Announcing the 8th annual ‘Emerging Dental Groups to Watch’ list!
Group Dentistry Now is proud to celebrate these groups
and recognize them on this highly respected list.
Group dentistry is constantly changing and evolving – there isn’t just one path to success. While the dental industry may be focused on large DSOs, smaller but equally important emerging groups are quietly changing the landscape of dentistry. Furthermore, newer models, such as dental partnership organizations (DPOs), specialty-focused groups, etc., as well as private group practices (PGPs), are growing as more dentist entrepreneurs build their own group practices.
As the pendulum continues to swing towards the group dentistry model, Group Dentistry Now (GDN) is proud to be the voice of these multi-site models.
It is with great excitement that we unveil our highly anticipated 2024 list of emerging dental groups to watch, presented in alphabetical order.
* The award winners will attend the DSO Leadership Summit in Atlanta, September 26-28, 2024, to receive their awards, share their stories, and network. To register for the event, visit DSOSummit.com and use code GDN2024 for a discount. *
Drs. Abhishek Nagaraj and Anushka Gaglani began their professional journey as associates. After a couple of years of practicing as associates, in 2016, the husband-and-wife team acquired a distressed practice in Burbank, IL from a retiring doctor with revenue of just $200,000 a year.
Within 12 months they had quadrupled their revenue through a combination of patient education, technology (including CBCT, lasers, intraoral cameras, and scanners, etc.), and financing options.
As practicing clinicians, Drs. Nagaraj and Gaglani recognized the limitations of their individual impact during one-on-one patient interactions. This realization, coupled with the increasing number of doctors expressing a lack of direction after graduation and a need for genuine mentorship, motivated Drs. Gaglani and Nagaraj to embark on a journey of multi-practice ownership.
Areo Dental Group was officially established as a dental partnership group (DPG) in 2021. It currently has a total of six non-branded practices: TruBlu Dentistry Burbank, Trublu Dentistry Hegewisch, Blue Island Smiles, Steger Smiles, St John Smiles, and Crown Point Smiles. Their most recent practices are de novos in Northwest Indiana. They total over 40 employees, including doctors, specialists, and hygienists. Since 2017, the duo has acquired or started up a new practice every year, except during Covid.
Representing a combination of the two doctors’ sun signs: Aries (ram) and Leo (lion), their logo is unique for the dental industry. They fused their two fire signs because from fire comes light. One of their goals at Areo is to light another person’s candle and shed some light into the possibilities of learning and living a better life. “Areo” symbolizes the planet Mars, and akin to SpaceX, their aspiration is to explore destinations that were once considered unimaginable.
The Areo Dental Group is dedicated to delivering exceptional patient experiences through prompt, comprehensive care, and education, maintaining a distinctive boutique, small-town ambiance at each practice.
At the core of their philosophy lies the commitment to authentic mentorship, characterized by personalized guidance in associate-driven practices. This mentorship spans areas such as patient communication, diagnosis, treatment planning, case acceptance, and the enhancement of skills and confidence – all contributing to the delivery of outstanding patient care.
The passion behind Areo Dental Group is to provide a doctor-led environment where the doctors feel supported and heard, which results in quality patient outcomes and zero doctor turnover in the past two years.
They believe less is more, and this tenet carries into the practices as well. Rather than focus on number of practices and quantity of patients, the focus is on a personalized patient experience, which means the doctors see fewer patients and are very productive. They focus on maximizing each individual practice before acquiring additional sites.
The core values of Areo Dental Group include humility, professionalism and reliability, team orientation, people focus, and a pursuit of excellence. All prospective hires are graded based on these values to ensure the culture of Areo Dental Group is intact.
Strategic Education & Growth
With a three-year growth rate of 74%, Areo Dental Group was featured on 2023’s Inc. 5000 annual list of America’s fastest-growing privately held companies.
Areo Dental Group has been debt-financed and bootstrapped and has no private equity backing. The balance sheet, because of appropriate leveraging, is strong, which allows decisions to be made for the good of the people.
The long-term growth plan over the next five years is to partner with driven doctors who would like to focus on clinical dentistry and patient care and leave all the other challenges to support staff.
