Pros and Cons of Joining a DSO

If you are an upcoming or recent dental school graduate, you have lots of big decisions to make. One of the most important ones is where to work. A key component of your success as a dental professional is to weigh your choices and career goals carefully and spend time looking into the pros and cons. This post is a brief overview of some of the pros and cons that come with joining a dental service organization, or DSO’s.


Dental service organizations are companies that manage the operations aspects of a dental practice. These can include services like IT, payroll, human resources, and more. While some independent practices struggle to have enough staff to manage these tasks, a DSO provides a buffer and the necessary support so that you can focus on helping clients. If you prefer more structure in a work environment, a DSO might be a great choice for you. Since many of the administrative and operations tasks are taken care of, you are more likely to have more reasonable hours and a better work-life balance. This might be particularly interesting to you if you have family or other commitments outside of work. Another advantage to joining a DSO is the higher salaries – made possible because of the structure and established organizational business model – and growth potential. In many ways, a DSO is also a good choice for new dentists who may be unsure which path to take but want valuable experience.


Despite the obvious benefits of joining a DSO, there are also disadvantages as well. The first is especially relevant if you plan on opening your own practice or joining a smaller one. DSO’s offer more structure and operational resources, but when it comes to your independence with staffing and other aspects, there is often not as much freedom. You also might find yourself bogged down with organizational red tape that you would not have to deal with otherwise. Schedules and hours for dentists in DSO’s are typically not as flexible as they could be if you worked in a smaller practice or managed one yourself. If you crave independence both in your work life as well as your schedule, a DSO might not be the best option – at least for now. However, since no DSO is the same, it’s important to look into several to get an idea of the environment and expectations. Some dentists also find that for all of the operational and technological advances that a DSO offers, patient care can get put on the back burner. For many dental professionals, this is a deal-breaker


Whether you are a new dentist or a seasoned professional, DSO’s offer compelling benefits, despite some real drawbacks. Want to discuss some of your thoughts or concerns with someone who knows the industry? Email Dr. Coughlin today to learn about his keynote informational session “Dental Service Organizations: Are they right for you?”.

Do dentists need a business coach?

What goals did you set for yourself and your practice last year? Most small business owners, and that includes dentists, are often so busy trying to keep things from going off the rails that creating a plan and sticking to it is really hard without some sort of accountability.

A goal without a plan to achieve it is just a dream.

You may want to double your income, but how are you going to do it? What strategies are you putting in place to make that goal a reality?

This is where coaching comes into the picture.

A dental coach will help you set goals and stick to them. It’s a level of accountability that will help you prioritize what’s important and make sure that the follow-through is there.

For new dentists coming right out of school, coaching is essential when it comes to career planning. Whether the plan is to set up your own practice right away or work for someone else and pay down loans, the goal is to make sure you are always moving in the right direction and making informed choices. This type of coaching can save new dentists a lot of sleepless nights and set them on the path to success in the near, medium and long term.

For dentists who are already established, it’s important to set benchmarks and have strategies for growth – while positioning the business to compete successfully in what is becoming a very tough market.

If you are a dentist at this stage in your career, you may be wondering how you can ever compete against Managed Service Organizations and Dental Service Organizations. Corporate dentistry changing the business landscape. A dental coach will be able to show you how to thrive in this environment or prepare your practice for eventual sale. There are strong points to be made for both options. Making the choice to compete or sell is a personal one. And your coach should be able to give you the right information to make an informed choice.

Selling a dental practice is one of the biggest business decisions a dentist will ever have to make. This is especially true if the practice is your retirement plan. A dental business coach should be your first call if you are planning to sell. At this stage in your career, the goal is to put in place strategies and tactics to maximize the return on your investment and get the best price possible for your business.

As a working dentist with a winning track record in business for over 35 years, I’ve coached dentists at every point along this career trajectory. I can say for certain that it’s never too early to start.
If you want to talk about your options and discover how coaching can help your career reach its maximum potential, then send me a note and let’s schedule a short conversation.

Dental Service Organization Trends for 2019 and Beyond

At one time, most dentists were in private practice, or perhaps a very small group practice with a partner or two. Today, though, dental service organizations (DSOs) have become all the rage. These large corporate chains of dental practices may serve one area, one state, or even multiple states, but either way, the dentists are contracted to provide services rather than owning the practice at which they work. Here is what you should know about the future of DSOs.

Growth Rate

According to a recent report by global investment banking and asset management company William Blair, DSOs are undergoing extraordinarily rapid growth. The firm estimates that the largest DSOs are growing their number of practices by roughly 13 to 14 percent per year. DSOs currently control roughly 16 percent of all dental practices in the United States, and they are on track to reach 30 percent by 2021. Meanwhile, the Health Resources Institute of the American Dental Association (ADA) notes that the number of single-owner private dental practices is shrinking by around 7 percent per year. Clearly, DSOs are not just a fad, but are the wave of the future.

What This Means for Dentists

Although the writing is on the wall, many dentists continue to fight against dental service organizations. They prefer the private practice model, and they are uninterested in developing their practices according to the DSO model. However, dentists who turn their attention to figuring out how to work within the DSO system are realizing major benefits in regard to economy of scale, professional management, soaring asset values, and enhanced negotiating power.

Taking Action

Whether you are newly out of dental school or you have been in private practice for years, now is the time to start educating yourself on DSOs and having a serious conversation about how a DSO might work for you. In many cases, it is simply a matter of finding the DSO that fits your values, theories of dentistry, and focus.

A DSO frees you up from the pressures of running your own business. You have the opportunity to give dentistry your full attention, rather than constantly having to worry about staffing, marketing, equipment failures, and other details. You can often set your own salary and hours, and since you do not need to be constantly sidelined by other tasks, you might even be able to make your desired income working part time. If you want to relocate, you can simply move to a different branch of your DSO or to a different DSO, rather than worrying about building a new practice from scratch.

However, it is vital to ensure that the DSO you choose matches the dentistry you want to practice. There is often some level of corporate control over everything from materials to techniques, and each DSO has its own areas of focus. Choosing a DSO that truly fits you as a dentist can be the difference between thriving and chafing at the perceived restrictions.

No one has to join a DSO. Private practices are shrinking, but they are far from dying out. If private practice truly suits you, there is no reason not to pursue that path. For many dentists, though, it is worth giving serious consideration to a DSO. They are strong, stable, well-financed, and unlikely to disappear anytime soon. As a serious force in dentistry, they are well worth consideration.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at 413-224-2659 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.