a set period when you leave, and you should be happy with this before starting. These restrictions can be very expensive to dispute and so it is better to not agree to something you might want to breach in future. What is the retention when you leave? We can help you consider whether it is a reasonable proportion of your earnings, and understand how long it will be kept and used after your departure.

Your contract can be the difference between an enjoyable job with a good income or a stressful, poorly paid position which leaves you liable for situations you had not considered. Our advice team can help you with the whole process. We review your contract and go over anything unusual, highlight missing clauses and identify things that you might want to renegotiate with the practice.

Your contract can be the difference between an enjoyable job with a good income or a stressful, poorly paid position.

We consider every financial aspect of your contract

If you are an associate dentist doing NHS work, you will not get the full Units of Dental Activity (UDA) rate; the practice will take a cut. Members can use our UDA value checker to compare the rate you are offered against what the practice is getting, and what the going rate is in the area. It is worth considering that you may also get a lower rate when you are a new associate and there is no guarantee that the owner will uplift it in the future.

Private and NHS dentists also have to pay a percentage of their earnings as a licence fee to the practice, and there are other deductions built into the way you work for things like lab work. This means that an attractive suggested contract value must be weighed up against all these deductions. Is your contract giving you a fair deal?

Let us support you in getting the contract you deserve

You should be confident that you are going into a position that will secure you the income you desire and the work environment and experience you want, with no unexpected surprises. Our expert team will scour your contract, assess it based on our years of experience and give you targeted recommendations to give you the best chance at a happy, profitable Associate role.

We are in an ideal position to check your contract so that you save money and stress in the future. It is fast and simple to get an associate contract review; if you’re already a BDA member all you have to do is email us your contract. Not a member? Visit our membership hub to explore member packages and join.

Exclusively for BDA members

Associate contract reviews

We can review your associate contract as part of any membership package. Our standard turn-around time is 10 working days, however please note that during busy periods it may be a little longer.
BDA Practice Management Consultant Ezra Moffatt smiling confidently towards the camera