December 2018

Considerations for Dental Practices

December 1, 2018
Yes, what you’ve heard is true:

You may be able to save a third—33%—on the cost of a capital equipment investment by taking advantage of the Section 179 tax deduction. Now, if you’re like most dentists, you’re probably being besieged with marketing communications that encourage you to make your Section 179 purchase by the end of the year. But what part of the promised savings is true, and what part is hype?

Here are the basics:

Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code is a section of the tax law designed to encourage business owners to invest in equipment and technology. Section 179 allows businesses—such as dental practices—to deduct the full price of qualifying equipment purchased or financed during the tax year, up to$500,000, from gross income. Section 179 gives business owners a choice: apply full depreciation for the equipment purchase in the first year, or spread it out over five years. If your practice has purchased, financed, or leased less than $2 million in new or used equipment during the previous tax year, then you may qualify for Section 179. It sounds easy, right? Just purchase equipment and hand off the receipt to your dental accountant….Well, that’s only part of what you need to know. Before you decide whether you can afford that new technology you want, here are a few things you should consider.


Every technology purchase should start with an honest assessment. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you want the technology?
  • Will it affect the way you treat patients?
  • Will your patients benefit? If so, how?
  • Will it add a new revenue stream?
  • Will it pay for itself?

Answering these questions helps to cut though the marketing hype. It also helps you determine if a certain technology or equipment purchase will bring an actual benefit to your practice. Regardless of the equipment cost or promised savings, understanding the value the technology brings to your practice, patients, and bottom line will help you prioritize your investments.


Section 179 applies to outright purchases as well as leased and financed equipment. Now, everyone knows that if you are leasing or financing equipment, you spread out payments over time.However, what you might not know is that Section 179 lets you choose to deduct the full cost of the equipment in one year. The amount you save in taxes can actually exceed the payments. This makes Section 179 a powerful deduction that benefits your bottom line.In many cases, the deduction will actually be a “profit.” Why?Because the amount you deduct will almost always exceed your cash outlay for the year, provided you combine a properly structured equipment lease or equipment finance agreement with a full Section 179 deduction.


When the marketing emails and flyers advise you not to wait, they’re right. To qualify, equipment must be purchased and put into service before December 31, 2018. If the equipment requires training, you’ll need to schedule it now for you and/or your staff to comply with Section 179. Other dentists are also looking at the same time frame, so yes, acting quickly can help ensure your spot in preferred training sessions so you can avoid spending NewYear’s Eve learning a new tool.


When adding technology, be aware of hidden costs. Is there an additional cost for training, or are implementation costs included?If training is included in the cost of the equipment, it can generally be part of the overall financing package. If training is a different purchase and not included in the financing package, it generally does not qualify for Section 179. In that case, not only do you pay separately for training, you lose the opportunity for a larger deduction. Another hidden cost comes to light when the new equipment requires a modification to meet the needs of your office. Putting in new electrical or running additional waterlines to power your purchase can be unexpected costs.We tend to think of hard costs—dollars and cents spent—without considering soft costs or opportunity cost. Soft cost include stress and time, such as the stress to your staff and time lost when dealing with overly complicated equipment. Put another way, new technology may not improve the bottom line or productivity when you end up working harder, not smarter.Opportunity cost can ultimately be viewed as lost revenue. If you wait to implement a technology that helps you offer a new

service, attract new patients, or increase patient acceptance, you lose the revenue you could have captured if you had acted sooner.


The idea of “time value of money” is straightforward, but it’s not simple. The general concept is this: a dollar is worth more in the future than it is today. That’s because you can make money by investing your dollar. So, if you invest with an interest rate of 10%, one dollar invested today will be worth $1.65 in five years. The interest rate is important, especially when you consider the average interest rates on many money market accounts today are less than one percent. That means one dollar invested now would only be worth$1.04 in five years. That’s not a huge profit.

At Patterson Dental, we sell and distribute most all brands of dental equipment. One of our trusted partners is Kavo Dental. Here is an updated maintenance guide they have shared on the Kavo Blog:

Maintenance Guide

Learn more about simple dental equipment repair, disinfection and maintenance tips. Know why proper maintenance of dental instruments is important. Let’s face it: managing a dental office and the necessary dental equipment repair tasks can be time consuming because of the amount of equipment that must be routinely cleaned, disinfected and maintained. This dental equipment repair and replacement must be timely to ensure patient and staff safety.A dental equipment maintenance checklist is a great tool to ensure that essential tasks aren’t missed or performed late. Performing regular dental equipment maintenance helps it to run smoothly and reliably and minimizes the risk for poor functioning or damage. It can also extend the life of your instruments and equipment, saving you money.


