'It really is such an exciting time to be in dentistry': Q&A with Pacific Dental Services' Stephen Thorne

Irvine, Calif.-based Pacific Dental Services is focusing on growing its network in 2022 along with furthering the connection between oral and whole-body health.

The DSO saw several accomplishments in 2021, including reaching $2 billion in cumulative revenue and partnering with the American Diabetes Association. Its network includes more than 850 practices nationwide.

Becker's spoke with Stephen Thorne IV, founder and CEO of Pacific Dental Services, about the DSO's growth and the biggest trends in the dental industry.

Note: Responses were lightly edited.

Question: How will Pacific Dental Services' growth in 2021 drive the trajectory in 2022?

Stephen Thorne IV: We were coming off a really tough year in 2020, probably the single toughest year in healthcare for all of our lifetimes. The team really rallied and did the best they could to stay safe, see patients, and in the end 2021 was a pretty good year for us. We exceeded $2 billion in revenue, which is unique for privately held companies. We added over 50 supported practices, and there was still more patient demand to grow, which we are looking to do in 2022. We're planning to add at least a hundred new practices and expanding 30 existing practices that are already at capacity. We have some other major initiatives this year, but probably the most significant is completing our transition from an old practice management system called QSI to Epic. And in doing so, we'll be the largest DSO in the world on Epic, which allows for a true integrated electronic patient health record. We're really excited about that and the benefits it will bring to patients and our supported clinicians. 

Q: What are the biggest trends you have identified in the industry?

ST: The DSO space is really booming right now. There's a significant amount of capital coming into the industry by way of investments and innovations in technology. 3D printing is starting to come into the space, so we'll watch to see how that develops in the coming years. There's also a lot of focus on improving point of care and making things faster and more efficient for patients. It really is such an exciting time to be in dentistry.

One of the trends we're seeing is people are going to the dentist a little bit more and understanding the importance of their oral health to their overall health. They're coming in to take care of any concerns and addressing potential issues upfront. This is great. We also have the aging population and children gaining more access to much-needed care. Dental schools continue to add to their programs, resulting in more dentists graduating each year, and more dentals schools are launching across the country. There's a lot of great things happening in the profession.

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