Why I Left Corporate Dentistry

A long overdue update! I recently left my corporate dental (DSO) job for private practice. For those considering corporate (or considering an office transition), here is some insight into my decision:

Background:

I was an associate dentist for a large, national DSO. This was my first job after graduating dental school. I helped open a de novo office that was just 5 minutes from my home! Our staff included the office manager, benefits coordinator, owner doctor, associate (me), and two assistants.

The Good:

Overall, corporate was a great launching point for my career. I gained lots of experience, expanded my skills and speed. I am especially grateful for the training I received in treatment presentation/case acceptance and CEREC. My owner doctor was very patient, answered clinical questions that arose throughout the day, and assisted me on complex cases.

The Bad:

There were two major downsides to my corporate position that ultimately made me leave: the hours and insurance. 

Hours: It was not uncommon to work 12-hour days. Same-day treatment was an office expectation, even if that meant staying past close. Plus, as a de novo practice, we worked hard to build our patient base, which meant accepting new patients and emergencies late in the afternoon. After 12-hour days M-F, my weekends were spent recouping and preparing for the next week…my job took over my life and I was miserable!

Insurance: As a new grad, it took a while to truly grasp insurance (you don’t get this training in dental school). Once I was off my daily guarantee, I began to pay closer attention to insurance reimbursements. I realized that I was seeing a large portion of HMO patients. Compared to PPO fees, HMO fees were roughly half. For example, SRP on a PPO patient may pay $800. The same SRP procedure on an HMO patient may only pay $400.

The Ugly:

There’s A LOT of controversy about ethics in corporate dentistry. My take is that this is largely location-dependent. My owner doc gave me complete control over treatment planning and clinical decisions. However, there is certainly more oversight with corporate. You will regularly interact with regional managers/owners, and you will discuss metrics. It’s par for the course. 

The Future is BRIGHT:

I was nervous to leave my corporate position! I worried that my new position would be worse (i.e., that the grass wasn’t greener in private practice). I spilled my heart out into my first position, treating the office like it was my own. I arrived early, stayed late, brought snacks for the staff, and checked our Google reviews incessantly! Despite the emotional attachment, I knew it was time to move on. “No fear of the unknown” became my mantra (a little wisdom from my dad! 💙)

That mantra paid off…I am one-week into my new private practice position and absolutely love it so far! Some of the staff have been with the office for over 10 years. My boss is great and we leave on-time EVERY SINGLE DAY! [I didn’t fully realize how soul-sucking my old schedule was]. And, no HMO insurances! 

Some Changes:

I’m already seeing some differences between my corporate position and private practice:

  • We rarely do same-day dentistry (Most treatment is scheduled out.)
  • Our assistants have extensive experience (The day runs so smoothly…seriously, they’re angels!)
  • We have hygienists (Call me crazy, but I’d still like to do my own scaling!)
  • Hygiene checks are new for me (This will take some getting used to!)
  • I am doing a lot more restorative (Different patient population/needs? Different treatment planning styles? TBD)
  • I see a lot more children (This will also take some getting used to! EEEK!)
  • We end promptly at 3 PM on Fridays (Hallelujah!)

Bottom Line:

My DSO associateship was a great place to start my career, but after 7 months, I’m glad I moved on. My quality of life has dramatically improved in private practice.

Did you work for corporate? Would you recommend corporate to a new grad? Comment below!


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