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Dental Service Organizations: Definition, Types & Top DSOs

by | March 6, 2024

Originating in the early 1990s, DSOs (dental service organizations) were born out of the need for a more structured approach to managing the administrative and business aspects of dental practices.  

Fast forward to today, DSOs have become pivotal in providing support to dental clinics, allowing dentists to focus on what they do best: caring for their patients.  

But what does a dental service organization do? 

DSOs can handle all behind-the-scenes operations like billing, staffing, and equipment procurement.  

This enables dental practices to scale efficiently, adopt the latest technologies, and improve patient care without the administrative headaches.  

As we delve deeper into the world of DSOs, we’ll uncover how they work, their structure, main services, and some of the best DSOs out there. 

What is a Dental Service Organization (DSO)? 

A dental service organization handles the operational side of dental practices.  

By taking on administrative and non-clinical tasks (everything from marketing and payroll to equipment maintenance and insurance claim support), DSOs ensure dentists spend less time bogged down by paperwork and more time on patient care. 

The Role of DSOs in the Dental Industry  

The concept of DSOs has been a game-changer in the dental industry. It addresses a crucial need: many dentists excel in clinical services but find the business aspects of running a practice daunting.  

DSOs streamline dental practices, making dental care more efficient than ever. They bring economies of scale, which can lead to better technology adoption and improved patient services.  

This collaborative model not only boosts the quality of dental care but also extends its reach, ensuring more people get the dental attention they need. 

How Does a DSO work? 

DSOs provide a comprehensive suite of administrative services.  

Below, we delve into how DSOs function, their structure, and the dynamic between these organizations and dental practices. 

Overview of the Typical Dental Service Organization Structure 

DSOs typically have a hierarchical structure, with a central management team overseeing various departments such as finance, HR, marketing, and IT. This setup ensures that all non-clinical aspects of a dental practice are professionally managed.  

The organization might manage multiple dental practices, providing each with the necessary administrative support while allowing them to operate under their own names. 

Management and Administrative Roles 

Within a DSO, management and administrative roles are clearly defined:  

  • The management team focuses on strategic planning, operational efficiency, and financial management. 
  • Administrative staff handles day-to-day operations, including scheduling, billing, compliance, and patient communication.  

This division of labor ensures that practices run smoothly and efficiently, with a focus on delivering high-quality dental care. 

Relationship between DSOs and Dental Practices 

The relationship between DSOs and dental practices is symbiotic. While DSOs provide the necessary business support, dental practices offer clinical expertise. 

This partnership allows dentists to focus on clinical work without the stress of managing the business aspects. In return, DSOs benefit from the revenue generated by the dental practices. The goal is to create a win-win situation where operational excellence supports superior patient care. 

Types of Dental Service Organizations 

There are various types of DSOs, each tailored to suit different practice needs and visions. Let’s break down the primary models you’ll encounter in this sector: 

  • Corporate-owned DSOs: These are the titans of the DSO world, often owning and managing a large network of dental practices across multiple states or even nationally. Corporate-owned DSOs provide a broad spectrum of administrative and operational support, leveraging their size for economies of scale. This model is particularly appealing to dentists who prefer to focus solely on clinical duties without the hassle of business management. 
  • Dentist-owned DSOs: A more grassroots approach to the DSO model, these organizations are owned and operated by dentists themselves. They offer a balance between clinical autonomy and administrative support. Dentist-owned DSOs often cater to specific types of practices, whether it’s general dentistry or specialized fields, and they might operate within a more localized or regional scope compared to their corporate counterparts. 
  • Franchise models: The franchise model presents a unique blend of independence and affiliation. Dental practices under this arrangement maintain their branding and operational independence but subscribe to the franchisor’s DSO services for business support. This model suits dentists who wish to leverage the DSO’s resources and network without fully integrating into a larger organization. 
  • Hybrid models: Innovative and flexible, hybrid DSOs are emerging to meet the industry’s evolving needs. These organizations offer customizable levels of support, blending elements from corporate, dentist-owned, and franchise models. Dentists can choose the extent of services they require, from full administrative support to specific areas like marketing or HR, allowing for tailored solutions that fit various practice philosophies and sizes. 
what does a dental service organization do

Services Provided by Dental Service Organizations 

From handling the day-to-day administrative burdens to spearheading advanced marketing strategies, DSOs empower dentists to focus on providing top-notch dental care.  

