Dental Support Organization
|Founded||Syracuse, New York, New York, U.S. (1964)|
|Founder||Robert Fontana CEO|
|Headquarters||East Syracuse, New York|
|Services||Manages branded Dental practices|
Aspen Dental Management, Inc. (ADMI) is a dental support organization (DSO)— a dental practice management corporation that provides business support and administrative services in the US. Its headquarters is in DeWitt, New York.
The United States Senate Committee on Finance, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office, Frontline in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity and The New York Times — among others — questioned Aspen's business model. Concerns included Aspen Dental's alleged targeting of older, low-income earners with unnecessary and costly services—offering them a finance program without fully disclosing the terms. In 2015 the private equity firm, American Securities led Aspen's recapitalization in partnership with Ares Management, Leonard Green & Partners and the existing management team.
Aspen Dental Management, Inc. (ADMI), the Dental Support Organization that supports the Aspen Dental brand, was founded in 1998 by Robert Fontana, who continues to serve as chief executive. Fontana had completed business school in 1991 and worked at Upstate Dental in Syracuse, New York for a few years. ADMI's predecessor was founded in 1981 and supported dental practices in Upstate New York. It was a founding member of the Association of Dental Support Organizations (ADSO). After predecessor company Upstate Dental merged with East Coast Dental in December 1997, the resulting firm was launched as Aspen Dental Management, Inc. in 1998.
There were more than fifty Aspen Dental offices within five years of ADMI's establishment. In 1998, there were 13 offices, and by April 2007 there were 106 branded practices in Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. The company was initially headquartered in Salina, New York but in 2006 moved to a new headquarters near Syracuse in DeWitt. The new headquarters was designed to include a training center to cater for both Aspen Dental employees and other firms' training events.
In 2010 Leonard Green & Partners purchased Aspen Dental from Ares Management for about $500 million. By August 2010 private equity firms already owned Forba and Bright Now and were bidding on Aspen Dental and Kool Smiles - the two largest national chains of dental offices in the United States. According to the American Dentists Association, dentistry is one of healthcare's "last bastion of fee-based services" making it attractive to private equity firms. Healthcare reform in 2010 was not cutting into reimbursement for dentists whereas it was for medical doctors. Dental offices sell for lower valuations and a reliable cash flow so money can be borrowed against them. Financial consultant Tom Climo cautioned that private equity firms boost profits by pressuring dentists to work longer which could lead to a deterioration in service.
In October 2010, after a probe of complaints regarding its discount services and finance programs, the company entered into an assurance of voluntary compliance with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office, without admitting wrongdoing. It agreed to pay $125,000 to reimburse customers of the company and $50,000 for consumer protection probes. Complaints involved services provided before May 28, 2009.
In a PBS June 2012 series entitled Dollars and Dentists produced by Frontline in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity described Aspen Dental's business model as one which makes dental work immediately accessible to low-income patients by providing interest free credit. However their indepth investigation revealed that patients were "being overcharged or given unnecessary treatments."
In October 2012, a class-action lawsuit accused the company of illegally owning dental practices and of deceiving patients. The lawsuit said that the company operating in violation of laws in 22 states which allow only dentists to own a dental practice. The company responded that the accusations were "entirely without merit.” The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York dismissed the case in 2015.
In their 2013 report entitled "Joint Staff Report on the Corporate Practice of Dentistry in the Medicaid Program," Senators Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus investigated corporate dentistry with a focus on Aspen Dental, Church Street Health Management (CSHM) - Small Smiles, NCDR, LLC - Kool Smiles, ReachOut and Heartland Dental Care.
In 2014 the company paid $1 million to settle allegations of deceptive marketing and billing in Massachusetts.
In June 2015 Aspen settled charges in New York that interfered with dentists' decision making in clinics it managed; the company paid $450,000 and agreed to comply with stringent new business practices prohibiting such interference.
In 2015 as Moody's was placing Aspen's ratings under review, an affiliate of American Securities—a private equity firm led the recapitalization of Aspen Dental Management Inc. in partnership with existing owners Ares Management, Leonard Green & Partners and the existing management team.
