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Corporate Dentistry vs. Private Practice: Which One is Right for You?

Date Posted: 05.13.22

Dentistry is not purely about providing treatments to give patients the smile they deserve. The business side is a massive part of being a successful dental practitioner. It’s estimated that there are 196,999 dental practices throughout the U.S.

Any dental professional hoping to become successful must decide between corporate dentistry vs. private practice. Both have their pros and cons. Neither is better than the other. You must weigh these options to determine whether joining dental corporations or opening a private dental office is right for you.

In this guide, you will learn the advantages and drawbacks of corporate dentistry vs. private practice.

What is Corporate Dentistry?

As the name suggests, corporate dentistry is a large-scale organization with multiple locations across its chosen area. Joining a corporate dental brand provides you with more job security and the benefits of working for a known brand.

On the other hand, corporate dental offices are typically less equipped to provide a more personalized level of care. Large-scale corporate dental brands may accept thousands of patients per month, depending on their size.

With the American dental industry worth $109.28 billion in 2021, it should be no surprise that corporate dentists make up a significant portion of this value.

Pros and Cons

Some dentists choose to work with a corporate dental office because they are passionate about providing cost-effective dental services to deprived communities. However, your annual salary will be capped because you will become an employee.

Furthermore, you need to remember that you do have greater job security in exchange for a capped annual salary. Major dental corporations are better equipped to handle economic fluctuations that wipe out smaller private practices.

If you choose to work for a corporate dentist, you will also find that all the equipment and technology you require are already available. You’re not responsible for ensuring your office has everything it needs to provide top-tier dental services.

When weighing up corporate dentistry pros and cons, you also must consider that there is little risk associated with joining one of these organizations. As long as you are qualified and experienced, you will likely find a position. There’s no personal financial risk to you.

Finally, corporate dental offices can be excellent places for newer dentists to build their expertise. Since you can put down roots and focus entirely on providing dental treatments, many younger dentists find corporate dentist facilities ideal for them to begin their careers.

What is a Private Dental Practice?

A private dentist either runs their practice or holds equity in one. These smaller dental offices concentrate on serving a small local community.

These dentists get to know their patients and have more freedom over how they run their businesses. Launching your own private dental office makes you a business owner and a dentist.

Alongside your dental work, you will also need to fulfill all the obligations of being a business owner, such as administrative work, investment, and paying your taxes.

Pros and Cons

When considering corporate dentistry vs. private practice, many dentists choose to start a private dental office because they can run their practices however they please. They can specialize in a particular dental specialty category, choose their technology, and expand when they have the resources.

Another advantage to running a private dental practice is there are no caps on how much you can earn. The owner of a flourishing private dental business shares their profits with nobody. Many dentists become millionaires simply because they built a practice that local communities rely on.

On the other hand, there is an inherent risk that comes with choosing the path of a private dentist. You are responsible for securing the investment to build your practice, your assets could be at risk, and if a corporate dentist moves into your area, you may find your business failing.

Starting a private dental office gives you control over who you hire. You may choose to hire a private practice dental hygienist, and your hiring process can follow whichever criteria you determine. But this extra control comes with a downside. Many private practice owners spend more time running their businesses than actually performing dental work.

These pros and cons mean you may or may not be at a stage in your career where you’re ready to take the plunge.

Corporate Dentistry vs. Private Practice: Which to Choose?

Every dentist comes to a juncture in their careers where they need to decide whether they want to become a small business owner or work for somebody else.

Making the right decision requires you to reflect on your career and several key areas. Let’s run through the four significant considerations you must account for.

Risk vs. Reward

Starting a small business comes with massive risk. A private dental office started from nothing will likely cost a six-figure sum to get started. Whether you tap into your personal assets or secure outside financing means you are already starting in the red.

There are no guarantees you will succeed as a business owner. Many fantastic dentists find themselves unable to cope with the risks of starting their own practices.

Some of the risks that could lay your business low include:

  • Competing with a corporate dentist
  • Malpractice lawsuits
  • Lack of patients
  • Economic downturns
  • Data breaches

Corporate dentists will assume these risks. You don’t have to worry about them. As a private dental practice owner, you are responsible for everything.