The biggest challenge for the group is addressing difficulties within the labor market, though that has eased up significantly since the Covid closures.
- Inc 5000 for three years
- Strong YoY growth – doubled in the last three years
- Strong balance sheet and P&L
- Long term doctors with zero doctor turnover in the past two years
- Abhishek Nagaraj, DDS – Co-Founder and Co-CEO
- Anushka Gaglani, DDS – Co-Founder and Co-CEO
- Caitlin Maehr – Director of Operations
Corey Hastings, DDS, MS, MBA, Becky Schreiner, DDS, and Jeff Mastroianni, DMD, established Blue Sage Dental Group (BSDG) in 2019 with one location in the St. Louis area. Since then, the group has grown to six pediatric dental locations in the greater St. Louis area with nearly 50 employees.
The group’s vision is to transform dentistry from fear to fun for their young patients, whom they affectionately refer to as their ‘remarkable little bosses.’
BSDG’s mission is to find the potential in people and help them grow. To uphold their mission, the group remains dedicated to their core values, known as iACT. iACT stands for integrity, accountability, communication, and teamwork. They prioritize doing what is right for the patient, demonstrate accountability by consistently showing up, foster effective communication with a warm smile, and promote a collaborative and enjoyable team environment.
BSDG not only offers a clear pathway for their providers to have an ownership opportunity in the parent company, but also focuses on supporting the professional growth of their fellow team members.
As a board-certified pediatric group, they have the expertise and specialized training to see, serve, and care for children that other dentists may be unable to accommodate. They are dedicated to providing comprehensive dental care for children and, if necessary, have the capability to treat children in the operating room. Over the past four years, their dedicated team has been able to improve the overall oral health standard for children in the greater St. Louis area.
BSDG’s culture is deeply rooted in their core values of iACT. Dentists and dental staff choose to work with Blue Sage Dental Group because they resonate with the group’s values, appreciate their commitment to professional growth, and believe in their mission. The group creates upward mobility for their team members and carves out new roles for those who have a propensity for leadership:
- Centered on fostering the growth of team members, BSDG prioritizes quarterly leadership meetings that bring together clinical and administrative teams to delve into diverse leadership topics. Previous leadership discussions have covered trust, RCM, patient lifecycle, and customer service.
- New doctors undergo a one-month practice management boot camp, followed by bi-weekly calls with mentors.
- Emerging leaders engage in a twice-monthly book club exploring leadership literature.
- Monthly committee meetings provide a platform to showcase blossoming leadership skills.
Challenges and Successes
While they have faced challenges such as increasing competition in the market and managing operational costs, BSDG has successfully navigated these obstacles through strategic planning and execution, continuous improvement initiatives, and a focus on delivering exceptional patient care.
Their current growth rate has been 20% growth in revenue annually, achieved by adding one-two offices through acquisition and de novo annually. Their growth goal is to expand annually, 20% over the next five years.
Short-term goals include:
- expanding their presence to two additional locations,
- boosting patient satisfaction scores by 10%, and
- implementing advanced technology solutions and pediatric techniques for improved efficiency.
Long-term goals include:
- expanding their network of locations,
- enhancing their service offerings by adding other specialties and a surgical center, and
- establishing strategic partnerships with other healthcare providers.
- Dr. Corey Hastings, Managing Partner
- Dr. Jeff Mastroianni, Partner
- Dr. Becky Schreiner, Partner
- Michelle Brumfield, Director of Practice Operations
Commonwealth Mobile Oral Health Services (CMOHS) was first started in 1979 by the late Dr. Mark J. Doherty at the request of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Office of Oral Health. CMOHS was initially created to provide comprehensive dental services to youth at the Department of Youth Services (DYS) in the Boston area, as these patients did not have access to a dental provider. The program then expanded to children in the Boston Public Schools who did not have a dental home.
In its inception, Dr. Doherty and his assistant traveled to only one or two DYS facilities in Massachusetts. As time went on CMOHS’ name and reputation gained many followers, and thus clients, as CMOHS expanded into the Massachusetts Public School systems, Head Start and Early Head Start programs, Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS), Department of Mental Health (DMH), special needs facilities, assisted living programs and elder care sites.
