I have found this to be a major issue in our field and it seems to be getting worse.
The problem is that the corporate offices tend to hire, for lack of a better term, temporary dentists. Rarely will you find a place where the doctor has been there more than 3 years. Typically they hire young dentists desperate for a job or foreign dentists. They almost always are insurance providers for all dental plans, which is what they use to lure people in. Their target customer, not patient, is someone that is picking their dentist solely off the list of insurance carriers and doing no real research or someone lured in with their cheap or free offers for cleanings, x-rays, or bleaching.
Usually the visit feels more like a sales pitch than a cleaning. In fact most are told they need a deep cleaning, called scaling and root planning, which runs around $1200 instead of a cleaning. All these young corporate dentists have a daily production goal that would be difficult for a well trained, experienced, efficient clinician working with high end equipment to accomplish. The result is that the work they are doing is very rushed and as a result ends up being less than ideal.
Dentistry can be an expensive, confusing, and scary thing for a lot of people. You really need to be with a person you can trust. The way these corporations have set up their organizations they take advantage of young, desperate, uninformed dentists and place them in a position that is ethically challenging. They obviously take advantage of patients too. While obviously not all dentists that own their own practice are trustworthy, the fact that a dentist actually owns the practice means it is his or her name on the line. Plus once a dentist buys a practice they rarely ever leave or sell it until they retire, so they are very likely to be around in case their work doesn’t hold up. And without the corporate budget to advertise and trick vast amounts of new patients to come to their facility, the owner dentists tends to rely on the relationships they build with their existing customers for new business.
Aspen dental is only one of several companies acting this way today. The problem is without question, growing. It is a lose-lose situation for both the dentist and the patient, but investors are making money so expect it to continue. There is some hope though as many lawsuits have been successfully filed against these corporations and some money paid back to patients as well as legal changes alternating the way these organizations can operate. If you choose to go to a big name corporate office, be prepared for a sales pitch.