You may have noticed it happening in your town… dental offices that are part of a franchise or chain opening up. They may start advertising heavily with offers such as “$1 New Patient Special” like your dental health is something to be found on the dollar menu at McDonalds! Right now you are probably asking two questions:
#1- How is it bad to save money?
#2- How can they afford to do that?!
Let’s take a couple minutes and answer those questions.
#1- “How is it bad to save money?” The answer is pretty simple, and relates to the economics of how a dental office works. A new patient visit at our office takes about an hour and a half. Why so long, you may ask? A new patient visit involves going over your medical and dental history, a full set of X-rays including a panoramic X-ray, a head, neck, and oral cancer exam, a dental exam, a periodontal (gum) exam, and a cleaning. That level of care can’t be done in 30 minutes.
So an office doing one of these specials will most likely do one or more of the following:
1- Do the procedures faster (missing valuable steps, or omitting them) to minimize the monetary loss to the office.
2- Not ask the right questions or get to know your dental concerns because it takes too long.
3- Make up for the loss by pushing large treatment plans with financing companies. It’s no big deal to lose $300 on a new patient visit if you can get a $5000 treatment plan out of the deal.
Now let’s answer question #2- “HOW can they afford to do that?” The answer to that is pretty simple:
These offices are owned mostly by private equity firms, so they have a lot of investor’s money behind them. They usually get around state regulations that require a dental office to be owned by a dentist by appointing one of their dentist employees as the “owner” of a particular location. Also, by virtue of their multiple locations, they have big discount deals with dental supply companies. They also usually have discount deals with large labs that send their cases to offshore labs, where the work is cheaper (but quality standards are lower). In addition, many insurance companies have “special deals” with these corporate chain offices where they receive higher reimbursements than a private practice dental office. The economics favor these chain offices over a private practice office.
So, why should you choose a private practice office over a corporate chain office for your dental care? There are many reasons!
#1- You will most likely see a very recent graduate at a chain office. Turnover of staff dentists is usually high, so you will most likely see a different dentist at each visit. This makes continuity of care difficult. Private practice, where you always see the owner doctor, is vastly different. As Dr. Sharel Sly of Hermann Park Smiles says “Patients get to develop a lasting one-on-one relationship where they are valued as a person. I make sure to give my patients time to talk and ask questions without them feeling rushed. The best thing about it too is they get the peace of mind of knowing that they will see me whenever they return which is not the case with the high turnover with corporate offices.”
#2- Because corporate offices answer to investors, they usually have production quotas. Are private dental offices for profit businesses? Of course we are, it’s how we support our families. But the difference is that a corporate chain office is a for-profit business that happens to provide dental care. Their focus is on profit. A private practice office is a dental treatment provider that happens to make a profit while doing it. Our focus is on patients well being! Dr. Scott Stephens of Fayetteville, AR sums up this philosophy well- “I tell my patients the best I can do is tell them exactly what I would tell one of my family members. I tell them that, unlike one of the corporate offices, the only person I answer to is me, so there are no quotas or goals to meet.”
#3- A private practice dentist is in charge of every aspect of care at their office. They don’t have a behind the scenes office staff dictating their schedule. So, if you have a particularly challenging case, or are just nervous and need extra time and care, the dentist gets to decide how long your appointment should be, so you don’t feel rushed or ignored. They also will have their name on the door for years to come, so the quality and longevity of your dental treatment is paramount. “We take the time to listen to your concerns, and come up with a solution that is best suited for you.”, says Dr. Sunny Pahouja, of Lifetime Smiles in Cincinnati, OH. “We strive to create long term results. We are your partner and advocate. We want you to have a healthy smile for a lifetime.” adds Dr. Pahouja.
#4- Private practice dentists put down roots in the community because they are here for the long term, often practicing in their office for 40 years! Dr. Kathy and I live here in Washington Township, only a mile from the office. I love living in the community I practice in. It’s a pleasure to me to run into patients at the supermarket or hardware store, because they are my friends!
#5- Private practice dentists often take a lot more continuing education than the average dentist. They are committed to being the best they can be, because they know they will be taking care of their family of patients for 30-40 years! Dr. Karen Ho of Palm View Dental in Alhambra, CA, for instance, keeps up to date on the ever evolving field of dentistry with advanced courses in esthetics, implants and orthodontics, so that she can offer her family of patients the highest level of care possible.
You may be asking why we at Dayspring Dental are so passionate about this subject. It is simply because Dr. Kathy and I love dentistry, and want to see it practiced everywhere to the highest standard possible. We also love our family of patients here at Dayspring, and want the very best for them. This is why our standards are so high, and we have invested in so much advanced technology and advanced training for ourselves and our staff.
If you have any questions, or wish to make an appointment for personalized, high tech dental care here in Washington Township, please call us at 856-875-8400, or email us at info@DayspringDentalTwp.com
Dr. Matt Bickel