Becoming a Dentist in a DSO Practice: 4 Things You Should Know

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 @ 11:00 AM

dental-tools-resize.jpgAt some point, you may have heard about dental service organizations (DSOs) and what they have to offer dentists. You might have heard about their culture, student loan repayment process, and developmental programs in order to nurture your career as a dentist. With all the options available to a young dentist out of school, you have to decide early on how well your outlook, philosophies, and goals match up with whatever pathway you decide to take in your career.

If you’ve been considering working in a DSO, here are four things to look forward to when you get started:

Development and Starting Out

In a DSO-supported practice, you can focus on patients and treatment decisions while the organization handles the management and marketing of your practice. Not only that, but DSOs also help with the financing, office, maintenance, and non-clinical operations. Many DSO-supported practices give incoming dentists opportunities for professional development in order to advance their skills, while also providing a generous compensation package and a clear path to practice ownership.

Becoming an Associate Dentist

As when you join a conventional dental practice as an associate dentist, a DSO practice can provide a supportive environment with helpful colleagues that foster a community to make sure your first year is exciting, not an uphill battle. Working side-by-side on extensive procedures with an experienced, mentor dentist, you’ll have support whether you have some experience under your belt or fresh out of dental school.

Becoming a Leading Dentist

After a sufficient period to build your confidence and clinical skills, the DSO practice often provides opportunities to advance to a role where you’re the clinician guiding dentists that are new to the practice. The name of this role varies from DSO to DSO, but it’s an important step on the journey from associate to practice owner. Once you’ve become comfortable in your working environment as an associate dentist, you can play a crucial leadership role in the practice. Here, you’ll receive additional developmental training to aid you in managing the practice’s team of dental professionals. Completing comprehensive exams on new patients and participating in treatment planning are just some of the new tasks you may see in this role. Get ready to feel like an owner!

Becoming a Practice Owner

If you envision practice ownership as a dentist, it is important to know the DSO model often provides a step-by-step process to pursue this goal. Once you’ve considered possible practice locations (either to buy or relocate to) and explored financing options, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an owner. Make sure your credit history and financial profile are well in order. Depending on the DSO and your financial wherewithal, you might be able to choose to partner with other owners or open your very own office. Practice support teams at the DSO are with you every step of the way, working to confront any problems and push you to new levels in your career. You’ll also have the chance to explore owning additional practices!

DSOs offer a great opportunity for advancement in the dental profession: developing your confidence and skills as well as business acumen and patient rapport. With the freedom to focus on the craft of dentistry without the headaches of running your own business, it’s no wonder graduate dentists are choosing this option in increasing numbers. Special thanks are due in part to Dr. John Fazio, owner of multiple practices in Pennsylvania, who shared his experiences with the DSO practice model in a recent webinar for THE NEXTDDS. You can watch the webinar here.


Still unsure about DSO's? Find out more in this helpful article.

Tags: dental support organization, DSO, practice ownership

Interactive Forum Allows Dental Students to Learn More About Dental Support Organizations

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Thu, May 26, 2016 @ 01:00 PM

The Art Institute of Chicago played host to this networking event of THE NEXTDDS and ADMI.

Earlier this month at the Art Institute of Chicago, dental students from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, Indiana University School of Dentistry, Marquette University School of Dentistry, and Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine came together with dentists and practice owners in a networking event to learn about the dental support organization (DSO) practice model and how healthcare has changed to a more patient-driven landscape. Following a presentation by Bob Fontana, Founder and CEO of Aspen Dental Management, Inc. (ADMI), dentists and practice owners were asked to participate in a Q&A session, opening up the floor for attendee questions.

It was certainly a discussion that many were looking forward to, as participants sought additional information on key points of the presentation and a better understanding of the DSO-supported practice model. In dental school, students often do not receive a comprehensive look into the DSO model and are left with questions about this pathway into the profession. Yale Cho, THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador from UIC, says he is unaware of any of his school’s faculty members who are affiliated, or who could give him a good idea about what DSO organizations provide. “You’d have to know who to talk to,” Cho mentioned.

Topics covered during the Q&A session included:

  • The pathway to ownership of an Aspen Dental practice and the onboarding process ADMI applies to support each dentist pursuing this goal;
  • The autonomy of each DSO-supported dentist to manage the clinical care of his or her patients and to set their daily patient schedules; and
  • Compensation of Aspen Dental dentists and practice owners.


The panel of practice owners answered attendees’ questions after the presentation.

