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Practice ownership declining among dentists

August 30, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

Private practice ownership for dentists is steadily declining among all age groups, according to data published in the September issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

While 84 percent of dentists owned practices in 2005, the number fell to 80 percent by 2015. More importantly, the decline was seen in all age groups, according to "Practice Ownership Is Declining," a column by Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., chief economist and vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute.

Practice ownership is especially declining among younger dentists, according to the data. The age group with the biggest drop in ownership was dentists age 35 and under. Forty four percent in that age group were practice owners in 2005, compared with 38.2 percent in 2015. The second biggest drop was for dentists between 35-44, 83.4 percent of whom owned practices in 2005, compared with 78.7 percent in 2015.

Dr. Vujicic writes that the data indicate the decline in practice ownership is not being driven by the "de-aging" nor the "feminization" of the workforce.

Indeed, the data show no change in ownership numbers among female dentists, and that 93.7 percent of dentists aged 45-54 owned practices in 2005 compared with 90.7 percent in 2015.  The percentage of dentists aged 55-64 who own practices fell to 92.3 percent in 2015 from 93.8 percent in 2005.

In his commentary, Dr. Vujicic predicts these trends will continue and puts them into context by noting the stark drop of physicians who are practice owners — from 61 percent in 2001 to 47 percent in 2016.

"Physicians have simply adjusted and the data show employed physicians are actually quite happy," Dr. Vujicic said.

To see the data and read the commentary, visit and search for the article title, "Practice Ownership Is Declining."

Other September JADA features

Patients with diabetes — and dentists — could benefit from detailed clinical patient-level data in dental electronic health records, according to research in the September issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

Authors of the cover story, “Evaluating Quality of Dental Care Among Patients With Diabetes: Adaptation and Testing of a Dental Quality Measure in Electronic Health Records,” examined the feasibility and validity of implementing an automated electronic health record-based dental quality measure to determine whether patients with diabetes received annual dental examinations, an established preventive strategy for oral complications.

Researchers found that “we can use the rich clinical data captured in electronic health records to more accurately assess the quality of healthcare provided to patients in our dental clinics,” said Muhammad Walji, Ph.D., corresponding author of the article. “Electronic health record data may be more useful in measuring quality than relying solely on claims data.”

Authors write that detailed data in electronic health records could help dentists evaluate the quality of dental care provided to patients with diabetes.

To read the full article, visit and search for the article title, “Evaluating Quality of Dental Care Among Patients with Diabetes.”

Other highlights of the September issue include an assessment of crown and bridge impressions received at commercial laboratories; a literature review of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices; and a look at age- and sex-related differences in masseter size and its role in oral functions.

Every month, JADA articles are published online at in advance of the print publication.