Coalition launched to protect access to dental care in Texas

Leading providers of dental office administrative support services have announced a new group called the Texas Coalition of Dental Support Organizations (TCDSO).

Members of the coalition -- known as dental support organizations or DSOs -- help increase access and lower the cost of dental care for Texans at a time when access and affordability are a critical challenge for many Texas families: Texas currently ranks among the bottom eight states in the number of dentists per 10,000 residents, according to data from Kaiser State Health Facts.

TCDSO members provide vital business and administrative support services -- including facility maintenance, supply management, billing, scheduling, accounting, taxes, payroll and marketing -- that simplify the process of running a dentist office and enable dentists to spend more time caring for their patients.

The coalition is working with state leaders and other stakeholders to educate them on the services member companies provide and how they assist dentists in providing quality and affordable dental care to Texans.

"My practice has thrived for 27 years and my patients have benefited from the assistance of a dental support company," said Dr. Edgardo Gonzalez, a San Antonio dentist. "I could contract with several individual companies to do my accounting, payroll, claims processing, office cleaning and marketing - or hire one company to do it all. The support provided to me enables me to focus on patient care, while I leave the business operations and back-office support to the company."

For more than 30 years, dental support organizations (DSOs) have provided administrative support services to Texas dentists. Today, there are 243 coalition-member supported dental offices in Texas with nearly 3,000 employees, dentists and dental-care professionals. Collectively, these offices had more than 1.3 million patient visits in Texas last year.

"Dental care in Texas has improved significantly in recent decades," said Dr. Jacob Dent, a Sugar Land dentist. "Today, many communities benefit from highly-trained dentists, advanced treatment technology and convenient same-day service that DSOs help dentists provide to their patients."

One of the public policy issues the coalition is working on is whether current Texas law and regulations regarding the practice of dentistry provide strong enough protections for Texans. Coalition members and many others believe that if fully and properly enforced, current laws and regulations, as written, sufficiently protect Texans by ensuring only dentists duly licensed in Texas are making decisions on behalf of their patients.

Texans have benefited over the years from the services provided by numerous longstanding and well-regarded DSOs. Over the past three decades, dental support services have enabled Texas community dentists to:

• expand patient access to dental care by opening conveniently-located offices in communities throughout the state and offering extended hours and more appointment times;

• spend more time delivering dental care to patients in their community and less time dealing with the many administrative functions of running a dental office;

• reduce the cost of dental care by improving the efficiency of office administration and reducing the procurement cost of dental care supplies;

• deploy advanced technologies that significantly improve patient care and safety while enabling convenient same-day service;

• hire more dental office staff, resulting in a better patient experience and generating more jobs in our communities; and

• offer placement and mentor opportunities for newly-graduated dentists while enabling all practicing dentists to engage in continuing education and peer-to-peer collaboration.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes the DSO-supported group practice model as a viable alternative for its members. An ADA New Dentist Committee recently identified several reasons why large group practices are appealing to new graduates, including student debt burdens that act as a barrier to practice ownership, increased job availability within large group practices, mobility options and the ability to focus on patient care instead of the numerous responsibilities of running a small business.

"Dental support services have freed me to focus on providing quality care to my patients," said Dr. Dent. "That is good for my patients and good for my practice."

Members of the Texas Coalition of Dental Support Organizations support dentists in the efficient delivery of affordable, high-quality dental care to millions of Texans annually. Members include Affordable Care, DentalOne Partners, Heartland Dental Care, Pacific Dental Services, Inc., SmileBest Dental Services and Smile Brands Inc. (Castle Dental and Monarch Dental).