Why This Young Dentist Went With a DSO

By: Hannah Crowell

Dental students are not encouraged to pursue a career with a DSO (dental support organization).

In fact, they are most actively discouraged to sign with one.

You’ll hear things like,

  • “DSOs are evil and only care about money.”
  • “They will use and abuse you.”
  • “You’ll do sketchy things to make quotas.”

To be fair – these statements could more accurately be said about dental schools.

My Story

Never have I felt so burnt out and used as trying to graduate from a program into which I poured mountains of money and a part of my soul. But I digress.

First here is a bit of my background – I am married to a dentist, he graduated the same year as I did, and we have three children.

They all were in daycare while we were in school. We were strapped for money, drowning in student loans and credit card debt from trying to make it all work, and on top of it all, we wanted to move across the country to be closer to family in Texas. 

After shopping around, we found a DSO that seemed to tick all our boxes:

  • moving expenses
  • signing bonus
  • free CE
  • mentorship
  • an ideal city we want to raise our family in
  • willing to be flexible with our schedule
  • a fair contract that paid a guaranteed monthly salary

In retrospect, not all of it is perfect, but we will go into that in another blog post. 

While I am sure I would have also enjoyed working in private practice with the perfect dental mentor holding my hand every day, this just was not a realistic option for me.

I did not have the time or energy to search for the “perfect job.” I couldn’t afford to travel to interview at a lot of offices, plus the decision of where we were moving had to be made early to give us time to set up school registration and daycare for our kids.

Any parent can tell you that the latter in particular needs six months or more of forethought to secure a spot, especially for multiple children.

We needed to secure a job early to make sure our kids would have good reliable childcare, and we wouldn’t have to pay multiple deposits since we physically could not. 

Perks of Working a DSO

Working with the resources of a DSO has its perks as well.

Our DSO paid for us to fly down to see one of their offices. They flew us to Austin to help us get our license as fast as possible – also gave us a complete checklist of what paperwork we needed and how to get it.

Helping us get our license so we could begin working is something I am incredibly grateful for – we ran out of loans in May, and we began working in June with their help.

They have helped us get credentialed with insurance and Medicaid – more accurately have done it all for us.

On top of it all, they pay for my malpractice insurance and, if planned, I could have an experienced doc sit with me while I do a tricky molar endo or a difficult surgical extraction.

Something that was always said at my interview, my training, and my first day of work:

“You are the doctor and you make the treatment plan that best serves the patient.”

Not once has a superior told me how to treatment plan.

Office managers will sometimes try and guilt you to fit more treatment into a particular day, but I know because I have been told by my boss so many times that I set my schedule and choose how I treatment plan.

You must be strong and stand up for yourself – you know dentistry better than anyone at your office unless you are lucky enough to have a supportive experienced dentist working with you.

Because at the end of the day, I can find a new job, but I can’t just get a new dental license. 

Accepting a DSO Job Was Best for Me and My Family

Overall, I can’t complain too much since they have helped me and my family feel financially stable for the first time in our adult lives.

Will it be a forever job? Probably not.

Do I plan to stick around if they are willing to negotiate some things on my next contract? You bet.

Up Next: Reasons to Consider a Dental Residency Program

Photo by Anna Shvets

Dr. Hannah Crowell

Dr. Hannah Crowell

Dr. Hannah Crowell is a graduate of The Ohio State Dental School and is practicing as a general dentist in Houston, Texas. She happily lives there with her husband (also a general dentist), their three young children, and their pup. She is kept busy with her work and family, but enjoys hanging out with family and friends, road trips (with many necessary pit stops due to feisty toddlers), and exploring new cities and the great outdoors whenever she gets the opportunity!