MDO: The Best of Both Worlds

Scaling Quality Care with the Multi-Doctor Owned Model

The MDO (Multi-Doctor Owned) Dental Business Model allows for business minded dentists to provide high quality care while scaling to multiple locations or accommodating multiple providers. Leading a privately owned dental practice while being the primary provider of care can limit growth potential and leave the dentist feeling overworked, undervalued and counting down to retirement. Conversely, building or joining a DSO can limit the dentist’s ability to maintain complete ownership of the practice and any decisions made regarding patient care. The MDO model is a new, ideal option appealing to many private practice owners and associates. In short, it allows for patient centered care and unlimited growth potential — the best of both worlds.

Interested in learning about a new way to get more from your profession, while giving more to your community? Enjoy this helpful guide. It could potentially change your career path for the better.


Grace Rizza & Bonnie Hixson

Dental Business Leaders

What is an MDO?

MDO is a Multi-Dentist Owned or Multi-Doctor Owned Practice Model. This key element to the MDO model is that it allows for utilization of the benefits of both private practices and Dental Service Organizations (DSOs). An MDO is most often comprised of multiple doctors and multiple locations. However, the distinct mark of an MDO is that it is 100% owned and financed by the dentists who maintain 100% control over decision-making in the business and in patient care philosophy.

With proper guidance from the MDO Advisory Team, an MDO will achieve moderate to rapid growth (typically expanding one to four locations per year, as desired) while preserving a high level of ethics in the dental profession.

The MDO model is financed by dentists who purchase equity in the dental business. When this transaction occurs, it allows for the financial liquidity necessary for expansion. This growth is often supplemented by loans. The success of an MDO relies on effective marketing, hiring, business and clinical training of providers, as well as clearly set goals, well-defined core values, and in most cases, the support of MDO Advisors.

What Makes an MDO Different?

As an MDO owner, you will be able to provide high-level care, while enjoying the financial benefits of a scaling business. Partners and associate doctors play a crucial role in the success of your MDO. Recruiting, training and communicating with your MDO team will become your main functionality. Unlike in a privately owned practice, practicing clinical dentistry will not be your primary concern as your business scales. Unlike in the DSO model, you will not have individual investors to accommodate.

MDOs and Independent or Private Practices

The MDO is built with scalability in mind, setting itself apart from privately owned practices. As the founder of an MDO, you will have the freedom to seek the business growth you desire while keeping your dedication to patient care the main focus. By developing and implementing systems for training and accountability, an MDO is able to provide high quality, patient-centered care without compromise.

MDOs and DSOs

Because DSOs are typically funded and ran by investors who are neither doctors nor dentists, their organizations’ goals can sometimes diverge from the community-centric vision that small businesses strive for. An MDO, however, operates with a core set of values, goals, and accountability that allows your team to ensure your patients are receiving the care they need with their wellbeing in mind.

Transitioning from an Independent Model to an MDO

The first step in transitioning to the MDO Practice Model is to consider a growth plan. For instance, if your goal is to have three locations in three years, you’ll need to understand the time and financial commitment involved and plan accordingly. You may choose to involve a partner early on in the process, even before establishing your first location.

If you’re already in practice and looking to expand, your first step will be to vet an associate who possesses strong leadership skills and a desire for ownership. This associate will be given a projected timeline for ownership. For the right fit candidate, an opportunity to invest in the business for equity will be presented within a given timeline. Learning how to attract the right partner, structure agreements and create necessary growth to allow for a painless transition is often simplified when working with the MDO Advisory Team. Once acquiring the right doctor, you’ll be able to partner in purchasing or opening your next location. As you create a demand for your services and business together, you’ll be able to attract a third partner, who in time will buy into the business and allow you to expand once again.

It seems like a simple process. However, any business owner knows that hiring, marketing, legal, accounting, system implementations and team training are best led by professionals in each of these specialty departments. We’ve brought together top advisors with experience in all structures of ownership to assist in guiding you through this process. By working with the MDO Advisory Team, you’ll find no question left unanswered and you’ll have the guidance to avoid costly mistakes made by those less fortunate dental business owners.

The Future of Dentistry

The state of dentistry is evolving on a constant basis. As corporate dental entities expand, the gap between small private practices and large dental conglomerates expands.

With unshakable core values and the capital necessary to grow, you are able to offer dental care that is both convenient and high quality for your patients. MDO owners have the ability to dedicate more time to the business structure, model, functions and growth, allowing them to progress beyond a sole focus in clinical excellence and into a leadership role. MDO owners will find great joy in being able to serve more patients in less time as they leverage the power of a strong, cohesive team.

Is the MDO model right for you?
Disclaimer: The MDO model is not for everyone.

