Dental Student Research


To understand the barriers and opportunities from the perspective of the dental students on different types of practices, information is needed on dental student's opinions on joining private practices vs dental service organizations (DSO) or Corporate Dental Offices.

Early Findings

Dental Student Opinions from Surveys

  • Annually the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) surveys dental school seniors on a range of topics. This is the link to the survey for 2017 and this is the survey for 2018.
  • In 2017, 48.3% of dental students planned to enter private practice and this was relatively equal among males and females. This was the most common plan for all ethnic groups except Black/African Americans and students who identified as two or more races.
  • Most students who planned to enter a private practice planned to work as associate dentists in existing private practice with a sole proprietor (42.7%), while 15.1% planned to work for a corporate-owned group practice.
  • Many students who want to work in the private sector had a debt that was higher than the average debt. "Of seniors who planned to work in the private sector, 23.0% had debt $400,000 or higher, while, on average, 20.4% of all respondents had debt $400,000 or higher."
  • Similar conclusion can be drawn from the 2018 survey with increased figures.

Perspectives on Private Practices and Corporate Offices

  • In this article, a now practicing dentist confirms that student debt was a driving force behind wanting to enter a private practice. He shares that student debt and a lack of confidence in one's skills prevent students from opening their own practice.
  • One comment found on a blog regarding corporate dental offices states: "When you are corporate and owned ultimately by investors who want to make money, the decision is almost certainly going to be muddied by thoughts about profits and doing things towards that end. I think corporate has been the worst thing to happen to dentistry, much worse even than insurance, saturation, etc. It basically has degraded the quality of dentistry going around and is driving the overall race to the bottom. No one gains in that scenario including patients."
  • The same person's perspective on problems graduates might face when opening a private practice: "First of all, there aren’t enough existing private offices for sale to accommodate all of the new grads, who are increasing in numbers. Secondly, even if there were enough practices, they would surely be bid up in an overvalued situation for the new grads, paying through the nose with multiple bidders and this creates more debt. Finally, those grads who can’t find practices will strike out on their own in startups. This will mean an increased number of dental practices and what do you think the net effect will be? There are already saturation in practices and adding more to the mix simply brings everyone down. You know the situation well with saturation I am certain."

Summary of Findings

  • To find dental students perspectives on entering private practices vs corporate dental offices, surveys were sought on dental students.
  • During the initial hour of research, it became clear that student debt and a lack of confidence in one's skills are among the factors that influence student's choices.
  • Furthermore, some perspectives on opening private offices and were collected on corporate offices, though it is not clear whether it comes from the perspective of a student.

Proposed next steps:

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