Use this dental equipment maintenance checklist of daily, weekly, monthly and annual tasks to help you organize your office. Don’t forget to check state and local requirements and add dental equipment servicing tasks that are specific to your office or remove ones that don't apply.

  • Flush water through the hand pieces and air/water syringes
  • Lubricate and sterilize hand pieces
  • Lubricate prophy angles, contra angle, and nose cones between patients
  • Disinfect operatory equipment after each patient
  • Flush hand piece waterlines between each patient
  • Run suction cleaner through the operatory HVE and saliva ejector tubings
  • Clean out delivery unit traps· Drain and wipe out ultrasonic cleaner
  • Check hazardous and infectious waste/Sharps containers and replace as needed
  • Change the traps on the delivery units
  • Check and replace O-rings on hand-pieces couplers
  • Check and replace gaskets on hand-pieces
  • Perform biological spore test in each sterilizer
  • Check for safety hazards in the office
  • Check, clean and replace plaster trap
  • Clean the model trimmer
  • Clean the panoramic/cephalic cassettes and intensifying screen
  • Check nitrous oxide systems and emergency oxygen units to ensure that they are working properly and do not need to be replaced or repaired
  • Check, clean or replace master trap
  • Look at the office from the dental chair to see the office from the patient’s perspective and clean as needed
  • Check patient monitoring equipment is up to code and working properly
  • Change sterilizer door gasket and cassette seal
  • Change oil of compressor
  • Inspect fire extinguisher, smoke alarm and emergency lighting
  • Schedule inspection, calibration, and certification of x-ray equipment
  • Review OSHA, HIPAA, and state guidelines and conduct OSHA trainings
  • Review emergency procedures with staff


In addition to performing regular dental equipment repair and maintenance, keeping an emergency kit for last minute dental equipment servicing is a must for every office.Some ideas for what to keep in your kit include:

  • Hand-piece: lube, cleaner and spare turbines, chucks and bur tools
  • Air compressor: oil and intake valves
  • Vacuum: intake filter, line cleaner, traps and canisters
  • Spare light bulbs: hand-pieces, curing lights and operatory lights
  • Spare O-rings and gaskets
  • All owner’s manuals and equipment invoices in case of warranty issues

Keeping these basic self-maintenance items make it easier to perform simple dental equipment repair tasks while they are small and easily managed problems, without letting them progress to more serious issues.In addition, keeping manuals and invoices in a secure place allows you to easily contact the manufacturer incase of a serious problem in need of dental equipment servicing.

The Federal Reserve has kept interest rates low for precisely that reason. It is more attractive to invest that dollar in technology to grow your business than it is to put that dollar in the bank. The key here is making sure the technology you spend money on will provide a return. This is why your accountant talks about return on investment(ROI).

Section 179 is a “use-it-or-lose-it” write-off that endsDecember 31. Will the technology you purchase today with your one dollar generate more than five cents in profit over the next five years? If so, your ROI is higher when you spend that dollar on technology than when you invest that dollar in a money market account.


Many capital equipment items qualify for Section 179, from computers to CAD/CAM to lasers. However, not all capital equipment items that qualify are actually investments.Investment, as the dictionary defines it, is something you purchase that you expect to produce income. If the technology brings a new revenue stream—such as adding anew treatment procedure to your office—then it is an investment. If not, it is just a purchase to your practice. In this scenario, you make $10.08 per dollar invested.


When you see “Section 179 Savings Specials” advertised through the end of the year, take another look at howSection 179 can help. This tax benefit can offset the cost of a true technology investment to benefit your practice. As with any tax issues, be sure to consult a professional tax advisor for guidance. Your advisor may know of other advantageous provisions of Section 179 that could apply to your particular situation.

At Patterson Dental we often talk about creating a great “patient experience” and why this is so important in your practice. I think we can all agree that patient’s purchasing habits have changed over the last few years. The question is have we adapted to our patients? Are we creating more value for our services and building stronger relationships? I want to do this in my business and also want to help you do this in your practice. I believe we have great ideas to share and help implement in your practice.Let’s work together and reach our potential and have some fun in dentistry!“”

-Brad Backman