The State of Dental Support
A Q & A with Dr. Quinn Dufurrena, Executive Director of the Association of Dental Support Organizations
Over the past decade, dental support organizations, or DSOs, have become more and more prevalent in the dental industry. Thousands of dentists from all experience levels now take advantage of the support DSOs offer. Although the benefits are seemingly unending, DSOs can still carry the "corporate dentistry" stigma. So what is the truth about DSOs? To gather insight on the present state and the future of DSOs, we spoke with Dr. Quinn Dufurrena, the Executive Director of the Association of Dental Support Organizations, or ADSO.
Q Can you describe the current state of dental support organizations in the dental industry?
Dr. Dufurrena: Over the past few years and presently, DSOs, both small and large, have continually seen a substantial amount of growth. As a whole, DSOs have advanced each year, utilizing feedback gained through experience and studying common peer organizations to ensure the implementation of successful strategies. Even with this growth and advancement, there is still significant room for growth in all sectors. Currently, DSOs support around 25 percent of industry growth. Different types of DSOs have also developed, each with different models and systems to support affiliated dentists.
Q Do dental support organizations share common ethics or standards?
Dr. Dufurrena: The ADSO code of ethics is clear: DSOs will act with integrity, focus on meeting the needs of affiliated dentists, and never interfere with the clinical decisions or treatment services of dentists. DSOs create an environment that supports dentists’ clinical practice and combines metrics to help dentists develop ideal systems for their offices. Both patients and dentists benefit from DSOs. The support provided by DSOs is aimed at helping dentists be the best they can be, and in the process, ultimately impact patient well being. While I practiced in the Navy, I worked with over 50 dentists. With all of us learning from each other, we increased our ethical outcomes. DSOs function in the same manner.
Quinn Dufurrena, DDS, JD
Executive Director of the ADSO
Q What is the biggest impact a dental support organization makes for a dentist or dental office?
Dr. Dufurrena: In solo practice, the dentist has to be everything – a clinician and a business person. Having to manage all aspects of a practice results in less time for patient care. DSOs have a huge impact on this by alleviating these additional burdens through non-clinical support. Dentists have more time to focus on dentistry and advance their skills, which leads to better dentistry. There are other impacts, depending on the dentist’s needs and desires. Many benefit from the flexible schedules, thus creating a work-life balance. Others enjoy the freedom to relocate and practice in areas of their choosing. Younger dentists discover the mentoring, continuing education and cutting-edge technology needed to advance themselves. More experienced dentists find ideal exit strategies and means of transition. All in all, DSOs offer more choices to more individuals.
Q What’s the most common misconception regarding dental support organizations, and where do these ideas stem from?
Dr. Dufurrena: One of the biggest misconceptions is that the business support offered by DSOs interferes with the clinical decisions of dentists. Those affiliated with DSOs still lead their offices and make decisions regarding their patients and teams. From that standpoint, there is really no difference between a DSO office and a non-affiliated office. I believe these misconceptions exist because throughout the history of our industry, the solo practice has always been the norm. Change can be difficult to accept, but through education, I do believe DSOs will be accepted for the benefits and advantage they create.
Q What does the future hold for dental support organizations?
Dr. Dufurrena: With proven models that work for dentists, I believe DSOs will continue to see tremendous growth. Certainly, solo practices will still exist. I think the industry will stabilize with a mix of both DSOs and solo offices. I also think we will see increased consolidation between DSOs, with some merging with others to create even more effective solutions for dentists. DSO models will be refined even further by implementing strong ethics, accurate metrics and continual innovation. With those elements, new models can be created that further increase patient access to care and overall dental support.
ADSO represents more than 30 dental support organizations that provide the non-clinical support services that enable many dentists to focus on the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective dental care to their patients instead of paperwork. Today, DSOs support an estimated 8,000 licensed dentists practicing in 5,000 dental practices who in turn serve more than 27 million patients across the country each year. The mission of the association is to enthusiastically represent to the dental community the powerful advantages that progressive dental support organizations bring and assist dental professionals to improve the quality of dental care for patients and the quality of life for those dental professionals.