If you're a dental school graduate or recently completed a specialty residency, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether to begin your career by joining a group practice or owning a private practice. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dentists are increasingly practicing in groups — particularly younger dentists. Read on to learn more about private practices, group practices, and the pros and cons of each.
A private practice is a dental practice with one dentist who works independently.
Pros of a Private Practice
As a solo practitioner, you make all of the decisions concerning how you practice dentistry. You will be free to create the practice as you choose. You can serve a particular patient group and offer the services you prefer. It's all up to you.
If you own a private practice, when and how often you work is your decision. If you want to offer late-night appointments on Tuesdays or spend time with your family on Fridays, it is your choice.
It is easier to increase your income. With the right marketing and management skills, you can earn more in private practice compared to group practice.
Cons of a Private Practice
As a solo practitioner, you are a small business owner and oversee all responsibilities related to running a business. This may include hiring, scheduling, accounting, insurance, supervising employees, payroll, expense control, industry compliance, marketing, etc. The time required to manage the business side can limit the time you have to treat and care for patients.
How many group practices are there in your area? Large group practices usually have large marketing budgets and may offer incentives that make it difficult to compete.
Most students graduate with student loan debt. An additional loan may be required to purchase a private practice. Depending on your financial situation, the additional cost may discourage you from entering private practice — at least at the beginning of your career.
A group practice is when several dentists work together. They share administrative and practice management tasks. Group practices allow new dentists to practice with more experienced dental professionals.
What are the different types of group practices?
There are three main types of group practices, usually defined by the size and type of management.
- Traditional Group Practice — A traditional group practice is owned by a group of dentists. All dentists in the group share space and staffing. All dentists in the group are responsible for providing revenue to the practice and management. In a traditional group practice, the dentists usually own the equipment and the building.
- DSO — Another type of group practice is a dental office, which has contracted with a dental support organization (DSO). DSOs provide contracted business support services to dental practitioners. DSOs usually have several general dentists and various specialties under one roof.
- Multi-Location Practice Owned by a Single Dentist Corporation or Entity — Multi-location practices consist of several dental practices located close to one another (statewide or region-wide). Each office may have 1 to 3 dentists employed there. A multi-location practice may be owned by a single dentist corporation or by another type of entity. Business costs are distributed between offices, resulting in less overhead.
Pros of a Group Practice
One large advantage of a group practice is the ability to collaborate with other dentists. Also, several dental practitioners residing in one building offers flexibility to patients.
If you have an emergency, unexpected absence, or wish to take time off, you will have coverage.
Another benefit of joining a group practice is the ability to learn from more experienced dentists and specialists. If you are a recent dental school graduate, a group practice may be willing to train and mentor you
Some other advantages include:
- Minimizing financial risk — earn an income and focus on patient care without the financial and administrative burdens of starting a practice
- Many companies offer loan repayment programs to help with student debt
- With more practices, groups can negotiate better rates with vendors to help manage supply costs
Cons of a Group Practice
One disadvantage of joining a group practice may depend on the clinical structure and how providers work together in diagnosing and treating patients. When making business decisions, a colleague may view things differently than you, or your colleagues. Most business decisions are made as a group. You may be limited to certain materials, techniques, or a specific philosophy chosen by the practice.
The decision whether to start a solo practice or join a group practice depends on your personality, your career goals, and the most beneficial options for you.