DSOs Focus on Specialty Services: A New Era of Dental Care

specialty dso

Dental groups and DSOs are continually seeking strategies to enhance patient value and service offerings while boosting same-store sales. One promising approach is to bring specialty services in-house, improving the patient experience and retaining more revenue within the practice. However, integrating specialty services is a complex process. Should you have specialists cover a specific geographic area serving your existing practices, or should you build de novos or acquire established specialty practices?

One specialty where there is exceptional opportunity and growth is pediatric dentistry. Just recently, The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reported that the number of pediatric dentists is expected to increase by 62% in the next decade.

Beyond pediatrics, there is opportunity in other dental specialties. The specialty DSO landscape also includes orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics, oral surgery, and prosthodontics.

Various factors, including patient demand, operational efficiencies, and the evolving nature of dental care are driving this shift. Investors are particularly attracted to specialty dental care especially those focused on endodontics and oral surgery, due to their high profit margins, moderate to low expenses, and resilience against economic downturns and pandemics.

There have been several recent moves by seasoned DSOs to add specialty to their platforms. DSOs like PDS Health (formerly Pacific Dental Services), Straine Dental Management (SDM), and Sage Dental have begun the process of integrating specialty services to expand and enhance their patient offerings.

PDS Health Commits to the Specialty Model

Since 2021, PDS Health has supported seven specialist groups through its specialty DSO platform. The specialty practices provide services to patients of the existing PDS Health general dentists’ offices, not as standalone facilities.

Under PDS Health’s specialty DSO model, dental specialists have the opportunity to own their own businesses and hire dental specialists to work within their group. Specialty practice owners are given the role business owners in their group, enhancing their leadership skills and providing opportunities for collaborative practice.

The specialists travel to PDS Health general dentists’ offices to treat patients there, providing a significant convenience by enabling patients to receive specialized dental care without having to travel to different locations. This setup leverages the business and operational expertise of PDS Health, freeing the owners from the financial and administrative burdens of a physical location and allowing them to focus exclusively on patient care. This not only enhances patient care but also increases the flexibility and accessibility of specialized dental services.

Recently, the large dental and medical support organization announced the expansion of its specialty DSO and specialist ownership model into endodontics and periodontics, reaching new states, fostering unique advantages for dental specialists and patients alike with the opening of three new specialty locations. The key difference between the three new specialty practices and the first seven is their regional focus. Each specialty group owner tailors their services to meet the specific dental needs of patients in the designated region they serve. This approach allows them to adapt to the distinct demands of different locations while operating within the established model of providing specialty care directly in general dentist offices.

PDS Health’s newly supported specialty groups:

  • Endo Health Group, Owned by Fredericka Salbo, DMD. Provides endodontic care in Georgia and Louisiana
  • Optimus Endo, Owned by Djavan Wharton-Lake, DDS. Provides endodontic care in Virginia and Maryland
  • Periodontics Health Group, Owned by Zulema Valdivia, DDS. Provides periodontic care in Georgia, in addition to Florida and South Carolina

Fredericka Salbo, DMD“Owning my own practice is something I’ve always wanted,” said Fredericka Salbo, DMD, one of the newest dental specialists to leverage the PDS specialty DSO after five years of providing endodontic treatments at PDS-supported practices in Georgia. “Through the PDS platform, I benefit from PDS’ leading-edge technology, including integrated dental and medical health records, and have access to a front office team that helps coordinate schedules and billing so that I can focus on providing the highest quality care without the headache of managing a physical office space.”

The model enables dental specialists to own and lead their own practices. This ownership not only creates clinical autonomy but also allows specialists to cultivate a business aligned with their personal and professional goals. The specialty business model also offers scalability ― practice owners can extend their services to more locations as opportunities arise, enabling growth and greater market reach while maintaining high standards of care.

Straine Dental Management Expands into Pediatrics

Gary R. Myers, DMD

Dr. Gary R. Myers

Straine Dental Management (SDM), an Emerging Group to Watch in 2024, recently announced a significant expansion into Florida with the affiliation of Myers Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics practices in Middleburg and Jacksonville. This strategic move marks SDM’s entry into the pediatric sector, broadening its service offerings to include specialized care for young patients.

“We are delighted to extend a warm welcome to Dr. Gary R. Myers and the entire team at both Myers Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics locations as they join the SDM family,” stated Kerry Straine, CEO at Straine Dental Management. “Their specialized knowledge in children’s oral health enhances our ability to broaden our service offerings, meeting the diverse needs of families across Florida.”

SDM, which evolved from a thirty-year consulting organization, supports 42 independent practices across 12 states. The affiliation with Myers Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics is a crucial milestone, setting the stage for further growth and specialization in pediatric dental care.

Sage Dental Launches Sage Dental Kids

Sage Dental is also expanding its specialty services with the recent acquisition of Children’s Dentistry in Tampa, Florida. This acquisition is part of the DSO’s ongoing strategy to expand its service offerings for patients, the acquisition marks its first location dedicated specifically to pediatrics and orthodontics, with expectations to open additional Sage Dental Kids facilities.

Dr. Gregory Stepanski, DDS

Dr. Gregory Stepanski

Sage Dental has served more than 1 million patients since 2020 – and many Sage Dental patients currently have children seeking dental care services. This acquisition, as well as future Sage Dental Kids practices, will enable the organization to continue serving these families in its network, while also expanding access to high-quality, affordable care through newer practices designed to specifically offer pediatric support.

Children’s Dentistry, led by Gregory Stepanski, DDS, has served the New Tampa area for over 30 years. The practice, which is already open and serving patients in the region, officially launched as Sage Dental Kids of New Tampa on April 29, 2024.

Dr. Gregory Stepanski, DDS said, “We’re excited to bring our innovative pediatric model to more communities with the expansion of our Sage Dental Kids practices.”

Sage Dental has served over one million patients since 2020, and the addition of Sage Dental Kids facilities will enable the organization to continue serving families within its network. Sage Dental Group of Florida, PLLC, and Sage Dental Group of Georgia, PLLC have provided dental care to over one million patients at 100 affiliated practices in Florida and Georgia.

The Benefits and Challenges of Expanding Specialty Services


  • Enhanced Patient Experience: Patients enjoy the convenience of receiving all necessary dental care in one location, improving coordination and communication between providers.
  • Increased Patient Retention: Comprehensive care models foster long-term relationships with patients, who are more likely to remain with a provider that can address all their dental needs.
  • Improved Clinical Outcomes: Collaboration between general dentists and specialists leads to better diagnoses and treatment plans.
  • Attraction and Retention of Skilled Professionals: DSOs that offer specialty services attract top talent and provide access to the latest technology and resources.


  • Integration of Services: Successfully integrating specialty services requires careful planning and effective communication.
  • Regulatory Compliance: DSOs must navigate complex regulatory requirements to avoid legal issues.
  • Quality Assurance: Maintaining consistent quality across various specialties is essential.
  • Market Competition: As more DSOs expand their specialty offerings, competition increases, necessitating differentiation through exceptional service and innovative treatments.

The trend of DSOs expanding their focus to include specialty services is reshaping the dental care industry. By empowering specialists, optimizing operations, and meeting patient demand for comprehensive care, DSOs like PDS, SDM, and Sage Dental are leading the future of dental care. Despite the challenges, their innovative models promise to enhance patient experience, improve clinical outcomes, and ensure sustainable growth in the ever-evolving healthcare landscape.

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