Let’s delve into the key services offered by DSOs: 

Administrative and Operational Support

Administrative and operational support streamlines the daily functions of your dental practice. This includes everything from appointment scheduling to patient records management and supply chain logistics.  

Moreover, operational support extends to optimizing practice workflows and implementing best practices for efficiency, ensuring the smooth running of the office.  

The result?  

You can see improved operational efficiencies, leading to higher patient satisfaction and retention rates. 

Marketing and Patient Acquisition

In today’s digital age, a robust online presence is crucial for any dental practice aiming to grow its patient base.  

DSOs bring to the table expert marketing teams specializing in SEO, social media, and online advertising tailored to the dental industry. These strategies are designed to enhance your practice’s visibility, attract new patients, and build a strong brand reputation.  

By leveraging data-driven marketing techniques, DSOs ensure that dental practices stand out in a competitive market, effectively reaching potential patients through the right channels. 

Equipment and Technology Support

Staying abreast of the latest dental technologies and equipment is vital for providing high-quality care.  

DSOs facilitate access to cutting-edge dental software, often at more favorable pricing due to bulk purchasing agreements. This service includes not only procurement but also maintenance and training, ensuring that your team is adept at using new technologies.  

Such support can significantly enhance treatment outcomes and patient experience, positioning your practice as a leader in dental innovation. 

Financial and Accounting Services

DSOs offer comprehensive financial management services, covering everything from billing and collections to payroll and tax preparation.  

With specialized knowledge of the dental industry’s financial landscape, DSOs can implement effective strategies to maximize revenue, manage expenses, and ensure compliance with tax regulations.  

This financial oversight allows you to focus on clinical services without the burden of financial administration, facilitating better cash flow management and financial stability. 

Legal and Compliance Assistance

Navigating the complex regulatory environment of the dental industry can be daunting.  

The good news? 

DSOs provide all the legal support you need to ensure your practice complies with federal, state, and local regulations, including HIPAA, OSHA, and employment laws. This includes drafting and reviewing contracts, handling patient privacy matters, and staying updated on legislative changes affecting your dental practice.  

This way, you can mitigate risks and operate confidently within the legal framework. 

Training and Professional Development

Investing in the continuous education and development of the dental team is key to maintaining high standards of care. 

DSOs often offer access to training programs, seminars, and workshops covering clinical skills, new technologies, and practice management. This not only enhances the capabilities of your dental team but also fosters a culture of learning and improvement.  

dental services organization

Top 10 Successful DSOs 

DSOs have emerged as key players, revolutionizing how dental practices operate and grow.   

Here, we spotlight the largest dental service organizations that have made significant impacts in the industry through innovation, quality care, and operational excellence. 

Pacific Dental Services

Pacific Dental Services (PDS) stands out for its innovative model that emphasizes both clinical excellence and operational efficiency.  

PDS partners with dentists to offer comprehensive support services, including marketing, HR, IT, and financial services. Their unique culture fosters continuous improvement and innovation, positioning them as leaders in the dental industry.  

  • Number of affiliated practices: Nearly 1,000 
  • Brands: Supports individual branded practices 
  • Locations: Operates in over 20 states 

Smile Brands Inc.

Smile Brands Inc. combines comprehensive business support with a strong commitment to delivering “Smiles for Everyone.”  

They provide full-service administrative support to affiliated practices, emphasizing positive patient experiences. Additionally, they have earned numerous accolades for their culture and workplace environment.  

  • Number of affiliated practices: Nearly 700 
  • Brands: Bright Now!® Dental, Monarch Dental®, Castle Dental®, and more 
  • Locations: Operates across 30 states 

Heartland Dental

As one of the largest DSOs, Heartland Dental supports over 2,600 doctors across more than 1,650 offices.  

