Booming Interdent steps up its search for dental professionals |

Booming Interdent steps up its search for dental professionals

John Seelmeyer

When Interdent Inc.

opened one of its shiny new dental group practice offices in Reno a few weeks ago, it took another step on its road to doubling its size in the next five years.

But where will the company find dentists? The company, based in El Segundo, Calif., and headed by Reno native Ivar Chhina, seeks to open 10 offices in the West this year and 15 to 20 a year after that.

As he visited the new Mountain View Dental office in Reno last month, Chhina understandably wanted to talk a lot about what his company’s business model can offer dentists.

Privately held Interdent seeks to build efficient group practices with strong brand identity throughout the West.

Its strategy in the highly fragmented world of dentistry a world dominated by one-dentist firms is similar to the path followed by Lenscrafters in the world of optometry.

In about a decade, Interdent has launched or acquired 24 offices in eight Western states, including two in Reno and eight in Las Vegas operating under the Mountain View Dental brand.

Elsewhere, it’s branded as “Gentle Dental.” The professional groups affiliated with those offices employ about 700 dentists including four dentists in Reno who are numbered among the company’s 33 employees in northern Nevada.

Chhina,who grew up in Reno, sees Nevada as a growth market assuming he can find dentists in a state that already is home to far fewer dentists than the national average.

The American Dental Association estimates Nevada is home to 39 dentists per 100,000 population.

The national average, according to the Pew Health Professions Commission, is 61 per 100,000.

Chhina’s pitch to potential professionals: “You didn’t go to dental school to manage employees and do payroll on Saturday nights.” With Interdent’s group practices, the company says dentists can do what they do best practice dentistry with the administrative support and professional backup of a larger organization.

It’s a pitch that Chhina can make to some non-traditional groups dentists with young children who don’t want to work fulltime, for instance.

Because dentists working in association with Interdent are compensated on the basis of their production, Chhina says dentists can be financially well rewarded even if they don’t take on the headaches of their own practice.

He acknowledges that the group practice model isn’t likely to dominate the profession any time soon.

Today, it accounts for about 5 percent of dental offices, and Chhina believes it’s unlikely to rise much above 25 percent of the $75-billion-a-year market.

Interdent’s growth is likely to come organically rather than through acquisition of existing practices.

(The company’s first office in Reno, at 525 E.Moana Lane,was acquired six years ago.)

“Roll-ups are very hard to manage,” says Chhina.

Unlike new locations, where the company can start fresh, acquisition of an existing practice requires that its staff be trained anew in everything from marketing to purchasing to relations with the specialists who make Interdent locations a one-stop location for patients’ dental services.

The company, which is about a decade old, has been funded with venture capital backing.