The dental industry is filled with many economic costs, and one of those costs is where dentists go once they finish going to college. Many dentists are often encouraged to develop their practices and manage their dentistry careers full-time. In other cases, however, many dentists often join themselves with group practices or practices run by several doctors.
Both solo practices and group practices offer their benefits and disadvantages, and while a heated debate by many dentists in the community, patients wondering what these terms mean can often wonder what impact these practices will have on their care.
To further dive into this topic, we’re going to explain some of the ins and outs of these types of practices, what ultimately shapes them, and which type of practice is better for patient care.
The Two Forms of Practice in Dentistry
When dentists talk about their practices, they’re often referring to business strategies to help maintain their careers. Our practices represent the name we put out to the world to define who we are, and for dentists who’ve recently graduated, there’s a huge amount of pressure placed on them to determine where they’ll find their place within the industry.
On the other hand, many dentists who have run 10 to 20 years in the industry are often facing significant economic struggles that lead them to sell off their solo practices and join in with group practices to mitigate costs and bring better security.
The choice between a solo practice or a group practice all depends on the individual’s circumstances, but what do these types of practices entail? Here’s a summary of both:
- Solo Practices – Solo practices are practices owned and operated by a single dentist. Most dentists often go this route despite economic concerns and tend to operate on specific criteria. PPO plans are more often accepted by solo practices, often catering to higher-income patients, and more often than not perform more restorative treatments such as crowns, composite resin restorations, and fixed prosthetics.
While more restorative treatments tend to be the major driving force for solo practices, solo practices tend to have more responsibility for their decisions, and depending on how finances are handled, solo practices can run successfully and provide a more personalized experience for the patient.
- Group Practices – These practices, which work to consolidate dentists and their teams into multi-branch organizations, come with their benefits and disadvantages. Group practices tend to accept HMO plans to be able to receive patients, which tend to be carried by lower-income patients. These practices often work with treatments such as direct restorations, amalgams, dentures, and fillings. Group practices have become an ever-growing trend due to economic disparity and have increased efficiency with their finances, thus providing more security for those in the dental industry.
What are the pros and cons of solo practice?
A private practice is a dental practice with one dentist who works independently.
Pros of a Private Practice
As a solo practitioner, you make all of the decisions concerning how you practice dentistry. You will be free to create the practice as you choose. You can serve a particular patient group and offer the services you prefer. It’s all up to you.
If you own a private practice, when and how often you work is your decision. If you want to offer late-night appointments on Tuesdays or spend time with your family on Fridays, it is your choice.
It is easier to increase your income. With the right marketing and management skills, you can earn more in private practice compared to group practice.
Cons of a Private Practice
As a solo practitioner, you are a small business owner and oversee all responsibilities related to running a business. This may include hiring, scheduling, accounting, insurance, supervising employees, payroll, expense control, industry compliance, marketing, etc. The time required to manage the business side can limit the time you have to treat and care for patients.
How many group practices are there in your area? Large group practices usually have large marketing budgets and may offer incentives that make it difficult to compete.
Most students graduate with student loan debt. An additional loan may be required to purchase a private practice. Depending on your financial situation, the additional cost may discourage you from entering private practice — at least at the beginning of your career.
What are the pros and cons of a group practice?
If you want to pursue a group practice, here are the pros and cons:
Pros of a Group Practice
One large advantage of a group practice is the ability to collaborate with other dentists. Also, several dental practitioners residing in one building offer flexibility to patients.
If you have an emergency, unexpected absence, or wish to take time off, you will have coverage.
Another benefit of joining a group practice is the ability to learn from more experienced dentists and specialists. If you are a recent dental school graduate, a group practice may be willing to train and mentor you
Some other advantages include:
- Minimizing financial risk. Earn an income and focus on patient care without the financial and administrative burdens of starting a practice
- Many companies offer loan repayment programs to help with student debt
- With more practices, groups can negotiate better rates with vendors to help manage supply costs
Cons of a Group Practice
One disadvantage of joining a group practice may depend on the clinical structure and how providers work together in diagnosing and treating patients. When making business decisions, a colleague may view things differently than you, or your colleagues. Most business decisions are made as a group. You may be limited to certain materials, techniques, or a specific philosophy chosen by the practice.
Choosing between the two forms of dental practice is a big decision for dentists, one that requires careful planning and consideration. Whether you want full control over business operations or work in a group setting, both options are viable to continue your career as a dentist.
Take advantage of the information in this article to help you make an informed decision.
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