However, developing MDO ownership will position you for incredible growth — both personally and professionally. You will:

  • Become a leader who expands opportunity for other like-minded dental professionals
  • Reinvigorate your dental career
  • Grow your business ethically
  • Offer more hours to patients without working more hours in your practice
  • Have resources to maximize your growth potential in a legal, ethical and effective way
  • Adopt a strong leadership role within your organization
  • Enjoy more time and financial freedom

If you are ready to elevate the care you provide to patients while growing your business with pride in your ethics, then the MDO model is right for you. In addition, new, middle-career, and doctors approaching retirement years will each see value in the MDO model.

How can a new doctor with limited funds create an MDO?

As a new doctor, our suggestion for creating an MDO is to find an established practice. By either buying into the practice or purchasing it outright, you can build an incredible foundation for your future in success. With all things, consider your vision and personal goals. Start here and connect with experts in the field by reaching out to the MDO Advisory Team for guidance.

How can an established owner doctor create an MDO?
For doctors in the middle of their careers, you have many strategies available for creating an MDO. Look for a new provider who brings like-minded, empowering solutions to your practice, or strategically choose a second location to purchase or start. Just remember: hiring, marketing, technology and system implementation will prove to be your most important elements moving forward.

How can a doctor facing retirement utilize an MDO model to work less and create the ideal lasting legacy?

If you are facing retirement, forming an MDO can be a powerful, rewarding decision. By taking a management or leadership role in your business, you can afford to be more selective about when and where you practice dentistry. This can provide you with a profitable, flexible way to transition into retirement and leave behind an impressive legacy.

Marketing Your MDO

While every MDO holds a similar respect for ethical growth and a patient-centered focus, every business is different. Your unique branding is incredibly important to distinguish and elevate you as an MDO.

As an owner of an MDO, you can choose to co-brand your practices, or brand them individually.


When you choose to create and implement unified branding across your MDO, you are creating massive potential for consistency in your marketing. This ensures that anyone who reads about, follows, or receives care from your team will recognize one of your locations or providers as having the same values and attention to quality care as the rest. With this decision, you might also lessen the costs of marketing or branding by utilizing a singular branding initiative.

Co-branding is not without its downsides, however. By adopting a unified brand across locations and providers, you also lose the individual feel for each of them. This can be a worthy trade-off, but it depends on your unique goals and interests as a business.

Individual Branding

For individual branding, the benefits and drawbacks are similar, but opposite. Building up the branding and marketing for each of your providers or locations will bring individuality and personality to the table. You also diversify the approaches you take toward your community. Perhaps one of your locations is more geared toward family dentistry while another is dental spa.

Individual branding may also feel limiting to some degree. If your MDO is comprised of several locations, each branded separately, this can lead patients to believe there is little connection between them. While you know that your core values are conserved across your MDO, your community may not see or understand this.

In general, branding can be a complicated decision to take on alone. Knowing this, we are willing to share our expertise. If you have questions about how to brand your MDO, don’t hesitate to reach out to the MDO Advisory Team.


Are you interested in developing an MDO but unsure of the details? Read our Q & A to help familiarize yourself with your unique needs.

Can my MDO be in- or out-of-network with PPOs?

MDOs have the flexibility to offer both. We advise evaluating and negotiating fee schedules for your individual group.

How can I finance my MDO?

When you are developing an MDO, you have several options for financing.

  • Focus profits from your existing practice into new growth
  • Utilize business loans
  • Invite an associate to buy into your practice
  • Draw from personal savings

What kind of technology will allow my MDO to have a competitive advantage over DSOs and private practices?

Technology is a crucial element in maximizing the efforts of your team and the quality of your care. There are several aspects you should consider:
Practice management software

  • Appointment reminders
  • Review generation systems
  • Consistent reporting to ensure growth and accountability
  • Effective cross-training

If you are unsure where to start, reach out to the MDO Advisory Team.

How can I acquire the right team members to accommodate growth for my MDO?

As with any business, hiring an effective, powerful team is imperative to your growth. Strategically choose your team members with an emphasis on achieving the core values of your MDO. Those able to aid with internal marketing will be a strong fit for your team.

How can my MDO save money and increase profit margins without hurting patient care?

With shared resources and training, your MDO can boost profitability while maintaining high quality patient care.

Your MDO can achieve this by implementing several effective business decisions, including:

  • Centralized scheduling
  • Group buying power
  • Systemized care and processes
  • Core value training
  • Consistency in marketing across the entire group
  • A single marketing director for centralized oversight

Any other questions?

Please reach out to us. We would love to hear your unique goals and help you develop a plan to build, market, and grow your MDO with confidence.

MDO: The Best of Both Worlds

Thank you!

We hope you enjoyed reading our guide on mastering the MDO practice model.

If you’d like to schedule a complimentary marketing planning session with us, please visit or call us at (847) 629-4646.

We can’t wait to help you build the business of your dreams.

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