Lack of skills could be keeping dentists from practice ownership, 1 dentist says

A lack of finances and business skills are keeping younger dentists from owning their own practices, according to Robert Trager, DDS. 

New data from the American Dental Association's Health Policy Institute shows that ownership among private practice dentists continues to decrease, with only 72.5% of dentists in private practice owning offices in 2023.

Dr. Trager practices at JFK Airport in New York City. He recently spoke with Becker's about what could be driving this trend.

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

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

Dr. Robert Trager: A solo practitioner has become a dinosaur. The newer and younger dentist, other than owing a large amount in student loans, does not have the finances and business acumen to buy out a dental practice. Because of technology and being pampered by their parents, dental school and society, many do not have the confidence and ability to navigate ownership. Many lack the management, financial, interpersonal relationships and marketing skills to own and run a dental practice. They do not seek mentorship from a prospective seller and have no idea of what the practice may look like in 10 or more years. Is there going to be gentrification, loss of businesses in the area, retirements or other situations that may arise? Is the practice going to veil itself as a Medicaid, HMO or insurance-based [practice] or fee for service?

To give an example, I had a young dentist whose father owns a dental laboratory and dental practice one floor above where he works along with other dentists … Just before contract signing, the father stated that his son got "cold feet." He didn't want the responsibility of running his own dental practice. This is a sad commentary of what the younger generation is displaying. Too much dependence on technology [and a] lack of confidence and self-esteem. Many solo practitioners are abandoning their practices and walking away. The DSOs are here to stay and will be growing unless there is a movement for concierge dentistry.

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