What’s happening to Dentistry, Why, and What to do about It

There was a time when people would say, “All you need to do is hang your shingle, and you’ll have it made.” Nobody predicted today’s exorbitant cost of a dentist’s “shingle” and the smaller ROI it now brings. The story of old has crumbled, and as the Brazilian lyricist and author, Paulo Coelho suggests, we need to tell a new story to bridge the gap between that which is, and that which should be.

 Facts: What is Happening

Private practice dentists, and those supporting them, are losing revenues. Outside interests, mainly insurance companies and DSOs (dental service organizations), are forcing changes to benefit themselves at the expense of the other 90% of the dental industry and sometimes, the patients they serve.

Outsider influence has raised the cost of a dental education to as much as $400,000, while its value has in many cases, plummeted. Sky high debt and inadequate education has made entering private practice upon graduation, largely impractical, and supports the growth of DSO practice models. Meanwhile, insurance companies are lowering the number of procedures performed and their reimbursements. This has caused average annual income for dentists to drop 22%, from 2009 to 2014, currently sitting at the 1995 income level. This has caused each private practice to lose annual revenues in excess of $100,000. If that amount were invested each year for 15 years, a 45 year old dentist would earn about $30,000 per month at retirement (5% annual growth, before taxes).

Facts: Why this is Happening

Dentists and their organizations have allowed these changes to occur, and in some cases, supported them. Good clinicians see patients as people who need care. Outsiders see them as the headwaters of the revenue stream, and the earnings they bring as low hanging fruit in a fragmented industry with no barriers. Influencing the mass market in ways that individual dentists can’t, consumers naturally form attitudes and beliefs shaped by outsider messages and brands.

Below is a link to typical DSO information being distributed. Individual dentists need to confront this  with an equally powerful, but more complete, rendition:

Wisconsin Dental Board Legislation

We are not opposed to DSO practice management services. Neither is state dental board oversight. Like us, state dental boards are interested in protecting patient welfare in all practice models, as they do now only in private practice settings, or, supposed to. The linked article provides no proof to support assertions that DSOs routinely save patients money over private practices. Further, complaints filed  by several state attorneys general would assert otherwise. Unfortunately, nobody is calling this out, publicly. We intend to on the grounds that patients deserve protection in all practice settings.

DSOs have the right to exist, but not the right to practice dentistry without a license. If they are not practicing dentistry without a license, why should they care about falling under state dental board regulation? 

Why is the DSO lobby opposed to that?

Why is no one in the public spotlight asking that question?

How is being regulated by state dental boards anti competitive?

 The Response: Take Action or Do Nothing

Trends from doing nothing are clear, and personal losses (above) astronomical. The question is, “What can we do?” The obvious first step is to organize. Only when organized will newly competitive opportunities surface.

If you are a dentist, laboratory owner, distributor, or manufacturer, now is the time to get busy.  The same mass marketing tools being used against us could be working for us. Together, we can take advantage of everything the internet offers (including social media marketing), and add public relations, pressure legislators and regulatory agencies, and develop new business models in direct competition for market influence, including insurance.

To change the trend line, we need to pull in one direction, for one purpose: Educate and attract consumers as informed patients. The good news is, consumers only want the truth, something traditional care is in the best position to provide. More good news: Accomplishing this is easier than in the past. Research shows that consumers want genuine information they can trust. No patient deliberately chooses to be misled or mistreated, yet it happens daily to hundreds, perhaps thousands while the industry remains silent. Ethical care is a key marketing advantage, but only if we make it one.

Great stories untold die in obscurity.

We have a great story to tell,

But only if we are willing to tell it.


“We believe big visions need big stories to match…We believe in the power of collaborative community, and the choices you can always make to change your story. We believe in messages that make people feel inspired and connected to something greater. We are truth-seekers teaching a new paradigm of story.Michael Margolis, CEO and founder, Get Storied

 This is Our Story to Tell

Through professional marketing and a consumer website, OPT-In Dental Advantage is the only dental organization telling the story about the value of traditional dental care and the dentists who provide it. We employ professionals for website SEO, SEO support for our members’ web pages, bi monthly consumer blogs with SEO, and more recently, a national public relations campaign, managed by Braithwaite Communications, to brand the image of traditional dental care and present our story to consumers, nationally.

We invite dental professionals and companies to join us in making the advantages of traditional dental care known, and preferred. Please help our voices to be heard through stories consumers want and need to hear. Contact us today.

Please visit our website, OPT-In Companies, or call us at 855-321-OPTN (6786). It’s time to be a part of the solution.

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