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Planning to Partner With a DSO? Here’s Why You Might Need a Lawyer

The dental industry is seeing a surge in partnerships between dentists and Dental Service Organizations (DSOs). DSOs are business entities that provide administrative, financial, and operational support to dental practices.

Recent studies show a significant increase in DSO activity, with one report indicating a 13% growth in DSO-affiliated practices in the last two years alone. This rise in popularity is due to the many advantages DSOs offer, such as improved efficiency, marketing expertise, and access to advanced technologies.

However, navigating the intricacies of a DSO partnership can be challenging. We recommend consulting with experienced dental business lawyers to ensure a smooth and secure transition. Their expertise can be invaluable in protecting your interests and maximizing the benefits of your partnership.

What is a DSO Partnership?

A DSO partnership is different from selling your dental practice. Instead, it’s a team-up where you join forces with a DSO. They handle the business side of billing, marketing, and staffing – while you focus on what you do best: providing excellent patient care.

There are different partnership structures, like joint ventures or affiliations, each with its own set of agreements. These agreements can get intricate, outlining how profits are shared, what decisions require your input, and how clinical care is delivered. Because of this complexity, it’s essential to understand what you’re signing before diving in.

Potential Issues in DSO Partnerships

Contractual Terms & Negotiations

The DSO partnership agreement is the foundation of your working relationship. It needs to be crystal clear on important points like your compensation, ownership stake, and how much say you have in critical decisions. Negotiating these terms can be tricky, and disagreements might arise. Having a lawyer on your side protects your interests, and the agreement reflects what you both discussed.

Financial Considerations

The financial details of the partnership deserve a careful legal eye. A lawyer can review clauses regarding profit-sharing, fees you might owe, and how liabilities are handled. The partnership structure can also impact taxes, so legal guidance can help you understand the potential tax implications.

Clinical Autonomy & Practice Standards

Many dentists need help maintaining control over patient care. A well-crafted agreement should address your concerns about clinical autonomy and upholding your high standards of care. Your lawyer can help ensure the deal outlines clear protocols for treatments and practice guidelines, allowing you to deliver the best possible care to your patients.

Exit Strategies

What happens if you or the DSO decide to end the partnership?  A lawyer can help you establish a clear exit strategy that outlines how the practice will be valued, potential buyouts, and a process for resolving any disputes that might arise during the separation.

How a Lawyer Can Help

Here are some ways a lawyer can be your trusted advisor throughout the DSO partnership process:

  • Contract Review and Negotiation: The DSO partnership agreement is a complex legal document. Your lawyer will meticulously review it, ensuring all the terms are clear and protect your interests. They’ll also be your advocate during negotiations, ensuring you get a fair deal that aligns with your goals and expectations.
  • Compliance and Regulatory Issues: The world of dentistry and business comes with its rules. Your lawyer will guide you through the relevant regulations to ensure the partnership meets all legal requirements. This protects you and the DSO from any potential legal complications.
  • Risk Management and Dispute Resolution: The most meticulously crafted agreement can’t predict every situation. A lawyer can help you identify potential risks within the contract and suggest ways to mitigate them. Additionally, they can help establish mechanisms for resolving any disputes arising during the partnership, ensuring a smoother and more amicable experience for everyone involved.


DSO partnerships offer exciting opportunities for dentists, but navigating the complexities requires a steady hand. A lawyer with expertise in dental business law can be your invaluable partner in this process.

Their guidance can ensure the agreement protects your interests, clarifies financial considerations, and maintains your clinical autonomy. You can confidently step into your DSO partnership by seeking professional legal counsel, setting the stage for a smooth and successful collaboration.