What is a DSO (Dental Service Organization)?

As innovation and technology continue to develop in the field of dentistry, more and more dentists are contracting with Dental Support Organizations (DSO) to run the non-clinical side of their dental practices. More than 10% of all dentists were affiliated with a DSO in 2019 and that number continues to climb.  

Running a successful business takes efficient systems and attention, both of which a DSO can provide for a dental practice owner. Allowing dentists to focus on patient care while the DSO provides support in office management is the main reason why DSOs continue to be attractive to many dental professionals across the country. 

How Does a DSO Work?

A DSO can work in many different ways depending on who owns the dental practice and what the dentist needs help with specifically.  

As stated above, DSO stands for Dental Support Organization, but it can also mean Dental Service Organization. Though these definitions are similar, the subtle nuance can also be felt in how different DSOs operate. For example, some DSOs provide multiple services and have a strong presence in the dental office, while others are just there to give support to private practice owners in a few specific ways. 

The different ways DSOs work include the following: 

  • Private practice owners can agree to a contract with a DSO for a certain amount of time in which an experienced business team runs the business side of the practice while the dentist maintains control over the clinical side of the practice. A DSO can provide services such as:     
    • Marketing campaigns  
    • General maintenance of the office 
    • HR decisions
  • In some cases, DSOs purchase private practices with the goal of keeping the dental staff and former dentist owner employed at the practice to keep the well-established brand and general mood of the dental office intact.  
  • Some practices will band together to create a DSO to have better negotiating powers for discounts on supplies or even to get better rates from providers.  

What is the DSO Structure?

In a conventional DSO structure, the DSO will own the dental equipment, hire all employees who are not clinicians, hold the leases, and be in charge of any office maintenance or supply needs. The basic structure is that the dentist is in charge of patient care while the DSO takes care of all other operational aspects of the business.

Benefits of a DSO (Dental Service Organization)

What are the Benefits of a DSO? 

Not all dentists are business savvy or want to run a business. Starting a private practice is like starting a new business — many moving components must be considered when starting a new dental practice. New businesses can be challenging to get off the ground in any industry. And switching hats between the business owner and dental professional throughout the workday can be particularly challenging.  

If you are a part of a DSO, there will be a professional team on top of every part of operating your business. Ordering office supplies, interviewing a receptionist, and a full schedule of seeing dental patients can be asking too much from one person. Allowing a DSO to manage all the non-clinical functions in your dental practice will benefit your practice in more ways than one. Some of these benefits include:  

  • Consistent pay and general payroll support: DSOs provide systems for tracking employees' hours and distributing paychecks.  
  • Continued education: The opportunity for continued education is a perk for you and your team. Knowing that a dental office prioritizes continued education can be a plus for patients. In addition, free training in the latest techniques and treatments through your DSO will open more doors for you and your team.  
  • Marketing: Having a DSO actively campaign for your practice is incredible. For an autonomous dental practice to effectively get the word out to the public that they are in business either takes years of word-of-mouth advertisement or pure luck to find an office assistant who is also talented in marketing. A DSO creates top-of-the-line ads to get your dental office's name in front of as many people as possible.  
  • New equipment: DSOs create consistent standards for all the dental offices that they support with to make sure all equipment is in good working condition. Replacing old equipment with new and efficient tools is at the top of the list for most DSOs.  

Who is Joining DSOs? 

With 20% of dentists under the age of 34 contracting with DSOs, some of their top reasons for joining a DSO are because they won't have to: 

  • Buy all new equipment 
  • Purchase or rent an office space 
  • Set up all office systems 
  • Hire office staff 
  • Start from scratch building a patient base 

Dentists over the age of 50 are also joining DSOs because: 

  • They are tired of managing the business side of a dental practice 
  • They want benefits like consistent pay and retirement options 
  • Need new equipment but lack the negotiating power to get discounts 

But it isn't only dentists who are interested in joining entities like DSOs. Orthodontists are also contracting with business groups that operate their administrative tasks. But instead of DSOs, orthodontists have orthodontic service organizations or OSOs. 

Joining the Right DSO for Your Practice 

After considering the many benefits of joining a Dental Support Organization, decide how your practice would best benefit from a DSO's support. Whether you are weary of doing all the administrative tasks for your private practice or you are starting a new practice right after dental school, a DSO may be the solution you need to sustain or grow your business.

How Does PDS Support Practices? 

As mentioned, Dental Support Organizations provide various services and support. Some call themselves a Dental Service Organization, however, we prefer to be known as a Dental Support Organization.  

We differentiate our organization in more ways than what we call ourselves. We have a unique operations platform and structure that distinguishes our support organizations from others out there. Unlike other DSOs, we typically do not purchase or partner with existing practices, but instead open new offices in partnership with a practicing dentist. Our true equity ownership model means PDS-supported practices are clinician-led, community-based, and locally branded, reflecting our unique approach to the practice owners. Also, many of our new offices open with an existing practice owner who is opening an additional location, or current PDS-supported associate dentists transitioning from working for an existing practice to owning their own. In addition, we offer clinical support systems and produce a high-performance culture based on our “We Believes”, which is another name for our core values that drive our decisions and guide our teams' performance. 

Learn More about What it is Like Working as a PDS-Supported Associate Dentist


1 Garvin, Jennifer. "DSO 101: What is a Dental Support Organization?" American Dental Association, 30 Mar. 2022, https://www.ada.org/publications/ada-news/2022/march/main-types-of-dsos

2 "How Joining an OSO Changes the Day To Day for the Orthodontic Practice." Orthodontic Products, 9 Nov. 2021, https://orthodonticproductsonline.com/practice-management/business-development/how-joining-orthodontic-service-organization-oso-changes-day-practice/ 

3 Pacific Dental Services, 3 Jan. 2022, https://www.pacificdentalservices.com/ 

The information provided by Pacific Dental Services in this blog is intended to educate readers about oral health and related topics. However, it is not a substitute for professional advice or career guidance from a qualified dental professional or educator. It is important to seek the help of experts for any concerns related to oral health or career planning.