The “New” Dental Support Organization Business Model

By Maia Anderson and Staff Reporters


Watch out, private practice ownership. According to HealthcareBrew, Dental Support Organizations (DSOs) are the hot new business model for dentistry.



DSOs are companies that take on all the business-related tasks necessary to run a dental practice, like IT support, accounting and billing, marketing, and facility maintenance, Lisa Ward, VP of communications at industry trade group the Association of Dental Support Organizations, told Healthcare Brew.

A DSO can own the dental practice it operates, or a private practice can contract with a DSO. Some DSOs are owned by a group of dentists, but private equity firms own many large DSOs, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.

The idea behind a DSO is that the “dentist can focus on patient care and not have to worry so much about the business side,” Ward said.

The DSO business model was created in 1975 but didn’t become popular until the 1990s, as dentists graduated with piles of student debt and found it hard to open their own practice, according to Huron Consulting Group.

Today, 10.3% of dentists are affiliated with a DSO, per investment bank Harris Williams. In 2020, 30% of dental school seniors said they planned to join a DSO-affiliated practice, compared to 12% in 2015, a survey from the American Dental Education Association found.

The rise in popularity of DSOs has brought about the decline of private practice ownership. In 2021, the number of dentists who owned their practices fell to 73%, according to research from the ADA.

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