At one time, virtually all dentists were in private practice. When you needed a dental procedure, you went to an office owned and run by one or a few dentists. If you were a dentist, you graduated from dental school and either opened your own practice or joined someone else’s. Today, though, corporate dentistry is changing the game. While private practice remains a popular and viable option, more and more dentists are choosing to go the corporate route. So what exactly is corporate dentistry, and is right for you?
Corporate dentistry refers to large dental service organizations that employ numerous dentists and affiliated staff in multiple locations. They may operate in a single state or many states, and dentists are contracted to perform services rather than owning the practice in which they are employed.
It is perhaps easier to understand the role of a dentist in corporate dentistry by thinking through the role of a pharmacist. At one time, virtually all pharmacists owned their own practices. While some still do, the vast majority of pharmacists in the United States now work for CVS or Walgreens or another major pharmacy chain.
Corporate dentistry can be an excellent choice for dentists who prefer a set schedule and salary over the risks of building and maintaining a patient list. You might even be able to make your desired income working part-time hours due to the economy of scale. You will likely be able to focus solely on dentistry rather than the ancillary tasks of managing a business, and if you do not want to stay in the same city forever, you may be able to transfer to a new location rather than having to start over from scratch.
Corporate dentistry certainly has its benefits, but it also has a variety of drawbacks. The biggest is that you will lose a great deal of independence in deciding how to run your practice. Materials and techniques are generally selected by the corporation rather than the individual dentist. You may be limited to certain procedures or required to follow a certain theory of dentistry. You will most likely be able to create your own treatment plans, but they may be heavily scrutinized for such buzzwords as “cost savings” and “efficiency.” You may be pushed to promote certain procedures, and will likely be prohibited from utilizing cutting-edge treatment strategies.
Private practice puts you in the driver’s seat of a dental business. As long as you follow ethical guidelines and best practices, you get to decide which procedures you want to offer, which theory or theories you want to follow, and which treatment strategies you want to use. You will choose your own staff, suppliers, materials, and so forth.
Private practice does have its own downside, though. Many dentists do not consider themselves business experts. Are you prepared to take on everything from negotiating a business lease to choosing lobby furniture to filing annual reports? It is certainly possible to hire experts to manage any or all aspects of your practice outside of the actual dentistry, but it can be cost-prohibitive, especially for a new practice that is just getting started.
In addition, going into private practice means making a life choice. If you choose to move at a later date, you will need to go through the process of closing your current practice or selling your share, and then opening a new one in your new location.
Is Corporate Dentistry Right for Me?
How and where to practice dentistry is a highly personal decision that every dentist must make. Only you can decide what your priorities are. You might be a natural entrepreneur, making private practice a no-brainer, or you might be dedicated to maintaining set part-time hours, making corporate dentistry the clear best choice. For most dentists, though, the decision is not so clear-cut. Take some time to sit down and make personal lists of pros and cons, talk to dentists in both corporate dentistry and private practice, and over time you will come to the decision that is best for you.
Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. 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.