From a clinical perspective: nothing! Aspen Dental is a network of independent dentists who live and practice in and around the communities they serve just like a local family practitioner. They’ve earned doctorate degrees in dentistry from the same great schools that family practitioners attend. They are fully licensed to practice dentistry by state and local governing bodies, just as family practitioners are. They make independent clinical decisions based on what’s best for each individual patient and that patient’s needs.
So what’s different? At Aspen Dental, the dentist has simply chosen to engage a dental support organization to help manage the business side of dentistry instead of trying to practice dentistry and run a business at the same time. The Dental Service Organization (DSO) model is increasingly common. According to this article by ADA executive director Dr. Raymond Cohlmia, the percentage of practitioners working for DSOs has increased, as 10.4% of US dentists were affiliated with DSOs in 2019, up from 8.8% in 2017. This momentum is expected to build, especially considering that the number of dental school seniors who plan to join a DSO more than doubled from 2005 to 2020, according to the 2020 American Dental Education Association Survey of US Dental Schools.