Mobile dentistry: the road less traveled


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood… I took the less traveled one, and that made all the difference. — Robert Frost

Said differently than Mr. Frost’s quote, watch the masses and then do the opposite. The majority of dentists practice their entire career in a particular setting, whether private practice, academics, or the military, then transition fully or into another traditional path, such as acting. , volunteering or teaching. All of these options are viable, and many lead to continued usefulness and engagement in dentistry. However, there is a different way of doing things.

Consider taking your skills and using them to open up a new world of access to those who need it most. Elderly patients, children in schools, and corporate or factory employees all need dental care, and many cannot fit it into their schedule, or they must depend on others to book their appointments and provide transportation. Others simply do not have access to care unless someone provides care. Mobile dentistry provides the answer to these problems and can be a very rewarding way to continue using your lifelong skills.

In my post-dental school experience, I had a four-year term at a major US Air Force teaching hospital, where I received training in all dental specialties, including the operating room and anesthesia. I then transitioned to a traditional brick and mortar practice where I used these skills to provide comprehensive complex restorative and cosmetic dentistry with a health centered approach using the Pankey and Dawson philosophies.

Although this modality of practice is both intellectually challenging and financially rewarding, after several circumstances I learned that there was an unmet need among economically disadvantaged children. So I started an experiment to see if I could meet those needs. What started as an altruistic outreach experiment turned into two very viable businesses: a mobile dental practice, Dental Access Carolina, which visits schools to treat economically disadvantaged children, and a design and manufacturing company. of mobile dental clinics, Dental Access Mobile Clinics, which manufactures clinics designed by dentists for dentists. Both address needs that were not previously met by existing frameworks. To dispel the myth that this sort of thing can’t be done or takes years to accomplish, I went from practicing full-time in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting to practicing at full time in a mobile clinic during school. year in less than six months.

Contrary to my story, when many hear the term “practice transition,” they imagine a change in retirement age, leading to the physician leaving dentistry altogether or dramatically reducing the time spent practicing. While this scenario accounts for most practice transitions, the number of early to mid-career transitions is becoming more common, largely due to the number of practices being sold to dental service organizations or companies. The reasons for these early sales are many, but the most common is that a sale can be guaranteed and allows the doctor to continue to practice. This contrasts with the risk of bringing in an associate or partner hoping for a buyout or simply attempting an outright sale at the end of a career.

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As with a sale to a DSO, the switch to mobile dentistry can be made at any point in a physician’s career. This can be either a complete change, as I did, or an addition to a traditional mode of practice to increase the firm’s geographic reach and client base without having to build a new office. Our mobile clinic customers have used the clinics to expand the reach of orthodontic practices, provide patient services in senior care facilities and inpatient behavioral health facilities, visit manufacturing facilities and large corporate offices, and for humanitarian outreach projects here and abroad. Additionally, several governments have purchased our clinics to address the needs of their citizens.

For physicians who are ready to leave the traditional model altogether or who seek to satisfy an altruistic spirit, the mobile setting may be for humanitarian efforts at home or abroad. Using a well-designed and equipped mobile clinic offers the dental team the opportunity to practice the same types of dentistry they practiced in their usual environment without having to compromise or significantly limit the combination of procedures. Having the ability to practice in a consistent, controlled environment is very rare in most outreach efforts. The lack of an appropriate clinical environment leads to frustration and reduced effectiveness of the outreach effort, and to dissatisfied volunteers. This professional dissatisfaction creates a lack of consistency in the program due to a bunch of volunteers and leads to the failure of the operation, which hurts those who need care the most.

The economy of a mobile transition

Actual numbers vary depending on practice goals, patient population, mix of procedures, payment sources and fee schedules, but compared to a traditional office, it’s safe to say that Mobile overhead is significantly lower than a physical office. mortar jack, which makes the net pay higher from the start. It is important to note that the financial advantages of a mobile clinic are largely the result of the low cost of acquisition and the extremely accelerated depreciation schedule offered by the current tax code compared to a building.

The most significant is the Section 179 deduction which allows a deduction of over $1 million for equipment put into service in 2022.1 Clinically, the average general dental practice in the United States operates with an overhead of 72.4%.2 Managed properly, a mobile clinic can operate with significantly reduced overhead due to a variety of factors including the cost of setup. The increase in productivity caused by the increased use of chair time, which is due to almost non-existent absences due to the elimination of transportation problems when services are provided on site in patients, is not the least of them.

This article only scratches the surface of the options available in the mobile environment, and it probably created more questions than it answered. For more information, visit, or contact me for more information on how you can enjoy the benefits and freedom of working in a mobile clinic. With a mobile dental practice, you can take the paths less traveled to make a difference in your life and the lives of others!

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the September 2022 print edition of Dental economy magazine. Dentists in North America can take advantage of a free print subscription. Register here.


  1. Article 179. What’s new for 2022? IRS.
  2. Dental practice research. American Dental Association.

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