Corporate chains versus private practice: how does the quality of care stack up?

When it comes to modern dentistry, there has been a shift from the traditional one and two-doctor practices to larger corporate chains. More dentists fresh out of dental school are opting to start out in a chain dental clinic rather than start their own practice and some more experienced dentists are lured in by the idea of simply treating patients without worrying about managing their business. And patients with more restricted income are tempted by a notion that these corporate chains offer treatment for lower cost.

Yet, despite some benefits to these large chain dental offices, there is still a question of whether or not the quality of care can match that of smaller, privately owned practices.

A recent collection of opinions from multiple dental professionals published on seems to indicate that many believe the level of care from corporate dentistry doesn’t quite measure up. One respondent said they believed these chains “hurt the image and quality of dentistry” more than they helped it. Another claimed they felt working in one required her to take “the human components out of the dental equation.”

This discrepancy in quality of care can offer a potential opportunity for smaller practices who feel the burden of competing with these large conglomerates.

A key goal for privately owned practices is to make a greater effort to connect with their patients as individuals, unlike corporate dentistry, which typically operates first and foremost as a business set out to make a profit. This increases the quality of care you can provide without much extra effort, simply because less emphasis is placed on each patient’s monetary value. Remember, large dental corporations have to give as much if not more thought to returning the investment to owners and investors as they must to caring for patients.

What does this mean in the corporate dentistry world? That over time, even the most caring dental professionals may begin to see patients as opportunities for profit rather than human beings who need care. The pressure to perform and “sell” certain dental treatments that may not be necessary can be exhausting, creating a revolving-door mindset where one patient blends into the next.

For a smaller practice the dental team sets the priorities and goals and not an outside influencer, which leaves more flexibility to tailor patient care experience to the individual. That means your dental team gets to know patients personally, their likes and dislikes, their habits, and perhaps even their dental fears that need to be worked through. It also leaves the doctor and staff room to assess all treatment options without feeling the need to try to persuade the patient to take the highest cost or unnecessary option. All of this leads to happier, more comfortable patients who appreciate the effort of their dental team and who want to come back to your office. They become loyal patients versus patients who come in infrequently or only when they think they need to.

Corporate dentistry isn’t going away. And it has some benefits for both patients and professionals alike. But that doesn’t mean small practices need to feel threatened. By taking advantage of the unique benefits you provide, most notably exceptional and personal patient care and trust, your patients will understand you are there to take care of them.