DSO 101: What to know about dental support organizations


What is a DSO?

Dental support organizations — commonly known as DSOs — are entities that offer administrative, marketing and nonclinical support to dental practices. Practice owners contract with DSOs to manage the business side of their practice while they focus on providing care to patients. DSOs vary in size and structure, and they exist in every state and even internationally. DSOs may be locally or nationally branded, and they are either privately held or partner with private equity firms that furnish the necessary capital to provide infrastructure, recruitment tools, advanced technology and administrative support functions. DSOs are one type of business model among multi-site group practices.

What are the benefits of working for a DSO?

The Association of Dental Support Organizations cites increased time with patients, practice support and better work-life balance as some of the main advantages to working for dental practices supported by DSOs. Other advantages may include salary and benefits packages, practice location flexibility, mentoring programs, continuing education, and access to dental technology and tools typically provided by DSOs.

What are the potential drawbacks?

Similar to any group practice, drawbacks could include working hours determined by the dentist or dentists who own the supported dental practice, accepting insurance plans that have already been negotiated, having limited flexibility with time off and facing restrictions as part of your contract.

Contract considerations

If you decide to work for a DSO, you may want to consider the following when negotiating your contract:

• What is important to you in your career as a dentist? Do you want a path to ownership of a single practice, or do you want to explore other investment opportunities? Is your goal to become a specialist? Explore several DSOs to find the one that can best help you achieve your goals.

• What is the length of the contract? Does it automatically renew?

• What are the exact hours you will be required to work? Are they all at a specific location?

• Is the position salaried or per diem? What is the range of pay, and how is production calculated?

• What are the benefits offered?

• Are there any limitations if you leave the practice? Is there a restrictive covenant in place? 

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