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The future of private practice

May 1, 2021
Are you worried that solo private dental practice is becoming a dying breed? Dr. Chris Salierno has some advice for you.
Chris Salierno, DDS, Chief Dental Officer, Tend

Here are two tangentially related pieces of economic data from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute. The percentage of dentists who owned practices fell from 84.7% in 2005 down to 76.1% in 2019.1 In 2005, 63.1% of dentists worked by themselves in private practice compared to 50.3% in 2019.2 Note that these data sets conclude in 2019. How might these and similar developments have been affected since the onset of COVID-19?

Crises, recessions, and pandemics have a way of accelerating economic trends. A sudden shift in how people behave and spend their money can expose weakening business models while simultaneously strengthening emerging ones. While we do not yet have any hard data to share, there has been much speculation and anecdotal evidence that the current COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the consolidation of solo dental practices into dental support organizations (DSOs).

So, the percentage of dentists who own practices has been in decline for years, as has the percentage of solo practitioners. These declines may have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, while acquisition of practices by DSOs is speculated to have risen. Does this information bring you to any conclusions? If you are a solo private practice owner, are you concerned that you may be part of a dying breed?

I personally believe that solo and small group private practices can thrive in their communities, regardless of the macroeconomic trends we’re observing. They can thrive. Or they can get stalled. Success is not guaranteed; it’s planned.

We’ve been collecting expert advice in Dental Economics to help private practices plan for that success. But I believe the most important advice a private practice owner could hear is something that I’ve been telling my lecture audiences for years: Stop trying to be everything to everyone and be something special to some.

Solo and small group private practices should consider how they can be uniquely positioned to serve target markets. In this issue, we’ve collected articles to help you do just that. You should first check out the 2020/2021 Dental Economics–Levin Group Annual Practice Survey, which summarizes the challenges we’ve faced since COVID-19 began temporarily shutting down practices last year. Next, Drs. Amisha Singh and John Wilde will present their philosophies for creating value for select groups of patients.


Chris Salierno, DDS
[email protected]


  1. Dentists’ practice ownership is declining. American Dental Association Health Policy Institute. January 2021.
  2. How many dentists are in solo practice? American Dental Association Health Policy Institute.
About the Author

Chris Salierno, DDS | Chief Dental Officer, Tend

Chris Salierno, DDS, is a general dentist from Long Island, New York. He graduated from Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine in 2005. Dr. Salierno lectures internationally on clinical dentistry, practice management, and leadership development. In 2017 he became a chief development officer with the Cellerant Consulting Group, and he was the chief editor of Dental Economics from 2014 to 2021. In 2021, he became the chief dental officer at Tend. He can be reached on Instagram @the_curious_dentist.

Updated May 13, 2022

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