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    Is the solo practice dead?

    The rise of DSOs has many solo practitioners nervous — but what does the future really hold?


    What’s next?

    Where do dentists go from here? Should solo practitioners be worried? Dr. Burt says the threat is real, but solo practitioners who want to stay in the game can do so.

    “We are at risk, there’s no doubt about it,” Dr. Burt says.  “The DSOs will penetrate to a certain percentage, and my thinking is, there’ll always, in dentistry, be the ‘boutique’ kind of practice that people will gravitate to, and once they see it, they experience it, they’re never going back. I think the maximum penetration that corporate will ever get will be 60 percent. I think it’s like CEREC and CAD/CAM. Sure, everybody talks about chairside milling and everything else, but do you realize that in the 25 or 30 years that it’s been available, that that penetration is only been 20 to 25 percent? That’s because the doctor has to want to do his own thing and to do the chairside milling, and 75 percent of them don’t want to do that. I, myself, had to shift when I was taking some of the cheaper insurances. Instead of taking two hours for one patient to mill my own, I put two patients in the chair and produced twice as much, sent it off digitally and got a crown cheaper than what I could buy a block for the mill.”

    Related reading: The future of dental practices

    On a larger level, Dr. Cooper says that dentists need to find the work environment that best suits them.

    “I would tell dentists, ‘You can’t do dentistry without dentists,” he says. “That is the highest leverage arm you can possibly have in any industry. You cannot be replaced at the patient/doctor interface. Patients need relationships. Where you put that is up to you. I think a lot of dentists have their heads in the sand. They don’t want to see what’s really going on, but you can’t make commitments until you go through consideration, and they really need to pull their head out of the sand and start looking at the whole ecology of what’s going on and where they are in their life, and in their practice, and where it is best to put that talent and those assets.”

    Further, Dr. Levin observes that to stay competitive and in practice, solo practitioners need to focus on the business of being a business.

    “Practices today need to run like excellent businesses,” he says. “When a private practice runs like an excellent business, there’s a lot of opportunity for growth and success. You can’t keep doing what you used to do, but when you do what you should be doing today, from a business standpoint, with the right systems in place, the practice will be successful.”

    More from Dr. Burt: Are the DSOs really taking over? 

    The best way to stay in business, Dr. Burt says, is to work smarter.

    “We have to think this through,” he says. “We have to think about and figure out that there are ways to make it work. I’m close to the end, but I guarantee you if I had another 20 years, I would make it up against the DSOs. You’ve got to stay on top of your game with the economics of your practice and what deficiencies there are.”

    He adds, “Take heart. We’re not going away.”


    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...


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