Many came away from the event with a bigger, open perspective to the model. “They really look into what dentist’s want, what they’re looking to progress to, and [how to] keep them involved,” said Brandon Meckelberg, a Marquette University School of Dentistry student. While some already understood a lot of the support that DSOs such as ADMI provide, there were still factors showcased in a video package during the presentation that wowed the audience, opening up new doors for possibility.

“[Aspen Dental] gives me dentistry, and it gives me a lot more than dentistry,” said Dr. Mithila Sharma, an Aspen Dental dentist. This idea of support and growth is elevated when considering how DSOs are able to allow dentists 100% autonomy over clinical decisions in their practices and the ability to not only have complete control, but also seek out the help of neighboring, local practice owners nearby.


DSOs can remove the non-clinical tasks of the practice and offer dentists room to grow professionally.

So what are DSOs’ best-kept secrets? For practice owner Dr. Abigail Brier, it’s the earning potential: Being able to successfully manage student loans and make a significant dent in them. For many others, it’s the autonomy, incentives, and overall support provided for practicing dentists. It’s clear to see, DSOs aren’t just stepping stones to other opportunities. They’re serious considerations for many potential dentists that want to better their hand skills and confidence in the field, without having to multitask and deal with the many other facets and headaches that owning a business may supply.

As Dr. Brier would go on to summarize, “I didn’t know it was possible to be this successful as a dentist.”


Want to know more about dental support organizations and the possible benefits of working for one? Read THE NEXTDDS | Magazine article entitled "What is a DSO?"

Tags: dental support organization, DSO

5 Benefits of a DSO-Supported Practice for New Graduates

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Oct 14, 2015 @ 07:00 PM

DSO-article-thumbTHE NEXTDDS Fall 2015 Magazine is now online! This issue features an article entitled Pick Your Path--What is a DSO? (on page 20) that looks at the role of the DSO-supported practice in modern dentistry and how new graduates may benefit from joining such a practice. Whether recent graduate or practicing dentist, there are many who may benefit from practicing in a DSO environment. Those desiring flexible schedules, bearing the burden of significant student loan debt, or needing to build competency in a structured practice model are ideal for the practice supported by a DSO. New dentists who wish to learn from proven business systems rather than a traditional solo practitioner are also well suited for the DSO model. Below are 5 benefits, that you can find out about more fully within the article, of a DSO-supported practice.


With a guaranteed steady patient flow (a key driver in any practice) and competitive salary packages, it’s not surprising that this is a major factor in the decision for new graduates. Many affiliated dentists enjoy higher production and earn more than their counterparts in private practice due to an ability to spend time on patient care rather than business activities.

Ease of Employment

New graduates can face difficulties finding immediate employment for a number of reasons. Dentists are retiring later than in previous years, so the number of practices for sale/partnership have reduced. Recovery from the recession has been slow, so fewer private practices are hiring associates or graduates with little experience. It can be difficult for a new graduate to get a foot in the door or, alternately, to obtain capital for practice acquisition. Practices supported by DSOs are willing to employ new graduates and are able to support them to a degree that a private practice often cannot.

DSO_Path-thumbStudent Debt

Upon graduation, the average dentist has nearly $250,000 in student loan debt, creating a barrier to practice ownership. Generating enough income to cover debt and expenses the first few years as a solo practitioner can be challenging. Some DSOs have programs in place to help dental students retire their dental school debt faster.

Work/Life Balance

Modern employment trends are evolving, and lifestyle preferences such as regular hours, mobility, and flexible work schedules are becoming increasingly important. A successful dental career isn’t all about money, and married professionals and dual-profession families require a lifestyle that practice ownership doesn’t always allow.

Opportunities to Acquire Experience

Increasing confidence and clinical speed while building patient production is a big attraction for new dentists. Practices supported by DSOs are able to offer clinical supervision, ongoing education, in-house training, and other benefits that usually aren’t available in a traditional private practice. The opportunities for interaction with other dentists and peers is also an attractive feature of a larger practice structure. Organizations such as the Association of Dental Support Organizations (ADSO) have formed out this same imperative, enabling affiliated dentists to join a community and to brainstorm and collectively discuss issues affecting the profession.

DSO-supported practices are part of a growing trend in the industry to provide quality and affordable care to improve public health. Why is joining a practice associated with a DSO a smart move for a new dental graduate? Access the article now!

Access the Article

Tags: dental students, dental, debt, dental support organization, student loan, DSO, graduating dentist

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