DSO or private practice? What 9 dentists would choose if they could go back

Nine dentists recently connected with Becker's on whether they would choose to join a DSO or go into private practice if they were just starting out their career today. 

Note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity

Question: If you were just starting your career as a dentist, would you rather be in a private practice or part of a DSO? What factors would you consider in your decision?

David Ahearn, DDS. Dentist of Perfect Smiles Dentistry (Seekonk, Mass.): More than anything, I can tell you that here's what I would NOT (for any amount of money) want or suggest to any young dentist. Don't go associate with a solo practitioner that is perhaps beyond his or her "sell-by date" with outdated techniques and technology! You are already well behind the technology learning curve in coming out of almost any dental school in the country. You haven't performed enough specialty procedures because almost every school these days siphons those procedures off to the lucrative grad clinics. And so, in that aging practice, you will stagnate and get even further behind where you need to be for the future of our great profession!

Andres Biaggi, DMD. Dentist of Preferred Dental Center (San Antonio): If I were just starting my career I would rather be at a private setting and not a DSO. I have been a dentist for 35 years and I'd love to be able to learn good dentistry from a guy with my experience. DSO dentists are unsupervised, with the pressure of producing money, and dentistry as a profession is going downhill. These investors buying dental practices for profit should have been regulated when it started. It is too late now and the quality of services has gone down severely. 

Myron Bromberg, DDS. Dentist of Myron Bromberg Inc. (Reseda, Calif.): Without any question whatsoever, I would absolutely rather be in my private practice than part of a DSO. The independence on so many levels would be paramount in my decision. There may well be a place in dentistry for DSOs, but not for me. 

Chad Jensen, DMD. Dentist of Super Smiles (Harrison, Ark.): I started with a DSO because it felt safer and they knew the "business of dentistry," and I could focus on patient care skills instead of business concerns. After 14 months I moved on to private practice.

Michael Perpich, DDS. Dentist at Northland Smiles (Deerwood, Minn.): If I were starting practice today I would start practicing with a DSO. This way I could work on my clinical skills and not worry at all about the business side of the practice. This includes both working on government regulations, payroll, and staff recruitment and retention. I would hope the DSO would provide me the mentorship which I would need to improve my clinical skills as a dentist. In the eight years I worked for a DSO I took great pride in providing clinical leadership to my new dentists.

Jerry Popeck, DMD. Dentist of Popeck Family Dentistry (Pennsville, N.J.): I still believe private practice is the way to go. Although difficult, it's nice to be your own boss and do the things you choose to do with your practice.

Charles Schlesinger, DDS. COO of Comfortable Dentistry 4U (Albuquerque, N.M.): I would want to be in private practice as a solo practitioner so I could benefit later for all the hard work I put into creating an office. Granted, in a DSO there is immediate payoff with salary and benefits, but owning your own office will pay out more in the end, and you also have the option of selling to a DSO later when you will do much better financially. 

Gary Swalsky, DMD. Dentist of Halfmoon (N.Y.) Family Dentistry: If I was just starting my career as a dentist, and knowing what I know now, I would absolutely follow the same pathway and be in private practice. One of the biggest reasons that I pursued dentistry in the first place was because of the ability to have autonomy. I set my own schedule, make my own decisions and never have to answer to anyone. Granted, I am sure that there are advantages when working for a DSO, such as having someone else manage the staff and having a decent base salary, especially when starting out.  However, I don't see how there is any way possible to be working for someone else, especially a corporation, and have the freedom, autonomy and income potential that working for yourself can afford you.

Adam Vitelli, DMD. Dentist of Vitelli Comprehensive Dentistry (Germantown, Md.): Coming out of dental school, dentists are really green with the bare minimum knowledge of dental care and patient management, in my opinion. Dentistry is really an art and a science as well as a business and a physical discipline, and there is a lot to know. There is a real benefit to working for an experienced dentist that can guide the new grad, especially when they come across challenging cases or challenging patients to manage. For that reason, I would say that there is a benefit for starting out in private practice.  

Most new grads have a substantial amount of financial pressure after graduation, so they will gravitate towards higher earning opportunities. I have met a few younger dentists that worked for corporate-owned practices out of dental school and speak highly of it. But are they good dentists or do they make good money? Those are two different things and you don't know what you don't know.

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