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    Why organized dentistry needs to change in order to survive

    Big changes are happening in dentistry, and organized dentistry needs to accept the future.

    According to a number of business experts and pundits, authors from numerous fields, scientists and social authorities, the context is decisive. The current context of organized dentistry is chiefly “preservation.” No matter how virtuous its mission statement, how altruistic its public speaking, the observable context from which it operates is the preservation of the past. The past being independent solo practices.

    Given this context, organized dentistry generates a consistent effort to hold onto this past by attempting to retard the future. But, at some point, organized dentistry will need to realize that you can’t stop a contextual shift from happening. You can’t rewind the past. It has never worked that way. Context always wins.

    The emerging context in dentistry is merger, acquisition and consolidation. This new context is validated by the explosive growth of managed group practices and DSOs. On the other hand, the context in which organized dentistry is trying to cement is the independent solo practice. As in Newtonian physics, two contexts cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

    Related article: Are the DSOs really taking over?

    The majority of organized dentistry is made up of members who do not want the future to happen. Their current membership has done exceptionally well operating in the old context — the independent small business, fee-for-service, solo practice model. Members made good money; they worked the days and hours they wanted, they could be their own boss, they had no oversight so they could do what they wanted. The emerging context now threatens all of that.

    When we talk about “organized dentistry,” we’re talking about its political organizations whose executives and trustees represent their membership. Their members do not want a future of acquisition and consolidation to occur. We’re also talking about state boards and boards of examiners who do not want this future to impact their view of how dentistry “should” be practiced and delivered.

    But organized dentistry is in denial about the facts, statistics and data. Solo practices in number are shrinking, whereas managed group practices are growing at a high velocity. Managed group practices and DSOs of various sizes and shapes are beginning to dominate a number of sectors. This future will happen regardless of what organized dentistry feels, does or thinks. Uber doesn’t care about Yellow Cabs. Apple doesn’t care about payphones. Amazon doesn’t care about shopping malls. And, managed group practices don’t care about solo practices.

    Forces shape the future. For example, the force of social media has changed dental marketing. The force of implants and digital radiography has changed clinical dentistry. The force of driverless vehicles will change commuting and trucking. A multitude of forces impacting dentistry are now intensifying. These forces will cause numerous changes to dental practice and the dental industry. These forces have already caused some deformation, allowing the explosive growth of managed group practices and DSOs at 20 percent and the shrinkage of solo practice shrinkage of solo practice at 7 percent per year, according to the ADA. Solo practices now are less than 60 percent of existing practices in the U.S.  

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    Dr. Marc Cooper
    Dr. Cooper's professional career includes private periodontist, academician, researcher, teacher, practice management consultant, ...


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