GSLDS Newsroom

Pathways to dentistry: DSOs offer nonclinical support

Group practices continue to grow as solo practice ownership declines

Corey Inboden, D.D.S., was working as an associate dentist when COVID-19 changed everything.

With a new baby on the way and so many uncertainties in the world, the 2016 graduate from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry began looking for jobs in his hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas. He found an opportunity there at Rock Family Dental.

The office is part of a dental practice entity that is supported by Rock Dental Brands, a dental support organization started by dentists that provides support to general dentists and dental specialists.

"It's been great,” said Dr. Inboden, a general dentist who joined the team in November 2020. “I have the autonomy to practice the way I want. With Rock Dental Brands’ support on the day-to-day business operations, I am able to focus on treating patients while having the freedom to be as involved as I want to be on administrative decisions.”

More commonly known as DSOs, dental support organizations are entities that dental practice owners contract with to manage the administrative, marketing and/or business sides of that dental practice. They come in many shapes and sizes, may be locally or nationally branded, and are either privately held or partner with private equity firms that furnish the necessary capital to provide infrastructure, recruitment tools, advanced technology, and administrative support functions.

"The dental support organization model traces back more than 40 years,” said Andrew Smith, executive director, The Association of Dental Support Organizations, or ADSO, whose 80 member companies support more than 11,000 dentists. “DSOs have grown globally because the support services they provide to dental practices enable those dental practices to focus exclusively on providing care to their patients.”

DSO-supported practices are now considered one of the fastest growing practice models in dentistry. The ADA Health Policy Institute estimates that as solo practices become less common, more dentists will gravitate toward large group practices. According to HPI’s most current data, more than 10% of all dentists were affiliated with a DSO in 2019. That number is very likely higher today. The percentage of dental school seniors who plan to join a DSO-supported practice also increased from 12% in 2015 to 30% in 2020, according to the 2020 American Dental Education Association Survey of U.S. Dental School Seniors.