DSOs provide opportunities for dentists to serve communities in need


The financial dynamics of medical practices have changed. There are now many ways for dentists to open new businesses in the communities that need it most, while creating wealth. Sure, that’s easier said than done, but with the right brand and model, it’s possible for young dentists to see their dreams come true.

Thirty years ago, if a dentist wanted to start his own business, it was up to him to own or rent his offices, market himself to his communities, hire and train new employees, and consult the books finances every day. But that wasn’t what they learned in school and understanding how to handle those responsibilities on the fly made starting a business that much harder. What these entrepreneurs also did was take on more debt while paying back what they owed to their dental schools, which put more pressure on them to succeed.

Reaching communities in need

But now, thanks to various financial incentives and government programs, it is possible to create businesses in communities that currently lack dental practices. When the federal government realized that those living below the poverty line ($17,609 per year)1 couldn’t access dental services, he expanded Medicaid to help people pay for those services. This meant higher reimbursement rates for dental practices, which also made it easier for dentists to open practices in communities with high Medicaid enrollment. Now the risk was less.

But there remains one problem that these incentives don’t solve: creating a business model that works while running an office. When a person visits a doctor’s office, they want to know that they are receiving the best care possible. This ensures that customers come back and leads to a successful business. But most dentists weren’t taught how to do this in dental school, which is why most dental practices have turnover rates of 17%,2 when they want it closer to 3%.

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DSOs to the rescue

It is no surprise that the Dental Support Organization (DSO) model has become more popular. DSOs remove much of the background office work that dentists are untrained and unwilling to spend time on. Studies have shown that DSOs are able to control costs such as rent, dental supplies, and benefits better than smaller practices, making them more profitable.3 Not only does this help homeowners pay off their debts, but recently more and more dentists are choosing to work in a DSO because since the big resignation many dentists want the flexible hours that mid- to large-sized DSOs can offer.3

We also know that growing DSOs have done well in the communities they enter because, in addition to not having much competition, they have excellent branding and marketing techniques.3

So the question becomes, “How do you market a new DSO?” It’s not just about paying for ads. It is the atmosphere created that is the key. Ensuring that children waiting to see their dentist are in an engaging environment leads them to behave well while waiting, reducing stress for parents. Then not only will they want to come back because they had a good experience, but they will also be able to use your dental services.4

As dentists serve more communities in need, they are also building equity in their businesses and benefiting from the ability to repay debt. They can also be confident that when they are ready to retire and sell their stake in the business, they will make a profit because the model, both commercially and marketing-wise, is proven.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in the August 2022 print edition of Dental economy magazine. Dentists in North America can take advantage of a free print subscription. Register here.


  1. Garfield R, Orgera K, Damico A. The coverage gap: Poor uninsured adults in states that do not expand Medicaid. KFF. January 21, 2021. https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/the-coverage-gap-uninsured-poor-adults-in-states-that-do-not-expand-medicaid/
  2. Arulrajah N. Strategies to improve dental patient retention. Oral Health Group. March 10, 2021. https://www.oralhealthgroup.com/blogs/strategies-to-improve-dental-patient-retention/
  3. Jansen JJ, van der Welle AJ, de Joode J. The evolving role of DSO in effectively supporting distributed generation. Smart energy. June 2007. chttps://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
  4. Create a peaceful environment for children. Penn State Extension. https://extension.psu.edu/programs/betterkidcare/early-care/tip-pages/all/creating-a-peaceful-environment-for-young-children

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