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Should you rethink dental support organizations?

Jan. 25, 2022
Don't be too quick to write off DSOs as a possibility for your career. Jill Ulrici, RDH, has been with one for 10 years, and she says they have a lot to offer.

For many years, it has been the norm for medical physicians to work for an entity or corporation, and approximately 70% of them do. However, for dentists, working for a dental support organization may be thought of as the second-best career option. It's time to rethink who DSOs are and what they can offer you and your career growth.

What are DSOs?

A few decades ago, DSOs did not receive the attention they deserved. But time and continued growth and success have shown just how effective they are. DSOs will continue to be a part of the dental industry’s future. They currently make up around 25% of the dental industry. That number could jump to more than 50% in the next 10 years.

Why? There are many reasons. For one, they alleviate administrative burdens so doctors and their team members can focus on patient care. It’s hard to run a business as a solo practitioner and deal with insurance, rising costs, and other administrative tasks. There is also the challenge of staying current in the ever-changing dentistry landscape. DSOs are better positioned to provide a level of sophistication that can be challenging for an individual practice to figure out. Many DSOs provide easier and better-priced access to continuing education.

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Heartland Dental, for example, is an education-focused DSO that prioritizes continuing education programs and leadership learning opportunities for supported doctors and team members. Because of the company’s scale, it’s often able to provide these opportunities at a lower cost.

As the nation's largest DSO, Heartland Dental achieves success through its doctor-led culture and business model, which provides supported doctors and hygienists with the opportunities to focus on dentistry. Heartland Dental’s innovative yet proven systems and processes support dentists and hygienists so they can deliver exceptional patient care and maximize their clinical and economic growth now and into the future. This doctor-led culture allows supported doctors to retain their clinical autonomy when it comes to treating patients and working with team members.

By partnering with Heartland Dental, supported doctors and team members have access to resources and support services, including the nation's largest continuing education and leadership training opportunities, state-of-the-art equipment, best-in-class purchasing methods, marketing, and superior benefits. Heartland Dental’s support team’s administrative support helps dentists, hygienists, and their teams deliver high-quality patient care and achieve their professional and personal goals.

As a hygienist supported by Heartland Dental for more than a decade, I have experienced this model. It allows me to retain complete clinical autonomy, with the addition of an incredible amount of business support, so I can focus my time on patient care and advocacy.

What can a DSO offer your career growth?

DSOs often have robust benefits available. If this is important to you, I highly suggest comparing what benefits are most important to you and who offers them. Health-care benefits, paid time off, and retirement plans are just some of the perks. From my experience with Heartland Dental, the biggest asset is the people. It is clear to me that hygienists are valued as providers. Heartland Dental invests in hygienists through mentorship, paid continuing education, leadership opportunities, and communication training.

Along with these great benefits, Heartland Dental offers opportunities to grow your career outside of clinical hygiene. I have personally grown to become a regional mentor of hygiene operations. This has catapulted me to not only be a provider but to mentor and train new hygienists to improve their efficiency and confidence in delivering world-class patient care.

How to navigate DSOs with what is important to you

If you’re looking for a new career in dental hygiene and are considering working for a DSO, I urge you to ask, “What is my philosophy of care?” You want to make sure your philosophy of care is not compromised by your prospective employer’s philosophy. Rather, you want to make sure you and your doctors have a strong and aligned partnership. It will be important during your interview process to find out how they value their hygienists. Here are some good questions to ask.

  • “What does the partnership look like between hygienists and the doctors in this office?”
  • “How often do your doctors and hygienists meet to review goals, patient care, and communication expectations?”
  • “Do doctors and hygienists attend CE together?”

Finally, be sure to ask for a working interview. You will see and hear a lot during a working interview that can help you determine if the office is a good fit for you.

As you prepare to take the next steps in your career, I encourage you to rethink DSOs and look into how Heartland Dental can support you on your career growth. Visit here to learn more about how Heartland Dental supported dentists and hygienists work together toward shared goals, both for the success of their offices and their patients’ oral health

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or my colleagues at [email protected]. You can learn more about Heartland Dental at the Heartland website, and click here to explore careers,.