Inside Dental Assisting
Group Practices Provide Opportunities for Dental Assistants
Greater flexibility is just one of the benefits
Inside Dental Assisting spoke with immediate-past Executive Director Edward Meckler from the Dental Group Practice Association on the role of dental assistants in group dental practices.
Tell us about the Dental Group Practice Association.
The Dental Group Practice Association (DGPA) is a nonprofit industry association founded in 2008 that leverages the strengths, wisdom, and experience of leading dental support organizations (DSOs), along with the support of industry partners and associations such as the American Dental Assistants Association, in order to make substantial contributions to the delivery of dental care. The DGPA has 30 DSO members in 46 states. Today, DSOs support an estimated 8,000 licensed dentists who operate in approximately 5,000 locations and account for more than 27 million patient visits.
Why should dental assistants work for a group practice?
Dental assistants can devote more time to the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective care to patients and less time to administrative duties. This includes obtaining continuing education that helps them stay abreast of new protocols, equipment, treatments, practice management tools, and techniques. Dental assistants are provided with the most cutting-edge equipment and technology, thus avoiding many of the financial limitations and setbacks of a private practice model. The DSO model gives opportunities for a better quality of life and work/life balance by enabling dental assistants to spend more time doing what they love in and outside of the office.
Do your members participate in volunteer work?
Collectively, DGPA members offer millions of dollars in free care annually to patients nationwide and abroad, through activities ranging from mobile dental clinics to free in-office weekend visits. All 30 DGPA members participate in volunteer work. For example:
• Heartland’s Free Dentistry Day enables dentists to provide free care to more than 3,000 patients in need annually.
• Pacific Dental Services’ Smile Generation annual “Serve Day” generated over $2.4 million in donated dentistry.
• Smile Brands’ Smiles for Everyone Foundation aids individuals most in need, especially children, providing service free of charge domestically and even abroad in Nicaragua, Ghana, Thailand, Laos, and Paraguay.
• Aspen Dental Management conducted 3,440 ViziLite® oral cancer screenings in April 2013 and donated $5 per screening to the Oral Cancer Foundation, resulting in $17,200.
• Lab technicians from Affordable Dentures Dental Laboratories provided work on over 700 prostheses as part of six Missions of Mercy events in North Carolina and Georgia.
• Great Expressions Dental Centers provided more than 500 free oral health and cancer screenings to adults and children at Harlem Week’s 2012 Children’s Festival.
Any closing thoughts?
America has a dangerous divide between those who receive appropriate dental care and those who do not. An estimated 47.6 million Americans live in the nation’s 4,438 dental health professional shortage areas. As DGPA continues to grow, we hope to be an integral part in resolving this major dilemma. Crossing this dental divide requires more than just an increase in dentists; it requires a renewed, dedicated focus by all dental professionals on increasing dental access for all individuals.