Today, CMOHS dental teams travel to over 300 locations in Massachusetts; on any given day, CMOHS typically has three to six dental teams providing services to underinsured/uninsured populations who face barriers to accessing dental care.
Core Philosophy and Achievements
CMOHS’ primary mission is focused on the treatment of children throughout the state who are in schools, programs, DYS facilities and DSS programs with Mass Health dental coverage and Children’s Medical Security Plan (CMSP). Without CMOHS, many of these children would have great difficulty accessing oral health care. CMOHS is at the forefront of meeting the needs of the underserved, especially children from lower-income families and children of racial and ethnic minority. Children who are free from pain and infection show improvement in their classroom studies and test scores thus advancing their ability to excel in school.
Over the years, CMOHS has had many partnerships with local dental and hygiene schools, including Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and the Forsyth Institute. These partnerships included the dental school hygiene programs and dental students providing preventive dental care and education to children, while the dental providers of CMOHS would perform restorative care and elimination of oral disease. Unfortunately, since the COVID pandemic, these partnerships have dissolved, mostly due to workforce shortages.
Strategic Education & Growth
Addressing its workforce shortage issues, the for-profit portable practice expects to restore its infrastructure to pre-pandemic levels in 2024. With such a high demand for its onsite dental services to populations who face barriers to accessing dental care, CMOHS seeks to continue to expand in Massachusetts.
As a dental group that does not have private equity backing and primarily receives Medicaid reimbursement, CMOHS has developed a successful dental business model. Much of the company’s success comes from streamlining processes, maximizing services provided, minimizing overhead, implementation of meaningful technologies, accommodating partner and patient requests in a timely manner, quality care and building a positive work culture with like-minded and passionate people. In fact, although many other School-Based Oral Health Programs (SBOH) closed during or after the pandemic, CMOHS’ sound business strategies proved to be successful as they “weathered” the COVID storm and its aftereffects.
Besides working for a dentist-owned company, dental healthcare professionals employed by CMOHS have a good work-life balance and provider autonomy. Most CMOHS dentists and hygienists provide dental services to children in schools where normal work hours are typically 9am-2pm, school vacation time is mirrored, and summers are fairly slow. Yet, the CMOHS dental providers are well compensated for their time, and, when compared to other states’ Medicaid programs, Massachusetts reimburses very well (if not the best) for children’s dental services.
Key Successes for CMOHS include the following:
- In existence for over 40 years and well-known in Massachusetts
- Great reputation
- History of successful partnerships
- Accommodating to clients
- Great core team and culture
- Strategic approach to business
Business Challenges for CMOHS:
- Workforce shortages
- High demand for care
- Technological limitations within the portable setting
- An ever-changing environment of care for dental
The core team:
- Mark E. Doherty, DMD, CAGS, CEO and Owner
- Andrea Dickhaut, RDH, BSDH, MHA, Senior Advisor
- Tammy Cataldo, Program Manager
- Jennifer Redding, Human Resources Advisor, Community Outreach Coordinator
- Sheli Young, Billing Specialist
Freedom Dental Management launched in 2015 to provide non-clinical support for two general dental practices and two specialty providers in Delaware with some shared ownership. Bear-Glasgow Dental grew from a practice started by Dr. Stanley Goleburn in the 1950s. In 1998, Dr. Stan’s son, Dr. Glen Goleburn, and Dr. Neil Woloshin led the practice. Peninsula Dental was started as a de novo in 2009. Both practices offered general dentistry for the whole family and had a strong focus on special needs and sedation dentistry. Sleepy Tooth Sedation and Stellar Orthodontics were wholly owned entities providing sedation and orthodontic treatment in both office locations.
By 2011, the practices were offering sedation, including general anesthesia in their offices. An orthodontist joined the Peninsula practice, and general dentists began placing and restoring dental implants. A pediatric specialist joined the group, and a practice was acquired in Dover, Delaware in 2016. This was followed by a de novo launch in north Wilmington in 2018, a Newark acquisition in 2022, and a two-office orthodontic practice (Keystone Ortho) in 2023.
Freedom Dental Management and Sleepy Tooth Sedation maintain office space in Newark, Delaware. The group is directed by a Board of dentist-owners.