They are dedicated to professional development, offering extensive training and continuing education opportunities to their supported dentists and teams. Their mission is to foster a culture of leadership and service excellence, empowering dentists to achieve their full potential. 

  • Number of affiliated practices: 1,650+ 
  • Brands: Supports individually branded practices 
  • Locations: Presence in 38 states 


InterDent provides comprehensive business support services to a network of dental practices.  

Their focus on delivering high-quality care is supported by state-of-the-art administrative and operational assistance, which includes everything from marketing to financial and HR services.  

  • Number of affiliated practices: Approximately 175 
  • Brands: Gentle Dental, SmileKeepers, and more 
  • Locations: 8 states (primarily in the Western United States) 

American Dental Partners

American Dental Partners enables dentists to focus on patient care by offering robust business and operational support. Their collaborative approach fosters long-term growth and development for their affiliated practices, ensuring quality care and patient satisfaction. 

  • Number of affiliated practices: 25 dental practice groups across 280 dental facilities 
  • Brands: Multiple regional brands 
  • Locations: Operates in over 20 states 

The Aspen Group

The Aspen Group offers a wide range of support to its affiliated practices.  

Their dedication to enhancing patient care through innovative business models extends beyond dental, encompassing urgent care and medical aesthetics. The group’s integrated approach ensures high-quality, accessible healthcare services across its brands. 

  • Number of affiliated practices: 1,100+ 
  • Brands: Aspen Dental, WellNow Urgent Care, Chapter Aesthetic Studio, and ClearChoice Dental Implant Centers 
  • Locations: Across 45 states 

Western Dental

Western Dental serves as one of the leading DSOs with a strong focus on affordable and comprehensive dental care. They offer a full range of dental services, including orthodontics, making quality care accessible to a broader patient base.  

  • Number of affiliated practices: 550+ 
  • Brands: Western Dental & Orthodontics, Brident Dental & Orthodontics 
  • Locations: 20 states 

Dental Care Alliance

With a mission to advance the practice of dentistry, Dental Care Alliance supports a diverse network of dental practices. Their support includes marketing, operational management, and strategic planning, empowering practices to deliver exceptional care.  

  • Number of affiliated practices: 400+ 
  • Brands: Supports a variety of practice brands 
  • Locations: 23 states 

MB2 Dental

MB2 Dental brings a unique approach to dental practice management by focusing on the autonomy of their dentist partners while providing strategic growth and operational support. Their collaborative culture and dentist-centric model make them a standout in the DSO space. 

  • Number of affiliated practices: 300+ 
  • Brands: Supports individually branded practices 
  • Locations: 35 states 

Great Expressions Dental Centers

Great Expressions Dental Centers is known for its comprehensive dental services and patient-centered care. They provide extensive support to their affiliated practices, including clinical training, operational management, and marketing services, ensuring high-quality patient experiences.  

  • Number of affiliated practices: 300+ 
  • Brands: Great Expressions Dental Centers 
  • Locations: Operates in 10 states

The Role of Technology and Innovation in DSOs 

When it comes to DSOs, technology is the backbone that supports every facet of modern dental practices. 

Whether it’s through sophisticated practice management software that automates scheduling and billing or through dental imaging software systems that provide clearer diagnostics, technology enables DSOs to deliver superior dental services.  

Beyond operational efficiency, innovation in dental technologies, such as AI-driven diagnostic tools and 3D printing for dental prosthetics, is setting new standards in patient care. These advancements not only improve the accuracy of treatments but also open the door to personalized dental solutions, catering to the unique needs of each patient.  

As DSOs continue to evolve, their success increasingly hinges on their ability to integrate and capitalize on the latest technological innovations. This commitment to technology not only positions them at the forefront of dental care excellence but also ensures they remain competitive in the ever-changing healthcare landscape. 

Our Expertise in the Dental Software Industry 

At Scopic, we’re not just observers of the dental industry’s transformation – we’re active participants, empowering dental practices with innovative solutions tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities of dental care.  

