Where have all the dental practice owners gone?

Practice ownership has fallen 11.7 percent from 2005 to 2021.

Four voices from the dental industry weighed in to answer: "Why do fewer dentists own practices?"

Editor's note: This piece was edited lightly for clarity and brevity.

Rich Gilbert, DMD. Private practice (Bonita Springs, Fla.): More practice owners are leaving due to a shrinking bottom line for the average private practice owner. Rising operating costs, most significantly wage inflation, are unfortunately occurring simultaneously with decreasing insurance compensation in the form of both a decrease in reimbursement rates and an increase in downgrades and rejections of claims. Recently, corporate buyers dominate in practice acquisitions because they are able to offer a price higher than what a private buyer could borrow from a traditional lender — all to the long-term detriment of our profession.

Lee Harris, DDS. Harris Dental Solutions (Los Angeles): There are many reasons that solo dental offices are disappearing. Following COVID-19, many older dentists have sold their practices and are retiring. I also see a consolidation of solo offices into smaller DSOs. With the cost of opening a new office and huge student debt following graduation, I don't see these trends changing in the short term.

Bradley Dykstra, DDS. CEO of MI Smiles Dental Group (Hudsonville, Mich.).

1. Increased compliance requirements – HIPAA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and human resources
2. Increased cost of supplies and lab costs for the solo practitioner
3. Continuing decline in insurance reimbursements for the little guy most of all
4. Increased cost and difficulty in finding qualified team members
5. Fear of another pandemic and going through it alone

Jerry Popeck, DMD. Popeck Family Dentistry (Pennsville, N.J.): Corporate dentistry is slowly winning because dentists can step into the corporate umbrella and lose a lot of the headaches of being a solo owner/practice owner. [They can] just do the dentistry, and they will cover everything else. [It's] not always the case, but looks good.

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