- Freedom Dental Management went through an LLC conversion in 2022 and has become the largest privately held DSO in Delaware.
- The practices being supported by Freedom are known in the community as The Sleepy Tooth Group, due to the fact that they are the only practices offering all levels of sedation in nearly every office.
- Three office locations, including one in Pennsylvania and one in Maryland, provide orthodontic services.
- Six additional offices provide general, pediatric, sedation, and orthodontic services in all three counties of Delaware.
The group’s philosophy is to remain dentist-owned and operated, continuing to grow by both acquisition and de novo ventures, while providing multiple general and specialty dentistry as they expand.
The group’s multi-faceted approach has resulted in Freedom Dental Management taking its client practices from $13.5M in revenue in 2015 to $26M in 2023.
- Under-performing practices are quickly turned around via economies of scale realized through centralized marketing, RCM, PPO negotiations, procurement, and HR functions.
- Bank financing has provided for all of Freedom’s growth to date and will continue to do so in the immediate future. Private equity may be considered depending on the cadence of the organization’s continued success.
- The search for new partner practices and location opportunities is ongoing.
Freedom is extremely proud of their successful expansion in the unique Delaware market, which presents challenges not found in other states. Delaware still maintains its own Board exam for dental licensure, as well as a residency requirement (or three years practice reciprocity). That, coupled with the state’s small size, makes recruiting relatively difficult. Freedom and its client practices have thus placed a tremendous emphasis on building a culture that attracts and retains top talent.
Mentorship and promotion from within the organization are prized, with a number of the current dentist partners having started as associates, and many non-dentist leaders having risen through the ranks to fill new leadership positions as the group has grown.
Many of Freedom’s leadership team have more than ten years with one of our entities, several have fifteen or twenty years, and the CEO has been with the two founding dentist partners for twenty-five years. They foster an environment where people want to build their careers.
Continuing education is strongly encouraged, as are membership and participation in industry specific groups.
New technology is constantly being evaluated and deployed throughout both the clinical and non-clinical areas of the organization. Examples include, 3D imaging, clear aligners and braces systems, implant placement and restoration, and a host of practice management and RCM “bolt-ons.”
Plans for growth in the coming year include acquisitions of group and solo practices representing eleven separate offices, both general and specialty. Two of the largest of these are under LOI and expected to close in Q1, 2024.
- Dr. Glen Goleburn, Managing Partner
- John T. Moore Chief Executive Officer
- Kellie Cernobyl, Chief Business Officer
- Dawn O’Connell, Chief Compliance Officer
Impression Dental Group (IDG) has transformed the dental landscape of Australia since its inception in late 2021. IDG is also the first international winner of the Emerging Groups to Watch Award.
Under the leadership of CEO Mark O’Brien (a 2023 finalist for Australian “Executive of the Year” by CEO Magazine) and renowned Chief Dental Officer A/Prof Christopher Ho, IDG has expanded from eight to 25 clinics, diversified into ten distinct brands and over 75,000 patient consults, with a dedication to ensuring local clinic culture flourishes within a robust network.
Core Philosophy and Achievements
IDG’s credo, “Your network. Your way,” underpins a commitment to maintaining the distinctiveness of each clinic. This has proved to be a success with the network managing to outperform revenue and EBITDA growth already over its short lifespan, while most of the Australian dental market has declined in this same period. Throughout this spike, IDG has also managed to rate highly with the team, reflected in low churn through the group and high internal NPS.
Strategic Education & Growth
IDG’s dynamic growth is propelled by a M&A partnership model, in-house patient acquisition capabilities, and a ‘three-pillar’ education strategy that enhances professional development.
In 2023, under Chief Education Officer, Dr. Aodhan Docherty, IDG launched a bespoke, on-demand education platform in collaboration with Articulate Media (their in-house media company), featuring global dental experts. The strategy strengthens internal mentorship, includes shared best practices at management conferences, and introduces a comprehensive 12-month graduate program with hands-on and theoretical learning across 19 modules.
On the patient acquisition side, in 2023, they launched the “internal marketing agency” by CMO and globally recognized creative Edward Heckes. This industry-leading holistic marketing approach is being rolled out to support the network of individual clinics.
