If you are a dental student searching for your first dental job out of school, a new dentist, or a seasoned dentist looking to make a change, a dental support organization or dental group practice can offer a variety of career options. Regardless of what you may have heard (good or bad) about working for a dental support organizations or DSO, it is important to remember that each group or dental support organization is different. Each has its own culture, its own unique business model, and its own opportunities and challenges.
Here are the nine things to consider when searching for a career with a dental support organization.
- Locations – That’s right, locations not location. Some groups are regionally based or state specific, while the mid-sized and larger DSOs are in multiple states. Reviewing their websites may not always reveal all of the dental group’s locations. Some groups have one brand name across all states, while others have different brands in different states. Other DSOs are not branded at all and therefore each practice has their own practice name and identity. For example, Richard Clark DDS PC may be the name of the practice, but the practice may actually be managed by a dental support organization, unbeknownst to the public.
- Advancement Opportunities – Many dentists believe that a DSO is a great place to get your first job out of dental school before you buy or start your own practice. This is certainly true, and furthermore, DSOs can be a great training ground for young dentists who are looking to learn best clinical practices while experiencing the day-t0-day responsibilities of working in a busy dental practice. However, when evaluating a DSO it is important to look beyond the clinical day-to-day career opportunities that they have to offer. What are the career advancement opportunities for dentists and what does that career path look like? There are many management, as well as non-clinical opportunities, at DSOs such as: business development, operational, clinical director opportunities, human resources, finance and more. Many dentists working for larger groups can find opportunities beyond the operatory if they decide that is a path they’d like to choose.
- Continuing Education – DSOs want their dentists to be well informed and well educated. Take advantage of the many internal and external CE opportunities that dental support organizations can offer their dental team members. This continuing education is not just reserved for clinical excellence, but most DSOs offer ongoing practice management and dental business education as well.
- Debt Repayment Assistance – Debt is a huge issue that many young dentists are dealing with. Dental support organizations have become very creative with debt repayment assistance. Many groups have programs in place that can help the younger dentist pay down their debt significantly or even eliminate that debt. This repayment assistance comes with a long term career commitment from the dentist. In exchange for a predetermined length of service with the DSO, the DSO assists in the debt repayment.
- Work Flexibility – Dental support organizations typically have opportunities for flexible, non-traditional work schedules which can provide for a more optimal work/life balance. DSOs are opened on weekends and evenings (some are even open 24 hours), providing dental staff with work scheduling options that many traditional dental practice cannot offer.
- Community Outreach / Philanthropic Opportunities / Social Purpose – Virtually every dental group has some type of charitable dental activities, such as free dental care days for the needy or veterans, dental education for schools, dental missions in impoverished countries, and many other opportunities to serve the community philanthropically. If social responsibility is important to you, then make sure you align yourself with a DSO that has a like-minded social purpose.
- Culture / Shared Values – This may be the most important consideration on our list. Each DSO has their own culture, characteristics, patient base focus and business structure. Understanding what that culture is, and what their core values are, will help ensure that you are choosing the best environment for you to serve your patients. Ask for referrals from dentists who work for the DSO and interview those dentists. Information is power.
- Ownership – This is something that many dentists would not expect from a dental service organization. Most dentists think DSOs or groups are “corporately owned,” owned by private equity, or owned wholly by the founding dentists. This may be true with some DSOs, but many dental groups have created paths to ownership for the dedicated, committed dentists who work for them. There are many different ownership opportunities, including partial ownership in the individual practice that the dentist practices in, ownership in a group of practices that a dentist may manage, and even opportunities to have an equity stake in the larger DSO entity. Each DSO is different, and therefore it is important to explore and do your research on the many types of equity and ownership options.
- Benefits – This is an area where dental service organizations really shine. When considering employee benefits, there are the typical ones such as medical, dental and 401K. But, don’t forget to look for other benefits, such as relocation assistance, life insurance, profit sharing (see #8 ownership), daycare reimbursement, CE reimbursement, disability insurance and a variety of other benefits. DSOs and larger groups tend to have more comprehensive, creative, even custom benefits packages, but do your homework, because each dental group offers an array of different employee benefits.
Interested in finding out more about DSOs and dental group practice career opportunities? Email us at [email protected]. We can assist you in searching for the best opportunities.
Dental industry partners, dental students, practices owners and dental career seekers, subscribe to Group Dentistry Now’s free monthly enewsletter to stay informed.
Written by Beth Miller, GDN Contributor