How to Combat The Rising Tide of Dental Service Organizations

Senior dental doctor with happy smile

Dental service organizations (DSOs), also known as the dental support organizations, are the largest change to come to the dental industry in the last few decades. Consolidation of dental practices by DSOs has largely hurt smaller independent dentists by either offering lower prices or by out-marketing the local competition with large advertising spends.

If you run a small dental practice, you have two options, learn to compete against this new type of office, or join one. Joining a DSO can expand your ability to focus on patient care instead of losing valuable time and staff resources to administrative tasks. So, it’s no wonder that 10% of all dentists in the US are affiliated with DSOs. It seemingly can make your job easier.

However, there are almost always two sides to every story. In this post, we are discussing how dental service organizations work and tactics to compete with DSOs in your local market.

Focus On Your Advantages

Some newly-trained dentists might want to work for DSOs to gain experience within the field and learn about owning their own practice one day. But a major drawback to joining a DSO is that they require you to sign a long-term contract. After entering into a lengthy contract, you might discover that your work philosophy is not in alignment with that of your DSO.

If you come to find that the dental service organizations are not right for you – maybe your workload is too much, maybe you prefer to handle certain things yourself – it can be nearly impossible to back out. Almost every DSO has a legal team on stand-by, and leaving before your contract is up can prove to be extremely expensive. 

Managing your own practice comes with a lot of responsibility. You have to keep up with OSHA and HIPAA compliance, payroll, billing, equipment and building maintenance, human resource management, and all the other administrative tasks. The advantage though is the clinical freedom and control you have that a DSO dentist may not have. You can spend as much time as you want with patients, there are no quotas for production, and you can pick all of your own material and vendors.

Focus on the clinical advantage you have over DSOs. In your marketing and advertising, in your patient communications, and in-office literature, express the clinical importance of independence, and how being free to control all aspects of patient care, ensures a higher level of service and better outcomes. 

Reduce Overhead to Compete On Price & Margin

The biggest advantage a major DSO office or affiliate practice has over their independent counterparts is cost. They pay much less for materials, services, and lab products than a single dentist-run office does. Eventually, this advantage will leads to an erosion of either price or new patient flow for the average dentist. Luckily, there are now a couple key tactics to help independent dentists compete on cost too.

Finding a lower cost lab alternative that still provides great quality and service, can quickly and effectively reduce your overhead. This allows your practice to remain profitable with every patient. It also ensures that you do not have to turn away new patients due to limited opportunity for reimbursement. For example, at Trident Dental Laboratories, once we collaborate with a dentist, we make it a priority to familiarize ourselves with their practice. We learn how the dentist prefers to treat patients so our technicians can remember how they like occlusal staining, occlusions, contacts, etc. In addition to calling them to discuss issues that may restrict case preferences, we also give them the flexibility to make changes easily. All of this as an amazing price point. 

Another option is partnering with a dental purchasing groups (DPG). Purchasing groups allow you to buy-in to a network that has already negotiated reduced fees from vendor partners. This gives the average independent dentist access to DSO-like prices for materials and services, without giving up control of your practice. By competing on cost, you level the playing field with your DSO competitors, and let your clinical skills set you apart. 

Join Hands with Trident to Grow Your Revenue

For 30+ years, Trident Dental Laboratories has been a trusted lab partner for thousands of dentists across the country. No matter the cases you are doing, from single-unit crowns or small-span bridge cases, to full-mouth cosmetic cases, implants, and removables, we have got you covered. To learn more, call us at 800-221-4831 or contact us online.