Why the corporate dental practice model works (for some) and not so well for others

One-size-fits-all works for many products and services. However today’s dental practices call for a more tailored fit with regard to available business models.

In the mid-90’s over 90% of dentists owned their individual or small group practice. By 2015 the number of dentist owned practices dropped to below 85%.

Necessity or preference can drive you to look outside the proverbial “box.” A good example is the growing interest in corporate dentistry.

Corporate dentistry refers to a variety of practice models. At a minimum, management services are provided in a way that’s distinct from the usual daily operations and activities of a dentist within his or her private practice. The model provides or directly administers management services in the form of a dental management service organization (DMSO), a dental service organization (DSO), or other  management systems that provide such services.

Practical advantages of corporate dentistry for the new dentist, veteran dentist, or soon-to-retire dentist

One dentist’s advantage might be another’s liability. That’s why it’s essential to evaluate corporate dentistry as it relates to your current situation.

If you’re a new dentist, you might find corporate dentistry appealing for different reasons than a dentist that has been practicing for many years. Your reality can or will include these factors and more:

  • Student loan debt (that can top $250,000)
  • Lack of practice management experience
  • Inability to locate an associate or partnership position
  • Uncertainty about the changing health-care environment and its impact on dental providers
  • A high level of market saturation in the area that you wish to practice in

If you’re a veteran private practice dentist, certain evolving challenges can cause you to explore the corporate practice model:

  • Stress, overwhelm, fear
  • Increasing overhead
  • Demand for new technologies that you cannot afford
  • High cost of supplies
  • HR, hiring, and administrative headaches
  • Increasing external marketing competition
  • Internal marketing and patient retention challenges
  • Approaching retirement

And speaking of retirement…

If you’re facing retirement, you have a unique frame of reference that might include corporate dentistry as an option.

  • Declining value of your business and/or substantial personal debt
  • Decreasing number of new patients
  • Diminishing energy to support your practice.
  • Shrinking margins caused by industry and specialist saturation
  • Uncertainty about practice legacy
  • Lack of an associate to develop and transition your practice to

These dental career pivot points are real. And they can make the grass-appear-greener on the corporate dentistry side of the equation.

Corporate dentistry can offer relevant advantages…

  • Administrative support – the organization manages administrative tasks including compliance, billing, payroll, accounting, HR, employee recruitment, marketing, and in some instances, patient scheduling. Advantage: you can focus on patient treatment (administration can consume a third or more of a private practice dentist’s time and energy).
  • Pay and benefits – your paycheck is consistent along with a potential for a salary increase, benefits, and often a signing bonus package. Advantage: less anxiety about production-based income and more freedom to innovate around your dental expertise.
  • Manageable work schedule – your weekly schedule is more predictable. Advantage: you can enjoy a healthier work-life balance.
  • Minimized risk – your investment isn’t at risk if failure occurs. Advantage: the organization assumes the risk and responsibilities of ownership.
  • Reduced responsibility for overhead – the organization supports purchasing of supplies, equipment, and technology upgrades along with property management/maintenance, insurance, and lab relationships. Advantage: freedom to provide input related to overhead without being directly responsible for managing it.
  • Improved technology and marketing – corporate budgets allow for higher spending and upgrades. Advantage: you can stay relevant and attract and treat more patients.
  • Expanded insurance solutions – corporate dental groups often qualify for more coverage options. Advantage: you can make dentistry accessible to more people.
  • Broader peer and colleague support – organizations provide networking, CE, and professional support environments. Advantage: you feel like you’re part of a team of professionals rather than feeling isolated.

Your situation differs from every other dentist. It makes sense to investigate these advantages and other related experiences with corporate dentistry.

But keep in mind not-all-that-glitters-is-gold…

Some glaring disadvantages of corporate dentistry

Affiliating or selling to a dental corporation has its downsides as well. It’s essential that you understand what your decision could potentially produce.

Not everyone will have concerns with the following points. Consider them in light of your specific situation:

Corporate dentistry comes with disadvantages for some…

  • Schedule restrictions – your daily schedule can be tighter on occasion. This has to do with the organization’s often rigid orientation toward their “bottom-line.” Disadvantages: over scheduled work day, high patient volume, reduced time and personal attention to each patient.
  • Production quotas – your treatment planning, treatment acceptance and performance might be measured according to daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly production metrics. Disadvantages: temptation to push treatment and strain patient relationships.
  • Ownership dilemmas – you might not have freedom to access patient records if you choose to leave. The release of ownership to the corporation also can limit you feeling like you are your own boss. Disadvantages: you function more as an employee and less as an independent professional.
  • Vendor boundaries – the organization will often select and designate go-to suppliers, providers, equipment/tech vendors, and labs according to lowest bid pricing. Disadvantage: a potential sacrifice of quality and potential long term vendor relationships.
  • Equity loss – the corporation may own your business. You will most often be viewed as and function as an employee. Disadvantage: loss of vested equity and ability to accrue more.
  • Corporate stigma – the general perception that profit rules over patient care in corporate practice situations. Your careful evaluation of a particular organization and its perceived culture is essential. Disadvantage: negative patient perception can inhibit the development of long term, repeat patient care.

Question and compare

Not all corporate dentistry models function the same. Some are better or worse than others on specific points. Do your homework.

”In deciding whether a corporate dental practice opportunity is a good fit,…

  • Ask questions
  • Gather as much information as possible
  • Talk to corporate office (organization) employees
  • Fearlessly ask who creates and changes treatment plans”

The ultimate choice is yours.

Granted, there will be challenges whether you choose the corporate dental practice model or choose to stay in the private practice model.

Stay tuned to our blog as we next explore the private practice group dentistry model.

#corporatedentistry #dentalpracticemanagement #businessofdentistry #dso #corporatedentistryadvantages #corporatedentistrydisadvantages #practicemanagement #dentistretirement

Eddie Stephens

Eddie Stephens is the owner and founder of DentalCopywriter.com (2011). He’s been a freelance professional copywriter since 2006. He writes web copy, blog content, and various promotions and provides content strategy consulting for dental industry clients worldwide. Read Eddie’s ongoing blog content at DentalCopywriter.com/blog and follow him on Twitter - @DentalCopy.

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Eddie Stephens is the owner and founder of DentalCopywriter.com (2011). He’s been a freelance professional copywriter since 2006. He writes web copy, blog content, and various promotions and provides content strategy consulting for dental industry clients worldwide. Read Eddie’s ongoing blog content at DentalCopywriter.com/blog and follow him on Twitter - @DentalCopy.

Last modified: June 21, 2019

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