Many of us know immediately the difference between a corporate dental office and private dentistry practice when we pass a Comfort Dental or Perfect Teeth building, but we don’t always realize many other seemingly private offices are actually also owned by large corporations. In Colorado the influx of corporate dentistry offices over the last 10 years has been nothing short of massive. That’s why I’m putting together this guide; a way to understand the differences between corporate and private practice dentists, and how to recognize them. Part 1 is a general look at what kind of expectations you may want to have in regards to your dental care.
This is an incredibly difficult question to answer. Firstly, the most important aspect in finding quality dental care, is finding a quality dentist. As a patient, many times this is more about the connection you make with the dentist over the skill that dentist has. Of course, this isn’t because you, the patient, doesn’t care about the dentist’s skill, but because you really can’t know for sure. Even online reviews and word-of-mouth are more tied to an emotional connection than quality. But as a new patient looking for a new dentist, isn’t an emotional connection important? At Station Dental, we are trying to build a life-long relationship with our patients – one of those big benefits of a private practice.
Let me explain what I mean. At a private practice, you will usually have a dentist who is an owner of that practice and has made a large investment, leading to a long term stay at that practice. The owner may have brought in an associate as well, but again, the most common outcome of this is that the associate came on board with the intention of also becoming an owner, therefore staying long-term. Don’t get me wrong, there are also owners at corporate practices, but more likely as a new patient, you will be seeing the new dentist. And most often, new dentists at corporate practices are fresh out of school and are in for a tough time working in a high-pressure sales type position. They learn what they like, and what they don’t, and bounce around for a while until they figure out what they want to do. This leaves you bouncing around as well, passed off from one dentist to another until you finally get sick of it and head to Station Dental (shameless plug).
Now, the dental care you should expect? I truly believe private practice should always provide better overall dental care than corporate, but that’s really not the case. One amazing tool corporate dentistry has is the power of money. They have the best buildings with the best lighting and the best equipment and the most efficient processes etc. That’s incredibly tough to compete with as a private practice, especially when you consider how much must be spent on marketing just to stay ahead of the corporate machine. This is where some due diligence is really helpful. Ask a potential private practice dentist when the last time they remodeled was? Are they using digital x-rays and newer equipment? Do they offer same-day crowns? Is the hygienist laser certified AND using a laser? The list goes on, and not having all of these things doesn’t mean it isn’t the right dentist, but it can show the willingness of the dentist to ensure top-of-the-line dental care. So, corporate probably has better tools, but who is using them?
Which brings us back to the dentist themselves. As I said earlier, your connection is probably emotional and not based on skill. This is unfortunate, but naturally a part of finding the right dentist. The first thing you can do is ask the dentist about their history. Where have they worked? Where did they graduate from? What kind of CE (Continuing Education) have they taken in the last year? Do they place dental implants, or do root canals, or see children? All of these are questions that are more related to their overall feelings and dedication to dentistry. Yes, you can make a connection talking about sports or weather, but do you also feel a connection when you discuss their profession? A dentist who gets excited is probably a dentist who is always perfecting their craft. Dentistry is an art that needs practice and dedication to master. A good conversation can get the answers you need.
Here’s where corporate dentistry should be ok, and private practice will either blow you away or end up struggling.
Corporate is just ok, because the patient experience should be the whole enchilada; availability, convenience, quality, dentist, staff, wait time, cost, knowledge, materials, equipment, communication, etc. Some of these things can be handled with money, some with process, and some with general care. Corporate has the money and the process down, but the general care naturally goes against the bottom line – making money for the business. These beasts are factories of efficiency, and the faster they can get you in and out, the faster the next person can take your place. Some corporations are worse about this, while some really do try and emulate private practice, but in the end, they all have to work for the company before the patient. Are lines being crossed here? The American Dental Association Code of Ethics begins with the following: “The American Dental Association calls upon dentists to follow high ethical standards which have the benefit of the patient as their primary goal.” As a private practice, we live by this every day and nobody can persuade us to think otherwise.
Private care has a larger hurdle to overcome with the patient experience. They don’t have teams of experts creating software and processes custom tailored to exactly the business model in place. What they have is the true ability to run a team that keeps the patient experience as the primary factor in running the practice. After all, without patients there is no practice. A private practice puts money in to acquiring patients that become part of the family, whereas a corporation knows that patient is most likely short-term, so they get what they can while they can. So give those private guys a break. It may take a little longer to check-in our out, or there may be some rough edges, but when it comes to a relationship with your dentist, find one that cares about you and has a staff that feels the same. It’s a dying model, but one we are trying very hard to keep relevant! Here’s where I should have a link to our “Support your local dentist” shirts, right?
At Station Dental our main focus is the patient in everything we do. Our first question is “how is that patient’s experience?”, whether it’s at the front desk, in the treatment room, or even at home or work when we communicate with you. We understand the immense value in you, and we hope to show you the immense value in us. We keep a new modern dental office in Aurora and Arvada with the top equipment and use only the best materials. We stay on top of trends and education. We are private care practice and proud of it.
If you have any more questions give us a call at 303-337-0047, or drop us a line! And look out for Part 2 where we get into the nuts and bolts of many corporate dental businesses and how they differ from eachother, and of course, how they differ from us at Station Dental.