Like dental groups and solo practices globally, over the past few years they have experienced increases in their input costs (consumables, utilities and insurances – sometimes in the order of +10-20%.) However, what they have done well is leverage their size and scale to achieve better pricing and terms from their suppliers which has allowed them to maintain their strong clinic margins across their network.
As a growing organization, they feel a responsibility to conduct business ethically and sustainably. Their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives include:
- Environmental: Looking for alternatives to single use plastics, and engaging with renewable energy providers where possible
- Social: A soon-to-be-launched Reconciliation Action Plan which aims to build positive relationships and foster reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, addressing the gap in healthcare for indigenous peoples. They also support diversity and inclusion initiatives.
- The leadership team values operating with integrity and “doing what’s right” as an organization and embedding that culture throughout the organization.
Further Cultural Milestones in 2023:
- Maintaining culture and distinctiveness growing from one brand to ten, and eight clinics to 25 in less than two years.
- Superior patient NPS feedback scores (averaging NPS of 90%+ satisfied from thousands of data points gathered.)
- “Local Leader” initiative, encouraging clinics to support the local community through things like sports and events sponsorships and taking up services like the government’s Child Dental Benefits Program.
Vision and Leadership
Impression Dental Group’s ownership is a balanced blend of dental professionals, private equity healthcare investors “Genesis Capital,” and senior management/practice partners ensuring both focus on fast yet stable growth and doctor-led initiatives.
The group’s vision for the next five years: to be the definitive choice for both dentists seeking a collaborative and empowering network and patients in search of top-tier dental care.
- Mark O’Brien – Chief Executive Officer / Director
- A/Prof Christopher Ho – Chief Dental Officer / Director
- Dr. Aodhan Docherty – Chief Education Officer
- Cindy Barnes – Chief Financial Officer
- Edward Heckes – Chief Marketing Officer
- Katie Robbins – National Clinical Operations Manager
- James Casey – General Manager, Mergers and Acquisitions
Southern Family Dental Partners (SFDP) is a private equity backed regional DSO with an aggressive growth strategy. It was founded in early 2022 by the late Jason Kirkpatrick with seven offices and ten dentists in Tennessee and Georgia.
SFDP has rapidly expanded, more than doubling its footprint across the Southeast, currently operating 17 locations in Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama, with over 130 employees. SFDP’s remote-based executive management team provides the organization with the flexibility and scalability needed to thrive in a diverse geographic landscape.
SFDP’s acquisition strategy, aligned with its vision and core values, has led to the successful rebranding and integration of all practices. These practices offer a range of services, from general dentistry to specialized dental and cosmetic treatments, catering to the unique needs of their respective communities.
SFDP often partners with practices ill-suited for larger DSOs. They have been successful at maximizing growth potential in rural and midsized underserved communities by improving efficiencies and strategic recruiting. Only partnering with practices that have a long-established reputation for excellence, they take the mission to continue the trust and the legacy of the selling doctors seriously.
One of SFDP’s key strengths is its collaborative approach to problem-solving. With an emphasis on open communication and innovation, the organization fosters an environment where ideas, systems, and processes are continually refined, optimized, and shared with input from dentists, team members and patients.
The SFDP Clinical Advisory Board meets regularly to discuss changes impacting the industry, the needs of the regional geographies, and the company. This allows their dentists to provide direction in the clinical movement of the company as it relates to adapting new technology, collaboration on best practices and emerging trends within the industry, in addition to providing CE opportunities. The Clinical Advisory Board enables dentists to continue to grow and mentor as they move throughout their careers, growing their collegial network with dentists in all stages of their careers.
SFDP prioritizes maintaining a presence in each community, actively participating in charitable initiatives, educational programs, and meaningful community events. Their commitment to giving back was particularly evident in 2023 when they provided free dental services to Veterans in select clinics. Demonstrating their dedication to supporting local communities, they have also partnered with local organizations to host food and toy drives.
Diversity and Employee Benefits
With women composing 80% of its leadership, SFDP proudly distinguishes itself as an industry leader. The organization places a strong emphasis on employee well-being, offering a comprehensive benefits package, student loan repayment, matching 401 K, CE allowances, bonus opportunities, and comprehensive medical, vision, and dental care for full-time employees and their immediate family members.
