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21 June 2023

California Dental Association offers member benefits, from early career to retirement

Mary Guiden

With 27,000 members, the California Dental Association (CDA) is the largest state dental organization in the U.S. The association hosts multiple educational events for its members each year, including “CDA Presents The Art and Science of Dentistry,” and has a robust practice management support system for its members.

The team of experienced staffers can discuss one-on-one what new dentists should do if they want to purchase a practice. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the team can also discuss transition paths for dentists who aim to retire from private practice. CDA also offers checklists and other resources on its site. 

Dr. Brian Del Core, DDS, who works in a solo private practice in Aptos, California, is considering stepping away from the profession in five to seven years. He currently works three days per week and said that he could retire sooner if the right conditions occurred. 

While he’s not currently seeking a buyer, he consulted recently with CDA’s Matthew Nelson, a practice management analyst, to determine the value of his practice and how dental plan contracts are currently impacting his practice. 

Del Core used the Benefit Plan Consulting service, a paid service CDA launched in 2022.

 “I quickly realized that this was necessary before making any decisions about changes in my participation with a dental benefit plan contract,” he said. CDA members may also utilize resources offered on cda.org to conduct a similar analysis on their own.

Del Core, a CDA member since 1986, said he has strong connections with the association. He frequently reads its newsletter and visits the website to review the educational content and resources offered as a benefit of CDA membership. 

Benefit Plan Consulting is a separate CDA service offered to provide customized analysis of a dental plan contract for the dentist. The service can be helpful for dentists with no long-term contracts or retainers. 

Del Core said the Benefit Plan Consulting evaluation was informative, and he did not expect some of the results. In particular, he said he appreciated the details about the impact of specific dental benefit plans on his practice. 

“The overall experience left me with confidence that if I did change my contractual participation, what financial impact that would have, and how I could position myself for the temporary loss of income and patient base,” he said. 

Del Core said that in the past, he has hired financial and practice consultants and he has a good handle on percentage-based models for overhead, income and goal setting.

But with the economic environment that has changed dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s experienced challenges with employee retention, lower practice utilization and shifts in practice revenue. 

Del Core said that he appreciates the value that CDA offers its members. 

“I hope that CDA can expand and enhance services in the future for both practice analysis and transitions, associateships and group practice dynamics,” he said. “We face many challenges and

changes ahead and the current private practice model is less desirable to the new and younger generation of dentists due to the increasing costs of operations, and their heavy debt load. Managed care is here to stay, but there will always be room in the marketplace for the private practice model for those willing to put in the time and dedication.” 

Nelson said that on average, he fields 75 calls and emails from members per month. In a year, he and colleague Katie Fornelli — director of Early Career Dentist Engagement and the entire team of CDA experts — manage up to 6,000 questions and requests for assistance from CDA member dentists.  

Fornelli said the team can help dentists in urgent situations, too, including if they’ve already sold their practice and have questions. 

Ideally, it’s most helpful if dentists reach out to CDA at least six months or two years before they decide to sell the practice. 

CDA offers several exit workshops annually. In addition to Nelson and Fornelli, the CDA brings in an attorney, an acquisitions and sales expert and a certified public accountant which provides members with a full team of experts to assist with the practice transition. 

“We want to make sure the practice and doctor is financially ready,” she said. 

Bank of America is the official practice solutions endorsed service for the CDA. That means its team can offer additional buyer perspectives and financing. 

Nelson said the CDA can also help explain terms of dental benefit plan contracts, how those might change from seller to buyer, and how that may impact their practice. 

“We can’t advise members whether to remain in network with a dental plan or not,” he said. “But we can provide them with tools and discuss the factors to consider when deciding whether it’s feasible for them to retain or terminate the contract before the sale of the practice.” 

Learn more about the CDA at https://www.cda.org/

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