How to Compete with Discount Dental Practices

Author: Dr. David Dickerhoff, DDS, MAGD, FOCOI

This was the title of an article within my subscription magazine Academy of General Dentistry’s AGD Impact that appeared in its July 2019 issue (Vol. 47, No. 7). In the article, the author comments that, “Corporate dental clinics are backed by major health corporations with deep pockets and can saturate the market with online ads, TV commercials, billboards and radio spots. Most patients don’t know the difference between a private, quality practice and corporate dentistry.” Practices that offer specials and discounts are appealing to your sense of personal fiscal responsibility, but are you looking at the big picture when you consider your oral health.

You may ask yourself that if these large corporate dental offices are so bad, then why are they attracting so many dentists to work for them? And this may seem to be a very valid question especially if you have frequented one of their offices and found the practitioner(s) to be a very kind and skilled individual(s). The short answer is that I have a very high opinion of people who have been attracted to the health care field. The vast majority of them are motivated by a caring ethos that is served well by their clinical skills and high intelligence. They come into practices with a very high motor, pristine morality and a keen desire to heal and care for their patients.

The price of a dental education has skyrocketed during the last two decades and the average amount of student debt the last time I checked, was over a quarter of a million dollars. The price tag of the technology that we are dealing with within our dental practices has skyrocketed as well. Asking these kids that are coming out of dental school with substantial debt to go to the bank and incur even greater debt does not make sense to a lot of these young entrepreneurs. Therefore, turning to corporate dentistry where they can have immediate access to state of the art technology and a constant paycheck in order to work down their student debt is a viable alternative to them. The down side to this is losing your ability to work for yourself where you only have to answer to your own vision of what is right or wrong and not to a corporate entity that measures your worth in how much you can produce.

Do I feel that Spring Lake Dental Group only deals in high quality dentistry that stands the test of time, which uses the best techniques and technology as well as state of the art materials? You are darn right I do. Do I have procedures that turn out with a poorer outcome than I would like? Unfortunately, yes. But I have shied away from having my patients sign informed consent documents even to the chagrin of my malpractice lawyers. Why, because I feel like they create a barrier between me and my patients. Do I give all of my patients informed consent? Darn right, I do. But I do not want them thinking that they are signing a document that deprives them of any rights should a poor outcome arise. Instead, if you are a conscientious and caring health care provider, you will stand behind your work and diagnosing and make things right when a poor outcome arises. I have eaten many lab bill costs and redone many procedures when they have not lived up to my standards. It is this relationship with my patients that I value most highly. You won’t be getting any specials or discounts out of me, but you do have my word that I come to work each day loving what I do and hoping that my patients will give me the respect of having a two way conversation with me about what is important to them.