Congratulations! You just bought or started up your very own dental practice. Now you want to give your practice a sleek, catchy name that will attract patients and give you an edge over the dentist across the street. But what name should you choose? How about “Best Smile Dental” or “Number One Dentist in Toronto”. Maybe “Dentistry on Smith Street”. Or how about “Pear Tree Dental”?
Dental practice names (also known as trade names) are important because they help patients identify the type of care they can expect. The name, along with your brand, can give an impression of the quality of care and experience your practice provides. Ultimately, you want the name you choose to be memorable, unique and distinguishable from other dental practices in your area.
The Naming Process
Dental practice names must be applied for and approved by the executive committee at the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (the “RCDSO”). It is considered professional misconduct to operate under a name not approved by the RCDSO, with very few exceptions (such as “Family Dentistry”).
According to the RCDSO, practice names cannot include the use of terms “suggestive of uniqueness or superiority” about the practice, the practitioner, the equipment, materials, expected treatment results or any other aspect of dental practice. So the names “Best Smile Dental” and “Number One Dentist in Toronto” that you were considering earlier are unacceptable. The regulations also prevent terms that are “likely to create expectations of favourable results or to appeal to the public’s fears”.
If the name of your dental practice cannot refer to any other aspect of dental practice, then what can the name refer to? Let’s take a look at a few different approaches you can take while staying within the RCDSO guidelines:
The first, and some might say easiest, approach to naming your dental practice is simply using your own name. For example, “Dr. X Dental” or “Dr. X and Associates Dental Clinic”. Depending on your name and the area you practice, this could be an easy way to ensure your practice name’s uniqueness, which adds to its memorability. However, if you have a prevalent name, such as Dr. Smith, this may not be the best approach for you.
You also want to be sure to think about your practice’s future and not simply its current size. If you envision bringing in multiple partners, or adding additional specialists to your practice, then starting with a name like “Drs. Jones and Smith Dentistry” may hinder your negotiations with future partners who may also want their name incorporated.
According to the RCDSO, and from our experience, dentists who submit applications for a name that is reasonably referable to the practice’s location usually are approved. So, names such as “Dentistry on Smith Street” would be acceptable. Also, names such as “Lake View” or “Mountain View” if you are close to a lake or mountain would both be good. However, names such as “Toronto Dentistry” may not fly because there are thousands of other dental practices in Toronto. So that description may not be “reasonable” in the eyes of the RCDSO if you are in a larger city. In this case, you might have to choose a neighbourhood name or a street name.
What about areas that are so saturated most names referring to the area or location are already taken?” In this case, the RCDSO recommends choosing a name that is entirely unrelated to dentistry, such as a non-offensive object like “apple”, “tree” or “sun”. So, names such as “Pear Tree Dental” and “Sun Dentistry” will most likely be acceptable ones. But … object names are only suitable so long as they are not “unprofessional” and do not refer to any other aspect of dental practice such as “Molar Dental”. When thinking about this type of name, instead of thinking about the tangible aspects of your practice, you can think more abstract. What is the feeling you want to promote? What type of patients do you want to attract? Apples are a common symbol for teachers and schools. So “Apple Dentistry” could be a great option if you are targetting families and kids.
Incorporating the particular services you offer in your practice name can be a good choice for specialists. However, like the previous approaches, there are specific rules to be aware of when naming specialist practices. The RCDSO practice advisory on practice names states,
if a practice refers to a specialty, it must be one of the 11 specialty branches of dentistry recognized in Ontario AND all the dentists practising in the office using that practice name must be registered with the College as specialists in that branch of dentistry.
So, if you are a periodontic specialist practice with the name “Smith Street Periodontics” who wants to hire a general dentist a few days per week – you might find yourself in some trouble.
Mixed General and Speciality Practices
Whether we are talking about a general practitioner hiring a specialist associate or partnering up with a specialist, the RCDSO naming rules for mixed general and specialty practices are the same:
- The practice name cannot include any reference to the specialty. As an example, “ABC General and Orthodontic Dentistry” would not be permitted.
- The specialist cannot apply for a specialty practice name to operate out of the same location as the general practitioner. For example, it is not permitted that the same practice has both ABC General Dentistry and ABC Orthodontics as practice names. If the specialist wants a separate practice name, they will have to provide a different office address and a different phone number from the general practice.
Mixed Speciality Practices
Separate RCDSO naming rules govern situations of two or more different kinds of specialists practising out of the same location (whether in a partnership or as associates):
- If each of the dentists has the same specialty, then no naming issues should arise. For example, based on the College’s naming rules, a specialist perio practice could be named “High Street Periodontics”.
- If each dentist has a different specialty, then the practice name can have both or all specialties in the name—for example, “ABC Orthodontic and Periodontic Dentistry”. Alternatively, the practice name can be very generic such as ABC Dental Specialists”. However, the two or more specialists cannot apply for separate business names (i.e. ABC Orthodontics and ABC Periodontics). If each specialist wants an individual practice name, they will each have to provide a different office address and a phone number.
If you aren’t able to showcase all the specialties you offer in your practice name, you can still market them. The marketing materials for mixed practice may refer to each of the specialties provided within your named practice. For example, you could say, “ABC Dental Specialists, providing Oral Maxillofacial Surgery (Dr. Smith), Periodontic Services (Dr. Brown) and Orthodontic Services (Dr. White)”.
For further guidance on practice names, you can contact us or the RCDSO. And for guidance on running your practice or any other legal advice, please feel free to contact us at any time. We are your legal dental team, and we are here help you take your practice further and build the life you want.