Choices for the Associate Dentist with Job Opportunities

By: Bruce Bryen

In today’s world of dentistry, there are so many more choices for the associate than in years past when most dental practices were owned by a solo dentist or partnership owned.

Let’s take a look at the job opportunities in today‚Äôs marketplace.

Job Opportunities for the Associate Dentist

For today’s associates, some of the job opportunities are with:

  • DSO
  • OSO
  • Solo Practitioner
  • Partnership


The DSO is looking for associates who do not want to be involved with any administration. These associates are in the right place at the right time compared to the past when the goal of ownership was key for the associate as well as for the owner who was hiring the associate.

The DSO is interested in gross revenue increasing, expansion of the office to become offices, and projecting the highest gross revenue and net income with the appropriate higher tax being paid.

The DSO wants to attract associates who are not too interested in administration but who want to spend their time on the clinical side of dental practice.

This will produce more gross revenue for the dental practice and increase the return to investors in the DSO.

It will also increase the value of the DSO so that additional associates and other financial investors will see the opportunity that is being presented by the DSO since they have their own administrators who do not get involved with clinical production. 


The OSO is similar to the DSO in the philosophy that it was gross revenue as a goal without the need for administrative personnel. 

OSO stands for Orthodontic Service Organization. These types of organizations are not moving as quickly as the DSO was but they are still a form of business entity that is attractive to the orthodontist who is not the best at administration or does not enjoy it at all. 

The associate will have to continue schooling to be able to advance from a general type dentist to the specialty of orthodontia or any other type of expertise that requires additional education. 

The criteria for joining the OSO are based on the need for administrative assistance besides other concerns such as declining revenues or the loss of hope for the future growth of the practice. The safety of numbers is appealing to this type of practice. 

Solo Practitioner

There is still the opportunity to join a solo practitioner or partnership group. 

The associate can work for a solo practitioner and get the training and expertise of the owner and others at the chosen office. 

He or she would enhance the clinical skills learned in dental school and would be subject to learning administrative expertise based on the experience of the owner and the clinical staff.

The associate would also be subject to the willingness of the owner and other staff members to spend time teaching and reviewing the progress of the associate’s administrative expertise.

This is for many reasons.

One of which was that the owner was interested in the growth of the practice and its long-term effect on his or her exit strategy. 

This is something that the owner would impress on the associate’s mind. If the associate was not interested in administration, the fit would not be a good one. If the exit strategy is of high importance to the owner, there will probably be an additional associate hired and the current associate may be able to remain employed if there is enough business.

If a new associate is hired, there must be enough work for the associate who is not interested in administration to stay at the practice and use his or her clinical skills to produce enough to justify remaining.

Without enough patients, the associate not interested in acquiring the practice will probably be asked to find work at another dental practice. This type of scenario will have continued until the associate finds a practice large enough to justify the one-dimensional associate who was not interested in the administrative side of the dental practice.

Find Your Niche, and Find Success

It may take several job opportunities for the associate to find his or her niche as an employee with the right fit for a dental practice synergistic arrangement.

That is not a bad thing since hopefully, the associate is learning wherever he or she goes to work and will be more valuable at the next place of employment.

With different skills developed, sometimes ideas change as to whether an associate may want to become an owner with those responsibilities or to remain as an associate with limited responsibilities administratively but with the goal of increasing production and collection for the practice. 

If the associate meets with his or her peers for discussions or joins study groups to learn more from those who have worked in other fields, it will save a lot of time learning about the culture of a particular type of practice.

It is a valuable tool to have someone on the inside of a practice who can give information about it that would only have been learned by working there on your own. 

Once the associate finds the niche that he or she desires, the rewards of feeling good at work, earning substantial amounts of compensation, and having an opportunity for ownership if desired. 

If ownership is the goal, what was learned by the associate when going through the learning process will help when he or she is the owner and has the need to hire an associate and train that person. 

Personal experiences are certainly the best teacher and if studied by the associate who is now an owner, will facilitate the growth, income, and value of the dental practice that he or she just acquired.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

Bruce Bryen

Bruce Bryen

Bruce Bryen, CPA/CVA Dental Practice Valuation Analyst, Baratz & Associates, PA