The Rise of Dental Service Organizations and the Future of Dentistry

This past weekend we attended the DEO (Dental Entrepreneur Organization) spring meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. For those of you who are not familiar with DEO, it is an Oregon-based service group helping multi-practice owners and single practice owners who want to acquire more offices. DEO makes quality connections between its associate members and a wide variety of product and service providers that help multi-practice operations scale up with more efficiency and less expense. As DEO’s motto says, “Succeeding Together” is their diving motive.

Groups like DEO have been so successful because they bring to bear advanced technology, deep analysis and a wide variety of resources that a single practice or a loosely connected group of practices could never afford. Access to this power comes at a price, but for a growing number of dentists it has become a great option that brings stability, continuity and increased revenues.

The greatest contribution an organization like DEO makes, is that it brings a more awareness to the practice-owners of the risks, reality and challenges of the multi-practice owner/operator. Just one generation ago, a dentist’s knowledge of business was not considered an essential prerequisite to being a successful practitioner. Then at the dawn of this century, an epiphany hit the dental industry: Dentists may see their practice as a vocation, but their bankers see it as a business. The earth beneath the dental industries shift as advertising laws changed and digital marketing exploded. Like many other professions, dentists were rather slow to embrace the new reality.

Traditional family practices began to struggle to keep up as competition heated up, driven by a host of breakthrough technologies in business analysis, communications software and practice management software. Consequently, more practices fell into a distressed state, and for a whole generation of dentists these new pressures “took the fun out of their work.” Many second and third generation dentists became hesitant about encouraging their children to continue the family business, and the DSOs sprung up to help fill their needs. Some traditional dentists thrived after the managerial weight was lifted from their shoulders; some were just happy to find a way out of their declining practices’.

For a new generation of savvy practitioners, others’ missteps created an opportunity to buy and rehabilitate -once profitable- operations. But even for smart dentists, handling multiple practices is a tricky balancing act and it takes a lot of resourcefulness to turn a struggling practice into a profit center. Soon terms like “ebitda margin” and “adjusted ebitda” entered the dental lexicon and things have never been the same since.

As the dust has settled in recent years, a new community of business advisors, dental service providers and entrepreneurial dentists has emerged. Now, a dentist who wants to reproduce success from one office to multiple offices is no longer alone. There are others who foster that desire and can help make it happen. That is good for the industry and good for patients. In the words of DEO’s VP of Business Development, Darin Acopan:

The Dentist Entrepreneur Organization is the premium Conference for owners that are looking to build a group practice.  The other component of the DEO is a mastermind of over 115 Dentist Owners that come together several times a month on webinars to share best practices as it relates to running a group of locations.  Anyone interested in DEO Events or the Mastermind can learn more at or contact Darin Acopan, VP of Business Development at 360-980-1437.

In these new communities like DEO, associate members find likeminded peers and have access to an elite level of services and experts needed to build and operate a network of large, productive operations.  This current generation of dentists can do more than ever before to ensure financial security through growth and optimism, knowing they do not have to find their way totally on their own.  

John Ross