Is your dentist a private dentist or a corporate dentist ?
Once upon a time – a private dentist would open up an office and provided his or her patient’s with their dental care. In turn, satisfied patients referred their friends and families.
It wasn’t so long ago when this uses to be the only type of dental practice – the one that only answered to their patients and not a corporate entity.
A number of years ago Australian laws and legislation embraced an American model allowing corporate entities to own dental surgeries. These new laws have given rise to the big hand of corporatisation and profit over service in dentistry.
There are many new corporate dental chains and franchises in Australia with the biggest player being the private health group BUPA, who in 2013 bought out Australia’s largest corporate entity, Dental Corporation.
These types of corporate models are managing to skirt around “ownership issue” laws by claiming that they are simply offering business management and marketing solutions to dentists, while claiming that they don’t actually “own” the practice.
However it is the corporation that owns the building, hires the staff, determines the pricing and sales goals and can, in essence, fire the dentist if they don’t make the numbers – so at the end of the day the decision is left up to the consumer to decide who actually “owns” what.
This decision is not made easy for the customer; as dentists who have sold to a corporate entity do not have to advise their clients in any way shape or form that the surgery has changed hands and is now owned by someone or something else.
Corporate dental practices answer only to their investors, who are often large hedge funds with the only goal being to make as much profit as possible for their shareholders before flipping the company for an even bigger profit.
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) covered this issue on “Frontline Report” by airing a show called “Dollars and Dentists”. The program highlights the issues with this model of dental health care and warns people about the unscrupulous tactics used by some corporate dental chains to separate patients from their money.
And in an article published by the USA Centre for Public Integrity it is stated that patients are being pressured and coerced into accepting and signing long-term financial treatment contracts that they cannot afford.
In corporate dentistry an employed dentist is expected to make an adequate profit for the company and if that dentist is not “making the numbers” they will be let go.
Corporate dental chains have a track record of hiring newly graduated dentists that have huge university debts to repay which can also become the driving force behind “up selling” dental care to their unsuspecting clients.
The dentist turnover rate in corporate dentistry is huge so the likelihood that the client will see the same dentist on their next visit is unlikely with this being the cause for a lack of accountability as well as there being little to no continuity in patient care.
While it is impossible to comment on the quality of care that any individual dentist within the corporate dental clinic offers, the focus on profit as the main goal of treatment is a cause for great concern because it has been reported that only the most lucrative (i.e. expensive) treatment plans are usually presented to the client.
Some corporate dental practices even own their own overseas dental labs, making items such as crowns, bridges and dentures. They require their employee dentists to prescribe only from these laboratories. Again this increases the company’s profit margin by using cheaper and inferior materials and labour.
With such huge profit margins corporate dental clinics can spend big bucks on slick, impressive and very expensive advertising campaigns to attract patients – while this type of campaigning is near to impossible for the small independent dentist to afford.
A private dentist mostly survives on the goodwill and word of mouth referrals from their satisfied and happy customers who feel valued and trust in the quality and care that they are receiving from their dentist.
The private dentist who owns his or her clinic has roots in their community – they have a connection with their community. They have a vested interest in making sure that each and every patient receives the best and most appropriate treatment based on the individual.
A private dentist will know your medical history, have taken time to build a rapport and will better be able to treat you and your family if an emergency should arise.
So do you know whether your dentist has sold their clinic to a corporate entity but may still be practising under his or her name ?
Do you know what style of surgery you and your family are attending ?
If in doubt ask !
Because it’s time to think differently about your dental health.