Pacific Dental Services SVP of People Joanna Rodgers Discusses DSOs and Dental Office Success

As more dentists continue to join dental service organizations, it is important for dentists to distinguish themselves from the crowd.

In a recent interview with Becker's Dental + DSO Review, Joanna Rodgers, senior vice president of people at Pacific Dental Services, highlighted how dentists can further their success.

Question: How can dentists master operating their own practice out of school with little management training or experience?

Joanna Rodgers: For new dentists who are right out of school, the idea of opening their own practice can be both incredibly intimidating and challenging. Banks can be reluctant to grant the loans needed for an unestablished dentist to open a practice, and new dentists often have hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt from dental school. Partnering with a dental support organization provides new dentists the opportunity for practice ownership, economies of scale in purchasing power and supplier relationships and the autonomy to focus on clinical excellence. DSOs also provide new dentists with access to other clinicians who can serve as mentors and coaches in both practice leadership and clinical skills.

The Pacific Dental Services® owner dentist model offers dentists the opportunity for full practice ownership while PDS provides all of the business support services, from recruiting to accounting and from marketing to operations. New dentists can join PDS-supported practices as associate dentists while gaining the skills and knowledge to grow into practice ownership positions.

Q: What trends do you see in dentists joining DSOs or private practices?

JR: The number of dentists partnering with dental service organizations is accelerating each year, and the corresponding number of dentists going into private practice is declining. Additionally, many dentists are forming small groups of practices to leverage their buying power, decrease cost on scale or similar advantages that exist within the DSO world already. With the growth in DSOs and small groups, dentists today have choices in what model is a fit for them.

As the DSO models continues to evolve and improve, we fully expect to see this growth trend continue. For many dentists, partnering with a DSO provides the ideal combination of autonomy, support and work-life balance.

Q: What can dental practices do today to make sure they're building a foundation for success in the future? What are the best opportunities in dental?

JR: The core functions at the practice level need to remain consistent and predictable while technology and innovation increase in the dentistry space. Dental practices need to identify the right technologies that support how the practice functions, enable the practice to evolve and advance, but don’t disrupt the core business of providing patients with the very best care. For example, there are several ways that a practice can provide CAD/CAM dentistry:

1. Lease a machine and send images to designated labs; the lab makes the crown. This is a fee-per-use model.
2. Purchase a machine and send images to a lab; the lab makes the crown.
3. Purchase the machine, keep the image in-house, mill the product in-house and provide patients with same-day crowns.

While the cost to buy in is much higher for the last option, Pacific Dental Services has adopted this model because the ROI over time is greater and we are able to provide our patients with better service overall.

However, a successful practice isn't just based on the latest gadgets, but rather on how the dentist and his or her team are able to distinguish their uniqueness and value proposition with their patients. This isn’t a dollar value, though there is a cost tied to the treatment. This is an emotional and experiential value that will make patients refer their friends and family and return to the practice for all their dental health needs.

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