SFDP prioritizes the importance of preserving the patient-provider relationship during transitions. With a diverse group of providers and employees that mirror community demographics, SFDP ensures that patients receive care from a familiar team invested in their oral health and daily lives. This approach reinforces trust and collaboration between patients, providers, and practices, aligning with SFDP’s mission.
Key Successes and Challenges
In their brief history, SFDP has steadily incorporated new practices and expanded support teams, championed technological advancements, successfully rebranded, and diversified service offerings. However, they face challenges such as emerging Walmart Health Centers, supply costs, wage growth and talent development and retention typical in the industry.
In 2024, SFDP is focused on affiliating with the right practices to support its goals, expanding its services, and scaling solutions. The organization aims to incorporate more advanced technology, enhance marketing efforts, and establish an internal educational and CE program.
Looking ahead in the next 5 years, SFDP plans to increase to 40-50 locations, triple its revenue, and expand into Mississippi, Kentucky, and South Carolina.
SFDP’s future expansion also includes venturing into pediatric, oral surgery, and orthodontic services, further diversifying its offerings and solidifying its position as a leader in the dental support organization industry.
- Juloy Raymer, CEO
- Kevin Martin, Senior Vice President of Business Development
- Madi Hoesten, Vice President of Integration
- Brandy Denton, Director of Human Resources
- Robert Schenck, Controller
- Jennifer Moody, Vice President of Operations, GA
- Heather Fowler, Vice President of Operations, TN and AR
Straine Dental Management (SDM), established on April 13, 2022, is the result of the collaboration between Olivia and Kerry Straine, a husband-wife team, bringing together SDM and 33 dental practices spanning eleven states. In 2023, SDM expanded its portfolio by adding six practices in three states, bringing the total to 39 practice owners.
SDM is the first DSO to emerge from a thirty-year consulting organization specializing in strategic planning, conflict and performance management, data analysis, and engagement protocols.
Vision and Leadership
The most distinctive characteristic about SDM is its comprehensive knowledge and expertise in all areas of dental practice ownership and management.
Founders Olivia and Kerry Straine have touched every segment of the dental industry in the last 30 years, creating communication and management protocols, policies, and systems that are industry standards today. The depth and breadth of their knowledge and commitment to excellence have shaped the “business of dentistry” education for the top dental supply companies, dental analytics software companies, many well-known DSOs, and thousands of dental practice owners all across the country.
Good management, a track record of proven results, hands-on experience, and most of all, integrity, are the hallmarks of Straine leadership and services.
Growth rate & growth goal target
After acquiring 33 practices in April 2022 with an initial portfolio of $65 million in revenue, SDM reached nearly $83 million in 2023, which includes the June 2023 acquisition of six locations, increasing the portfolio by $10 million.
The existing portfolio benefits from the expertise of Straine Dental consulting’s team of business operations specialists, accountants, consultants, and coaches, achieving an organic growth rate of 10%. Combined with the impact of new acquisitions, this positions SDM to reach an estimated total revenue of $200+ million by the end of 2024. The ambitious goals the group has set highlight the significant contribution made by their team, driving same-store sales growth within the organization.
- Achieved double-digit growth in its portfolio
- Launched first de novo practice offering all-on-4 implants in North Carolina
- Acquired six practices in Louisiana, Michigan, and North Carolina
- Expanded its Learning Management System
- Introduced AI administrative and clinical services into portfolio
- Recognized as a fastest growing private company in America on the Inc. 5000 list
- Increased labor costs
- Shrinking availability of qualified dental employees
- Increased operating expenses and borrowing costs
- Kerry Straine, Founder and CEO
- Olivia McLeod Straine, Founder and CEO
- Jeff Staser, CFO
- Vera Powell, Director of Operations
- Clinical Advisory Committee:
- John Armbruster, DDS, Chairman of Clinical Advisory Committee
- Thorpe Jacob, DDS
- James Jeansonne, DDS
- Mark Redford, DMD
- Chad Spillers, DDS
- Kaz Uyesugi, DDS