Most patients, especially those in suburban areas near cities, have two choices for the types of dental practices they can go to. There are classic privately-owned practices, which are small businesses where the supervising dentist is also the owner. There are also corporate dental offices (also called DSOs) which are owned and run by corporations, and the dentists that practice within them are employees of the corporation.
Clinically speaking, the quality of care at a corporate dental center versus privately-owned dental practices will be roughly the same. Both types of dental practices are staffed by dentists and hygienists who were held to the same standards in order to earn their DDS/DMD degrees or RDH certifications. That being said, some dentists working in corporate dental practices have complained that they’ve felt pressured by their corporate employers to offer expensive care that the patient might not need, instead of basing treatment decisions on their patients’ individual health, insurance and financial situation (source).
While we hesitate to make generalizations for all such practices, the ethics of care at a corporate dental practice may be clouded by the pursuit of profits. After all, the owner of the practice is a distant corporation, not a dentist who lives down the street, shops at the same grocery store as you and whose children go to the same school as yours!
At dentist-owned dental practices, treatment decisions are between you and your dentist, with no outside influence. Your dentist knows you personally and has the chance to get to know your goals for your health and your appearance, and can take your financial situation into account when helping you weigh your choices. Dentist-owned offices can help you maximize your insurance in a way that’s best for your health and your wallet, as opposed to what’s best for a corporation’s bottom line.
Just because a dental practice has more than one location in your area doesn’t mean it’s corporately owned. Just like your favorite mom and pop sandwich place might have locations on both ends of town, so too can a local dentist have multiple dental practices. One of our aspirations as dental professionals is to provide accessible, compassionate dental care to as much of the local community as we can, and having multiple locations is a way to do that.
While corporate offices have traditionally had the buying power to acquire all the latest equipment, as technology has advanced, the most leading-edge equipment is also increasingly available to privately-owned practices. With all other aspects of your care being equal, would you rather have your smile cared for by local people that you know and trust, or a corporation?