Solo Practice vs. Group Practice: Making the Best Career Decision

Dentist Practice

Did you know that the dental workforce in the United States is undergoing significant changes? Recent research from the American Dental Association (ADA) indicates a shifting landscape in dental practice, revealing a growing trend of dentists affiliating with dental service organizations (DSOs) rather than opting for solo practice. Notably, young dentists entering the profession are opting to join larger corporate clinics. According to the ADA, US dentists affiliated with DSOs rose from 10.4% in 2019 to 13.0% in 2022. In 2017, only 8.8% of dental practitioners were connected to corporate entities overseeing aspects of their practices.

But what are the pros and cons of group and solo practice? What’s right for you? In this post, we will highlight some differences and help you think about your possibilities.

Types of Group Practice Structures:

There are several different types of group practice structures in the dental industry. These structures vary in ownership, management, and the number of dentists involved. Here are the main types of group practices:

  • Traditional Group Practice: In a traditional group practice, a group of dentists owns and operates the practice together. All dentists within the group share the space, staffing, and administrative responsibilities. Each dentist contributes to the practice’s revenue and management decisions. In this model, the dentists usually jointly own the practice’s equipment and building.
  • Dental Support Organization (DSO): A DSO is a group practice where a dental office contracts with a dental support organization. The DSO provides various business support services to dental practitioners, allowing dentists to focus on patient care while the DSO handles administrative tasks. DSOs often have several general dentists and specialists working under one roof.
  • Multi-Location Practice: This type of group practice consists of multiple dental practices close to one another, either statewide or region-wide. Each office may have one to three dentists employed there. In this structure, a single dentist corporation or entity usually owns the multi-location practice. The overhead costs and resources are distributed between the different offices, potentially resulting in cost savings and increased efficiency.
  • Corporate Dental Chains: Corporate dental chains are larger organizations that own and operate multiple dental practices across different locations. These chains may have a central management structure and often employ a mix of general dentists and specialists. Corporate dental chains can provide more extensive resources and marketing capabilities but may have centralized decision-making processes.
  • Specialty Group Practices: Specialty group practices focus on specific areas of dentistry, such as orthodontics, periodontics, or oral surgery. In these practices, multiple specialists work together to provide specialized patient services. Specialty group practices may operate independently or be part of a larger organization.
  • Associate Model Group Practice: In an associate model group practice, a lead dentist or practice owner employs associate dentists. The lead dentist manages the practice and makes key decisions, while associate dentists focus on patient care and treatments.Each type of group practice has its unique advantages and challenges. Dentists considering joining a group practice should carefully evaluate the group’s structure, values, and management style to ensure it aligns with their career goals and professional aspirations.

Now that you know each type of group practice, let’s explore the pros and cons compared to a private (solo) one.

Solo Practice:

Pros of a Solo Practice:

  • Autonomy: As a solo practitioner, you have complete control over your practice, including the patient demographic you serve and the services you offer. You can shape your practice to reflect your values and preferences.
    Flexible Schedule: Owning a private practice allows you to set your own working hours, granting you the freedom to accommodate personal commitments and work-life balance.
  • Potential for Higher Income: With effective marketing and management skills, private practitioners can potentially earn more than their counterparts in group practices.

Cons of a Solo Practice:

  • Business Responsibilities: As the sole owner, you are responsible for all aspects of running the practice, from hiring and accounting to marketing and compliance. Managing the business side can limit your time for patient care.
    Competition: Large group practices may have substantial marketing budgets and competitive incentives, making it challenging for small private practices to compete.
  • Financial Burden: Setting up a private practice may require additional loans, which, coupled with existing student loan debt, can be a financial deterrent for some dentists.

Group Practice:

Pros of a Group Practice:

  • Collaboration and Learning: Joining a group practice allows you to collaborate with experienced dentists and specialists, enhancing your skills and knowledge.
  • Reduced Financial Risk: Group practices offer financial stability, relieving dentists from the burdens of starting a practice. Many companies also provide loan repayment programs to aid with student debt.
  • Negotiating Power: Groups can negotiate better rates with vendors due to their collective purchasing power, leading to potential cost savings on supplies.

Cons of a Group Practice:

  • Limited Autonomy: In group practices, business decisions are typically made as a team. This might mean adhering to specific materials, techniques, or practice philosophies chosen by the group, limiting individual autonomy.
  • Clinical Structure Differences: Dentists within the group may have varying viewpoints on patient diagnosis and treatment, leading to potential conflicts when making clinical decisions.
  • Uniformity Challenges: Some dentists may find it challenging to adjust to a uniform practice approach, especially if their preferences differ from those of the group.

Remember, deciding between private and group practice will depend on your preferences, career goals, and financial situation. Both options offer unique advantages and challenges, so carefully evaluate your priorities to choose the path that aligns best with your aspirations as a dental professional.

To learn more about the dentistry field and practice management, you can read our exclusive posts here to learn more about dentistry and practice management.

About Our Experts

Fazel Mostashari is a dental practice expert whose specialty is financial accounting, tax planning, and practice purchase and set up for the dental industry. For over 10 years, Fazel has been the driving force behind the success of many dental practices.

As a proud husband to a dentist, he understands the unique challenges of running a dental practice. Together, they run a thriving, multi-specialty practice in the sunny city of Woodland Hills, CA.

If you’re looking for expert advice, set up a consultation with Fazel.
Fazel Mostashari: Dental Practice Financial Expert

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