However, you could become a millionaire dentist if your business succeeds. There are no glass ceilings and no arbitrary caps on your earning potential.

Resources vs. Choice

Corporate dentists walk into work every day knowing that everything they need to do their jobs is already there. You’re not responsible for checking your stock or ordering dental equipment. Someone else does all that for you.

The downside to having a fully stocked dental office is you don’t get a say in the type of technology or the tools found in your dental office.

Some dentists prefer to have a say over whether they upgrade their technology. Others are not particularly concerned over the issue.

If you’re someone who craves independence in your tools, private practice is the best option. On the other hand, if you would rather someone else handle the issue of equipment, you may be much happier as a corporate dental practitioner.

Business Owner vs. Employee

The big difference between corporate dentistry vs. private practice is you are either a small business owner or an employee of a giant corporation.

Dentists often have to accept that they are just another number when working in corporate dentistry. They may be just one of the hundreds of dentists nationwide. Yet being an employee comes with its advantages.

Employees have a much higher level of job security. They also get to enjoy doing their jobs without any other responsibilities. When Every time they leave work for the day each day, nobody will call them. There are no emergencies that could force them to take time away from their families.

The problem is that even if you ascend to the highest levels within a corporate entity, you will never see your name above the door. You’re unlikely to get to make the big decisions that alter the way you provide dental treatments.

Only starting your own business gives you that control. In exchange for the prestige of seeing your name attached to your business, you need to be much more than a dentist.

Dentists who start a private practice need to consider:

  • Staffing
  • Payroll
  • Licensing
  • Resource management
  • Marketing
  • Data protection

It’s not difficult to see how this can become unappealing to dentists who want to focus exclusively on the dental side of the business. Like any company, private practice owners must wear many hats.

Personalization vs. Anonymity

Some dentists want to keep things simple. They want to go to work, see their patients, and go home to relax.

The anonymity provided by being a corporate dentist is an attraction for many dentists who don’t want to spend their time managing patient relations and communications.

For others, anonymity can make the job feel dull and unrewarding. Small business owners can make real connections with the people they serve. If you need the satisfaction of knowing who your patients are and working with them over many years, private practices can offer that.

Understand that dental offices in the corporate world may rotate dentists in and out as needed. Some dentists may find themselves transferred to different locations every few years. Even if your particular corporate dentist guarantees that you can remain in the same locality, your patients will revolve.

It’s entirely possible that you will never see the same patient a second time. Is this what you want from your dental career?

Corporate Dentistry vs. Private Practice: Startup Costs

Anyone who has been to dental school knows that there are startup costs to becoming a qualified dentist. Most Every dentists starts with six figures in student loans they will need to repay over the coming years.

Joining an organization as a dentist means getting started earning and paying back those loans immediately. It also allows you to create a savings fund that can allow you to buy a house, start a family, or begin your own private practice.

Going into private practice as a business owner means paying up to six figures in costs. Whether you start a business and build it from the ground up or purchase an existing practice, the startup costs are high.

It’s why multiple dentists own so many private practices. Spreading the costs in return for equity can mitigate the risks.

Debt weighs massively on dental professionals, regardless of where they are in their careers. Are you willing to take on that burden?

Where are You in Your Career?

Finally, you need to think about where you are in your career as a dentist. Someone fresh out of dental school may not have the confidence to juggle running a practice and perfecting their techniques simultaneously.

Plenty of private practice owners started life as corporate dentists. They were able to improve their expertise and garner experience. It also gave them the chance to secure themselves in a new area and concentrate on tackling all the challenges life brings.

At least for the first few years, private practice owners are chained to their businesses. Building up a new practice from scratch requires long hours to get out of the red and turn a profit.

Business experience isn’t necessary to start a business, but it helps if you already have a mastery of your dental skills. Older dentists who have been in the business for a few years are often better equipped to handle matters relating to the dental industry.

Plus, years spent as a corporate dentist can allow you to build up your savings fund. Young dentists with little savings may find it challenging to secure financing for a private practice without giving up equity.

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