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Letters: A better model?

September 17, 2012

The article “Park Dental is a Group Effort by Dentists” (Aug. 20 ADA News) brings up a very critical distinction in the ongoing efforts to consolidate dentistry. The reality is that the single practitioner model is much less efficient than a group model and the public prefers the convenience and credibility of groups.

Despite some claims of solo practitioners about the quality of care in groups, it only makes sense that a dentist will try to do his/her best quality work when they know that colleagues will be seeing their work in the same practice. It is undeniable that there has been tremendous growth in the percentage of dentists working in groups over the last two decades.

However, the point well taken is that an investment bank is in business to make money and a dental practice is in business to provide oral health services. There are many large groups in the country that are owned and controlled by dentists. There are more and more groups being acquired by investment banks to facilitate growth. Not all bank-owned groups are unprofessional and not all dentist-owned groups are beyond reproach. There are certainly efforts from nondentist political entities and state boards to effectively protect the public.

I would love to see organized dentistry’s state and national organizations work toward this end as well. Nobody can truly evaluate the quality of a dental practice better than a dentist.

I have personally been involved with the building of multiple, multispecialty groups over the last 30 years. Our group is a partnership of dentists with one partner practicing in each of 27 locations. We require tripartite ADA membership of all of our partners. The model we use has proven to be successful for our doctors and our patients. We have steadily grown in all ways and continue to do so. Our ethical quest to find a better way to deliver dental services to the public has been recognized by a renowned dental school that has made me the director of their practice management courses.

I firmly believe that a better model will develop out of the trial and error process we are observing. Groups such as the Dental Group Practice Association are endeavoring to do just that by uniting many of these large groups (both dentist-owned and investment banker-owned) into a professional association to build bridges with organized dentistry and dental schools. It is important that these efforts in the consolidation of dentistry are beneficial to the public or dentistry may become a trade rather than the noble profession it is.

Samuel Shames, D.M.D.
Managing Member
Gentle Dental Partners
Waltham, Mass.