Recruiting New Dentists in Iowa:  A guide for your community to be successful

Chapter 4: Recruitment Tools

There are several strategies and tools communities can use to increase their recruitment success.

Office of Iowa Practice Opportunities’ Website

The OIPO maintains a website that has listings for practice opportunities and communities seeking a dental provider in Iowa. Students and graduates use this website regularly to search for available opportunities in Iowa. Utilizing this free resource provides one of the best ways for exposure for your opportunity. Online submission of an opportunity can be done at

Iowa Practice Opportunity Fair

Each fall, the OIPO hosts the Iowa Practice Opportunity Fair in the Iowa City area. Connections have been made at past fairs that have led to a practice and a community gaining a new dentist. During this event, dentists and communities have the chance to display their opportunity and interact with the college’s students.

For a dentist who is planning to exhibit, having information about and pictures of the office is advisable in addition to knowing what the transition arrangement and plan is. When recruiting for a practice, a dentist represents the community as well. Local Chambers of Commerce often have materials that can be given out about the community and sometimes a display that can be borrowed to use as part of your display. Bringing a member(s) from the dentist recruitment task force or community representatives to help exhibit the opportunity shows that a new dentist is supported and will be valued by the community.

Information and details about the annual event can be found on the OIPO website at

Community Tour

A community tour is another tool to attract a new dentist. Working with the OIPO, invite prospective students and graduates to spend a day in the community. Because students are required to be in class or clinic during the week, the tour will need to be held on a weekend. The Iowa Practice Opportunities Coordinator can help to identify weekends that do not have a conflict with an activity on the collegiate calendar.

Before the tour, identify who should be included in the day. Members of the recruitment task force will want to be part of it. If there is a dentist who is either looking for someone to join their practice or to whom they can sell their practice, ask them to participate in the day and include a tour of their office in the schedule. Consider inviting people in leadership positions in the community who may not be part of the recruitment task force but who represent the community like the mayor, city council members, school principals and superintendents and young professionals.

Starting the day at a coffee shop or location where they can be welcomed to the community is a good idea. People who will be part of the day can greet them and make initial introductions. Dentists who may not be looking to add an associate or to sell their practice should be asked to be part of the welcome – it shows a supportive effort to those who are considering living and practicing there.

Along with determining who will be involved in the day, identifying what will be included is necessary too. Create a checklist for tasks that need to be decided or done prior to the tour. For example:

  • Will there be a meal(s) or overnight stay(s) and if so, is there a person, organization or business that might sponsor underwriting the cost for the visitors?
  • Will transportation be needed and if so, how will it be accommodated?
  • Will there be access to locked buildings that are part of the tour?

Before the day of the tour, provide all community participants with an outlined schedule.

Additionally, be prepared to give tours on an individual basis. Individual tours may be in lieu of a group tour or in addition to one. It can be customized to include what the interested person is most interested in learning about and seeing. Prior to the visit, a questionnaire can be used to determine in what the potential candidate (and family) is most interested. (A link to an example of a questionnaire the Keokuk Area Dental Recruitment Task Force uses can be found in the Appendix.)

Some additional partners that may be invited to assist with the community tour include;

  • Local financing partners (banks, credit unions, etc.)
  • Real estate agents and developers
  • Young professionals network
  • Civic organizations
  • Local schools
  • Active community members (community “cheerleaders”)

Job Shadow

Another step in the recruitment process is to allow the recruit to shadow the existing dentist. This gives them a chance to see how the practice operates, learn about expectations, and determine whether they may be a good fit. It also allows the recruit to see a cross section of the type of customers they will be serving.


According to the American Dental Education Association, the median educational debt that a dental student attending a public institution will graduate with is $240,000 (March 2016). This amount does not reflect those who also carry educational debt from their undergraduate education. For many, the debt is substantially higher. With this level of debt, decisions about where to practice and the type of practice setting in which they practice is often affected.

