How to Write a Great Transition Letter

After a dentist sells their practice, one of their final tasks is to send a transition letter to the patients. There’s a right and a wrong way to handle this.

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Most transition letters are pretty bad.

Sellers often think transition letters are their chance to say goodbye. As if they’re a battleship captain being relieved of command and giving a farewell speech. This is the wrong approach. There’s a better way to structure the transition letter—a way that will set the new practice owner (you) up for success.

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What is a Transition Letter?

A transition letter is a formal announcement sent to patients when a dental practice is being sold and a new dentist is taking over. This letter marks the official changing of the guard.

What it shouldn’t be: a venue for the retiring dentist to express their feelings about retirement. In fact, it shouldn’t focus on the seller’s departure at all, other than to mention that they are stepping down and handing over the reins.

What it should be: the first marketing piece for the new dentist, letting the patients know how competent their new provider is. It should focus on how aligned their new provider is with their old provider in quality of care, dental approach, and other aspects that matter to patients. The letter’s goal is to limit patient attrition and keep revenues stable.

Tips for Writing a Great Transition Letter

As the buyer of a practice, you’re not the one writing the letter. But that doesn’t mean you can’t influence its message and format. Encourage the seller to follow these tips for an optimal transition letter.

  • The patient comes first. Not the seller. This letter isn’t about what the seller wants to say; it’s about what the patient needs to know. And the patient needs to know who the doctor will be at the practice they’re used to going to. Sure, they’re curious about where the seller is going and who the new guy is, but mostly they want to know who they’re going to see during their next visit.
  • Keep it short. A good transition letter should get to the point. Patients don’t need to know all the details of the sale, and they don’t need to know the new doctor’s life story or how the old doctor plans to spend retirement. Extraneous information might even turn patients off from reading the transition letter altogether.
  • Use positive and enthusiastic language. The seller is getting paid, and the buyer is gaining their own practice. This is good for everybody, and the language should reflect that.
  • Include a photo. Seeing is believing, and nothing clarifies the mutual satisfaction of the sale like a photograph of the parties involved. Take a professional photograph of the buyer, seller, and staff smiling together. Patients will be happy if everyone involved looks happy.
  • Contextualize the buyer. The seller should introduce the new doctor and highlight their community ties. Patients will want to know why the buyer chose to buy the practice. Establishing common ground goes a long way toward helping patients build a new relationship with the buyer.
  • Time it right. Make sure to send the letter after the close of escrow. The deal isn’t done until it’s done. Do not send the letter until after the sale has been finalized.

If the seller balks at following these suggestions, you might gently question what their priorities are. If their priority is helping you take over with minimal patient turnover (which it should be), then there shouldn’t be a problem. If they have some other agenda, you might need to have a firm conversation with them about what the proper objectives of the transition really are.

Dental Practice Transition Letter Examples

Let’s look at two examples of dental practice transition letters. The first is an excellent model of a well-written letter. The second is an example of what not to do.

Here is an example of a transition letter that gets it right. It promotes the new owner to the retiring dentist’s patients, doesn’t focus too much on the retiring dentist, and sets the stage for a successful transition:

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Below is an example of what a transition letter shouldn’t do. It makes all of the following mistakes:

  • Seller focused. The letter is too personal. It doesn’t address patient concerns or meaningfully introduce the new doctor.
  • Negative sentiment. The letter has a dismal tone, as though the retiring dentist is announcing bad news. This is hardly setting the new dentist up for success.
  • Bloated and blocky. Oftentimes, the letter reads like a sophomore writing assignment, with giant blocks of rambling text. Who likes that?
  • No photo. This is always a missed opportunity. Even if your letter is well-written, nothing sells like a good photo.
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The Case For a Co-authored Transition Letter

The transition letter tends to be a communication from the retiring dentist to their former patients, but it can be more than that. If the seller is willing, the two of you can coauthor a letter. The format of such a letter could be something like this:

  1. The outgoing dentist positively breaks the news and introduces you.
  2. You say hello and reassure the patients that you’re going to take great care of them. Emphasize how you align closely with the seller in philosophy and approach, and how committed you are to continue the same great care.
  3. You can also update the patients about any changes you’re implementing. Be careful with this one, as you don’t want to rock the boat too much. If you’re going to make changes that seriously impact the patient experience, you’ll want to roll them out very carefully. But the letter could update readers on details such as:
    1. changes to contact info, operating hours, or location
    2. whether any existing staff members are leaving or new staff joining the practice

A co-authored letter can let the patients get to know you better and feel less unsettled by the change. If you and the seller cooperate, it can result in better patient retention.

Here’s to a Successful Transition

The transition letter is a small (but important) element in the overall process of buying a dental practice and transitioning leadership. There are so many steps to monitor and details to juggle that it can drive you crazy.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out. We do this stuff every day. We’ve helped hundreds of dentists become business owners, and we can help you too.

Whether you’re ready to make an offer, conduct due diligence, or close on your practice, we’re here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Learn More About Transitions


Hear how one new owner managed the transitional period.

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