Our forte lies in providing custom software and dental website development services that help you streamline operations, enhance patient engagement, and optimize management practices. From practice management systems that simplify appointment scheduling to patient portals that improve communication and satisfaction, our solutions are designed with the modern dental practice in mind.  

Beyond technology, we understand the pivotal role of marketing in your dental practice’s success. Our comprehensive digital marketing strategies encompass SEO, content creation, social media management, and more to ensure you attract and retain patients while building a strong, recognizable brand. 

Our portfolio speaks volumes of our commitment to the dental industry. We’ve partnered with dental practices to develop custom patient management software, implemented cutting-edge digital marketing campaigns, and launched mobile apps that improve patient engagement and loyalty.  

Partnering with Scopic means more than just gaining access to custom software development and marketing prowess – it means having a dedicated ally in navigating the complexities of the dental industry. 

Shaping Tomorrow’s Dental Care Beyond DSOs 

DSOs undoubtedly play a pivotal role in modernizing dental care.  

But your dental practice doesn’t have to be limited to DSOs when it comes to managing your day-to-day operations. Developing custom software tailored to your specific needs might just be the key to bringing your practice to the next level. 

At Scopic, we’re dedicated to crafting bespoke software solutions that cater precisely to your dental practice.  

Ready to create your roadmap to success together? Contact us to learn more about our tailored solutions. 

Dental Service Organizations FAQs 

Got any other questions on DSOs? Read on: 

What are the Advantages and Challenges of Dental Service Organizations?

Partnering with a DSO brings significant benefits, including comprehensive administrative support, which allows dentists to focus on clinical work. You’ll also find marketing, HR, and financial services streamlined.  

However, challenges exist, such as adapting to a new business model and ensuring the DSO’s goals align with the practice’s vision.  

The key? Finding a DSO that respects your clinical autonomy while offering robust support services. 

What are Emerging Trends in the Dental Industry?

Digital dentistry is revolutionizing the field, with trends like teledentistry, 3D printing for prosthetics, and AI-driven diagnostic tools gaining traction. Sustainability practices are also emerging, with eco-friendly materials and technologies.  

These innovations are enhancing patient care, operational efficiency, and environmental responsibility. 

How Does Partnering with a DSO Affect Decision-making in Dental Practice?

Partnering with a DSO can shift some decision-making from clinical to the DSO, particularly in areas like operations, marketing, and finance. However, a well-structured partnership should preserve clinical autonomy, ensuring dentists retain control over patient care and treatment plans. 

Are There Specific Legal Considerations or Regulations Unique to DSOs?

Yes, DSOs operate under a regulatory framework that varies by state, often focusing on the separation of clinical and business services to maintain ethical standards and patient care quality. Compliance with healthcare laws, such as HIPAA and state dental board regulations, is also crucial.

What Are the Key Considerations for Dentists When Choosing a DSO?

Key considerations include the DSO’s reputation, the support services offered, the degree of clinical autonomy maintained, and the alignment of the DSO’s values with the dentist’s vision for patient care. Additionally, you should keep in mind the financial implications and contractual obligations. 

How do DSOs Ensure Compliance with Healthcare Regulations and Standards?

DSOs typically have dedicated compliance teams to navigate the complex healthcare regulatory landscape, ensuring practices adhere to all legal requirements, including patient privacy laws, clinical guidelines, and employment regulations.  

Regular audits and staff training are part of maintaining high compliance standards. 

About Creating Dental Service Organizations Guide

This guide was authored by Vesselina Lezginov, and reviewed by Alan Omarov, Solutions Architect at Scopic.

Scopic provides quality and informative content, powered by our deep-rooted expertise in software development. Our team of content writers and experts have great knowledge in the latest software technologies, allowing them to break down even the most complex topics in the field. They also know how to tackle topics from a wide range of industries, capture their essence, and deliver valuable content across all digital platforms.

Note: This blog’s images are sourced from Freepik.

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