Whether to pursue corporate dentistry or a private practice is one of the great dental debates of our age. Corporate dentistry has long been demonized for turning something highly personal (dental care) into a franchise model governed by the bottom line. Increasingly, though, some dentists have begun to realize that corporate dentistry has its own unique set of advantages. Ultimately, which route to choose will depend on how you see your career progressing.
If you are looking for full autonomy in the theories, practices, and techniques you choose, private practice is the best choice for you. As long as you follow the best practices outlined by your governing bodies, you are free to craft your practice however you see fit, from opening an in-house dental lab to offering cutting-edge techniques. You can focus your practice on a particular patient group, such as children or those with special needs. You can offer sedation dentistry or not, dental implants or not, all at your discretion.
Likewise, in a private practice, your time and earning potential are your own. If you want to golf on Tuesdays or offer late night hours on Friday, you are free to do so. With the right leadership skills, a deep understanding of your clients’ needs and desires, and a bit of luck, you can even earn a higher income in private practice.
However, the freedoms of a private practice come with a price. You are a small business owner, with all of the responsibilities that the title entails. You alone are in charge of hiring, scheduling, insurance filing, accounts receivable, vacations, workers comp issues, and all the rest. If you don’t have a solid, experienced team that you can trust, you may find yourself spending more time handling the business side of your practice than you do practicing dentistry—yet you only make money for the time you spend actually treating patients.
Another consideration is how established corporate dentistry already is, or is likely to become, in your town. With a huge marketing machine and the ability to offer targeted incentives based on market research, corporate dentists are very difficult to compete with. Once your practice is up and running with a loyal client base, you may be able to withstand the onslaught. However, it is incredibly tough for new dentists to gain traction when competing against the big corporations.
If you want to focus solely on dentistry, corporate dentistry may be a better choice. In many cases, you can negotiate a schedule and salary that are guaranteed regardless of the ups and downs of the market. You may even be able to negotiate a part-time schedule, such as four days a week at your preferred hours, that pays the salary you would like. In nationwide groups, you may even have the freedom to simply transfer to a new location if you decide to move.
In addition, you will most likely not be assigned duties outside of the typical scope of dentistry. Hiring and firing, accounts receivable collection efforts, patient and staff scheduling, training, and all the rest are typically handled by the corporation’s team rather than the dentists.
However, corporate dentistry also has its own drawbacks. You will be a cog in the corporate machine, expected to maximize the practice’s income. You may be constrained to a specific theory of dentistry and limited only to the techniques and materials that the practice selects. Your treatment plans may be scrutinized by corporate management, and you may be asked to attend meetings where specific ideas are strongly pushed. You will likely be unable to try out new, cutting-edge techniques or strategies.
Ultimately, there is no right answer to the question of corporate dentistry vs private practice. Your personal and career goals, your approach to dentistry, and even your location should all factor into your decision. If you do decide to practice corporate dentistry, make the effort to find the right fit. Just like any other service industry, there are excellent, good, marginal, and poor dental organizations. Of those that are good to excellent, some will be a better fit for you than others.
Ascent Dental Solutions is dedicated to helping dentists build their practices. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact us today at 413-224-2659.
And he knows that once you “get it right,” it’s not a great leap to replicate that success over and over again.
Today, in addition to his work as an actual dentist, Dr. Coughlin coaches, consults and speaks to dentists across the country on how to build the practice of their dreams – based on proven processes and procedures.
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