A lot of things have changed since I became a hygienist nearly 12 years ago, but one thing is consistent—the presence of dental support organizations (DSOs). While I can only speak to my career experience with Heartland Dental, DSOs are changing the face of dental hygiene in the best way possible. Heartland Dental had a record year of growth in 2021, with the numbers projected to keep rising in the coming years. DSOs are not going anywhere, and like private practices, not all DSOs are the same. That’s why it’s important for hygienists, specifically new graduates, to look closely at what a DSO can offer you and your career growth.
The term “corporate dentistry” often has a negative connotation attached to it, and while DSOs aren’t for everyone, it’s important to look at the benefits an individual DSO can offer. For example, Heartland Dental is an education-focused DSO, prioritizing continuing education programs and leadership learning opportunities for supported doctors and team members. Because of the company’s scale, it is often able to provide these opportunities at a low cost.
My terrific experiences
As a new graduate in 2010, I felt I would thrive with the support of a large organization. After multiple job interviews and opportunities, I began my career with Heartland Dental a few months after graduation. While I thought I was well versed, I had no idea how much support and how many opportunities would be presented to me in the coming years.
Right out of the gate, Heartland was structured and organized. There were systems for everything. There was a periodontal program that mimicked everything I had learned in dental hygiene school. Their values and beliefs matched mine, so it was a seamless transition. While I was working through the technical aspects of hygiene, I had support from Heartland Dental with whatever I needed. There were hygiene mentors and administrators to offer support. Through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from other hygienists while also building lasting relationships.
We‘re provided with the most advanced technology opportunities, from iTero digital scanning to laser dentistry and everything in between. We have endless continuing education opportunities for communication, mastery of hygiene, business of dentistry, and more. I’ve been a laser certified hygienist since 2012, thanks to the support of Heartland Dental. On the other hand, some of my former classmates have not had the same great opportunities in their careers. All the opportunities presented to me—many of which I would have never experienced without Heartland—have helped me become the best clinician possible so I can provide my patients with a world class dental experience.
More of what Heartland offers
Through the years, I’ve received unparalleled support from Heartland Dental. As the nation’s largest DSO, it has a doctor-led culture and is hygiene-driven. This model provides supported doctors and hygienists with the opportunities to focus on dentistry. Throughout my career, the doctors I’ve worked with have given me the autonomy as a provider to help make decisions for my patients. I have an excellent and ever-evolving partnership with the doctors. I’m viewed as a provider, not just an employee. Additionally, I’ve been given opportunities to become a hygiene mentor as well as a facilitator for many Heartland-supported education classes. We are provided with many opportunities beyond the patient chair. The options are infinite, and to me, that is unrivaled.
Just like things have changed in dentistry, so has Heartland Dental. As part of its core values, supported doctors and teams focus on developing new skills and striving for mastery through constant improvement. As an example, the training processes for new hygienists have evolved exponentially in the last 10 years. Heartland has a six-week onboarding process that sets up any new hires for success. A hygiene mentor works with a new hygienist one-on-one for up to two weeks as they transition with Heartland, and mentorship is continued as needed. The education department has transitioned from traveling continuing education courses to an online-based program with virtual opportunities.
While these may be uncertain times, DSOs are a consistency among the unknown. Heartland Dental has been able to provide employees with exceptional support throughout the pandemic. By leveraging the strength of its support network, Heartland Dental successfully navigates external pressures, such as COVID-19 and supply chain challenges, with a focus on patient experiences, safety, and care standards. DSOs are changing the face of hygiene and it is exciting to see what the future will hold.
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