3 factors driving declining practice ownership

Financial instability and workforce challenges are partially keeping dentists away from owning practices, according to Avinash Bidra, BDS.

New data from the American Dental Association's Health Policy Institute shows that ownership among private practice dentists continues to decrease. Only 72.5% of dentists in private practice are owners in 2023, down from 84.7% in 2005. Also, only 8.8% of dentists under 30 own practices. 

Dr. Bidra is a program director, maxillofacial prosthodontist and clinical professor in the Department of Reconstructive Sciences at UCONN Health in Farmington, Conn. He recently spoke with Becker's to provide his thoughts on why fewer dentists own practices.

Editor's note: This response was lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: Why do you think fewer dentists are owning practices?

Dr. Avinash Bidra: The biggest reason for fewer dentists owning their practices is due to changing demographics, in which younger dentists with a significant student loan debt (almost 10 times higher than the retiring dentist had about 30 years ago) are afraid to take on another financial challenge at this stage in their lives. It is likely that many of these young dentists may return to the market in 8 to 10 years or so to own their practice after having additional financial stability. Another reason is the discouraging quality and quantity of the dental workforce that is currently available that does not make an attractive bargain for a new dentist owner. This is especially compounded by the low insurance reimbursements and high practice overheads, which all make the low-profit margin financially unattractive for newer dentists. Finally, many dentists are already satisfied with the quality of professional life offered by DSOs and may prefer the work-life balance, especially when planning to start a family.

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