By 2015 Aspen Dental offered services to around 550 franchised dental facilities. The Canadian Dental association reports that in the United States 30–40% of all dental practices were corporate dentistry or corporate dental practices such as Aspen's, while only 2% of Canadian dental offices are corporate owned.
Aspen's services are aimed at individuals who do not have an established dental routine or regular dental provider. In 2012, Fontana described a typical Aspen Dental patient as middle-aged and possibly struggling to afford their day-to-day expenses, or someone who sees dental work as "discretionary" and therefore may have an emergency dental issue arise. According to Fontana, Aspen's locations and marketing are aimed at providing services to those individuals.
- All Smiles Dental Centers
- Kool Smiles
- ReachOut Healthcare America
- Small Smiles Dental Centers
- Smile Starters
- Sun Orthodontix
- Soderlund, Kelly (June 19, 2015), New York attorney general takes action against Aspen Dental, New York: American_Dental_Association, retrieved October 1, 2016
- Silver-Greenberg, Jessica (October 14, 2013), "A Vulnerable Age: Patients Mired in Costly Credit From Doctors", The New York Times, retrieved October 1, 2016
- Matt Miller (October 14, 2010). "Aspen Dental pays $175,000 to settle customer complaints". PennLive.Com. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
pact stems from a state probe of more than 50 consumer complaints
- Heath, David; Rosenbaum, Jill (June 26, 2012), Dollars and Dentists, retrieved October 1, 2016
- Baucus, Max; Grassley, Chuck (June 2013). Joint Staff Report on the Corporate Practice of Dentistry in the Medicaid Program (PDF) (Report). United States Senate Committee on Finance. p. 1500. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
- "American Securities Leads Recapitalization of Aspen Dental", Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2015, retrieved October 1, 2016
- Breslow, Jason M. (June 26, 2012). "Aspen Dental CEO Bob Fontana: "We're Big Advocates for the Patient"". PBS. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- "About ADSO". Association of Dental Support Organizations. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
- Kevin Tampone (September 7, 2007). "Aspen plans rapid expansion". The Business Journal - Central New York. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
- Kist, Stephanie (April 19, 2007). "Aspen Dental opens Fairlawn office". Leader Online. Retrieved February 24, 2016.
- Claire Duffett (December 16, 2005). "Aspen Dental building new headquarters". The Business Journal - Central New York. p. 3. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
- Beltran, Luisa (August 18, 2010), Leonard Green Sinks Teeth into Aspen Dental, PE Hub Network, retrieved October 1, 2016
- Kosman, Josh (August 27, 2010), Private-equity firms sink teeth into dentistry, New York Post
- "P.E. Firms Open Wide for Dental Chains", The New York Times, Dealbook, August 27, 2010, retrieved October 1, 2016
- "Attorney General Corbett announces $175,000 consumer settlement with Aspen Dental". Pennsylvania Attorney General. October 13, 2010. Archived from the original (Press release) on December 24, 2011. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
- Heath, David; Rosenbaum, Jill (June 26, 2012), Patients, Pressure and Profits at Aspen Dental, Frontline, retrieved October 1, 2016
- Heath, David; Rosenbaum, Jill (June 26, 2012), Dollars and Dentists: Corporate dental chains see big profits in adults who can't afford care: How low-income adults get locked into debt for dental treatment, Center for Public Integrity, retrieved October 1, 2016
- Heath, David (October 19, 2012), Aspen Dental Facing Class-Action Lawsuit, Frontline & Center for Public Integrity, PBS
- "Aspen Dental Lawsuit Dismissed by US District Court". New York Dental Association (American Dental Association). May 19, 2015. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
- Noles, Corey (May 19, 2015). "Aspen Dental says 'open wide' to Missouri". St. Louis Business Journal. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
- "A.G. Schneiderman Announces Settlement With Aspen Dental Management That Bars Company From Making Decisions About Patient Care In New York Clinics", New York State Attorney General, New York, June 18, 2015, retrieved November 9, 2016
- Moody's places Aspen Dental's ratings under review for downgrade
- "Economic Realities of Practice", Canadian Dental Association, retrieved October 1, 2016