Dental education loan repayment matching funds

One aspect of the Fulfilling Iowa’s Need for Dentists (FIND) program is dental education loan repayment. Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation contributes $50,000, the State of Iowa contributes $25,000 and the community in which a dentist chooses to practice contributes $25,000 for up to $100,000 dental education loan repayment. It is paid out over a five-year period to the dental education loan institution through the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. In return for loan repayment, a recipient agrees to allocate at least 35 percent of patient services to underserved patient populations. (

Financial assistance

Iowa Area Development Group (IADG) is a great partner to have when recruiting a new dentist and considering incentives that might be available. It is the business and community development leader for its sponsor partners which includes electric cooperatives, member municipal electric systems and independent telecommunication companies throughout Iowa. IADG brings community connections and economic development to new dentist recruitment. Through these connections, financial and other resources and incentives have been identified that enhanced recruitment efforts in many smaller and rural communities. IADG has some of the ways in which financial assistance can be provided to a new dentist listed on their website,

Whether a new dentist is building a new practice or renovating an existing one, it is an expensive venture- especially if they have educational debt. Communities that have revolving loan funds can offer low interest loans that can aid in building a financing package for the project. To see revolving loan funds available in Iowa, this link can be used:

The USDA Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program has been utilized to help a number of new dentists in Iowa. IADG through their partners helps with the application. If awarded, the recipient receives the monies as a zero percent interest loan. This is a huge cost-savings for a new dentist. To learn more about the program, use this link:

Financial assistance for a new dentist can also be done through gifted land, a gifted building, rent subsidies, tax increment financing for new construction, and tax abatement. Work with IADG and your local or area economic development group to identify additional, alternative and the best sources for financial assistance.


The new dentist most likely does not already live in the community or the region. Know what housing options are available for renting and for purchasing. Ask the new dentist what type of housing they are interested in and connect them with a local realtor(s) or someone who can show them the properties.

Spouse or Partner Opportunities

Ask the prospective new dentist(s) if they have a spouse or partner who will be moving to the community. If they do, it will be just as important to make them feel welcomed by and into the community. Thoughts and concerns should be addressed as the decision will be made by the pair and not just the prospective dentist. If the significant other works, ask what they do and help them to identify possible employers or positions available in the community.

Mentor Program

Recruiting a new dentist can begin as early as elementary school. Through age-appropriate activities, children can be introduced to dentistry during elementary, middle, and high school years. Working with them as they are growing up, they can learn about positions to which they can come back. Existing dentists can be excellent partners in developing such programming.

Examples of Successful Community Recruitment

With information collected, the type of clinic(s) the community needs can be explored. Each community may have different needs and there can be more than one way to address them. Here are some examples of the results of a community effort:

Iowa communities that provided matching funds for the FIND dental education loan repayment recipients:

Algona/Emmetsburg Fayette Muscatine (2)
Allison Greenfield Shenandoah
Clarinda Holstein Storm Lake
Council Bluffs Jewel  Wapello
Denison Maquoketa Wayland
Dubuque Mount Pleasant (2)  

Iowa communities that provided assistance for dentist recruitment in other ways:


  • The Butler County Foundation provided matching funds for FIND dental education loan repayment.
  • Butler County Rural Electric Cooperative provided a low-interest loan.
  • The new dentist started his own practice, but the senior dentist in the community provided him space to practice, mentoring, and all new patients were directed to the new dentist. When the senior dentist retired, the new dentist purchased the practice and the building from him.


  • The rural electric cooperative serving the community provided a low-interest loan used to purchase previous dentist’s equipment.


  • In 2007, Wayne County Hospital and Clinic System in Corydon took over the community’s retiring dentist’s office. The dentist oversees the clinic, but utilizes the support services from the hospital and benefits
  • The hospital also provided housing for the initial dentist.


  • The building for the practice was gifted.
  • The Chamber of Commerce started an appointment list prior to the opening of the practice.
  • The community assisted the dentist’s spouse in securing a position in his profession.
  • Iowa Area Development Group assisted in the application for a zero-percent interest USDA Rural Economic Development Loan.

Des Moines

  • In 2016, Dental Connections, a non-profit company, opened a dental clinic in a Des Moines high school to provide services for students of Des Moines Public Schools.


  • In 2014, a community needs assessment led to Keokuk identifying not only a need to recruit new dentists for private practices, but that the community could support the addition of a community health center. The community health center dental clinic opened in 2017, and three new dentists will begin in the community in Summer 2017. If a new dentist is interested in and qualifies for the FIND dental education loan repayment, the community has identified funds for it.


  • The community economic development group built and gave an existing building to the new dentist.


  • The community started collecting applications for positions at the practice while the building was being built.
  • The property owner was given a three-year tax abatement. × The new dentist received a zero-percent interest USDA Rural Economic Development Loan from the revolving loan fund of the local telecom.

Sac City

  • The community provided employment assistance for the spouse.


  • The community raised money to buy a building for health care services. The community owned the building which housed a medical clinic on one side of it. The dental practice leases the space at a low rate from the community.
  • A portion of the unused money that had been raised by the community was put toward dental education loan repayment.
  • A USDA Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program loan (REDLG) was secured.

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