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Stephen E. Thorne IV: Raising the Standards of Dental Care

Pacific Dental Services | Stephen E. Thorne IV
Pacific Dental Services | Stephen E Thorne IV

As someone who came from a family of dentists, Stephen E. Thorne IV learned the ropes of running a dental practice at an early age. After working in his father’s practice for a few years, he realized the need for a different approach that focused on providing business support to dentists. This led him to launch Pacific Dental Services (PDS), which has since grown to become a model for dental support organizations across the country.

In an interview with Insights Care, Stephen talks more about his journey to supporting dentists and dental practices, with PDS becoming one of the country’s leading dental support organizations with nearly 1,000 supported practices across the nation today.

Following are the excerpts from the interview:

Briefly tell us about yourself and shed some light on your journey towards forming the company. What led you to venture into dentistry?

I come from a family of dentists. My grandfather graduated from Harvard Dental School in 1939, my father and brothers also became dentists. I, however, decided to go the business route. After graduating from University of California, Los Angeles in 1989 with a degree in business economics, I found myself in a tough job market and started working part time at my father’s dental practice in Victorville, California. My father asked me to install a computer system into his practice, then asked me to fully computerize his practice.

Shortly thereafter, I joined my father’s practice full time, learning the ins-and-outs of dental practice administration and helping to grow the business. I received my master’s in health administration from Chapman University in 1994 and that same year I decided to set out on my own, with a new idea and a vision to create the greatest dental company in America. I launched my first dental practice management contract in Costa Mesa, California, and today, Pacific Dental Services is one of the country’s leading dental support organizations with nearly 1,000 supported practices across the nation.

What tools and tactics do you think are most effective in supporting dental treatment? What sets you apart from others who are in the profession?

Pacific Dental Services has demonstrated its commitment to competitive growth and clinical excellence by investing significantly in the tools and resources available to our teams of clinicians. PDS-supported dental practices use advanced, proven technologies to provide modern dentistry services that are at the forefront of both oral health and whole-body health care. These clinical treatment tools include the Epic health records system, which integrates a patient’s acute, primary, and dental health history into one system.

In addition, the practices we support offer CEREC® CAD/CAM same-day dental restorations, 3D imaging through cone beam computed tomography (CBCT), digital X-rays, soft tissue diode lasers, salivary diagnostics, and the VELscope® oral screening system, which aids in the detection of oral cancers. Patients can also benefit from having access to a variety of specialty services under one roof, including oral and maxillofacial surgery, endodontics, periodontics, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, and dental hygiene.

What specific R&D operations are you leading at present? Why do you find those essential?

Pacific Dental Services has long been a leading investor in advanced, proven technology, which assists our supported clinicians in raising the standard of care for their patients. Whether we create it internally via our PDS Innovations Team or through collaborations with other healthcare pioneers, we are continuously conceptualizing, building, and implementing technology and resources that empower oral health providers to elevate their performance and improve the patient experience.

We recognize the significance of investing in cutting-edge research and development initiatives to improve patient care and outcomes. Through our investments in R&D companies, we have contributed to the development of revolutionary technologies, such as robotic oral surgery, that improve the precision and accuracy of dental procedures. We have also supported the development of regenerative bioadhesive materials, which have shown promise in enhancing dental implant procedures by promoting tissue regeneration and healing. Additionally, we have invested in assisted intelligence-enabled technology for diagnostic image deciphering and sorting, which empowers clinicians to make more informed treatment decisions, leading to improved patient outcomes. Our commitment to supporting R&D efforts demonstrates our dedication to advancing the field of dentistry and enabling our supported clinicians to deliver exceptional care to patients.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced when conducting operations and how did you turn them into opportunities for growth?

As Pacific Dental Services has continued to expand its nationwide presence, we recognized the need for a more focused and nimble approach to our operations. Growth has not come without challenges. To address the specific needs of local markets, we restructured our company to include more regional leaders who are responsible for overseeing operations in their respective areas and ensuring that our supported dental practices have the resources and support they need to provide exceptional care.

By having leaders who are intimately familiar with the unique characteristics of each market, we are more capable of providing the necessary support to our clinical teams. This restructuring has enabled us to be more focused and efficient in our operations, providing us with greater agility to adapt to changes in the industry and help our supported clinicians better serve their patients.

Share us a few awards/recognitions that may highlight your position in the market.

I am proud to share that PDS has received multiple prestigious awards in recognition of our commitment to growth and community engagement. We have been listed on Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing Private Companies list an incredible 14 times, which speaks to our ongoing success and expansion as a business. Additionally, we have received the Civic50 award for the fourth time, a distinction given to the most community-minded companies in Orange County, California. Additionally, we are proud to have been named one of Orange County’s “Companies That Care” by the Orange County Business Journal, for the third consecutive year since the award’s inception in 2020. These accolades underscore our continued commitment to providing the highest level of patient-centered care while making a positive impact in the communities we serve.

What advice would you like to give to budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who desire to venture into dentistry?

This is the most exciting time in dentistry! If you are looking to enter the dental industry as an entrepreneur, now is an opportune time due to the industry’s ongoing evolution and the new technology and innovations that are emerging regularly. But before launching a business, I’d recommend having a deep understanding of the field.

You need to know the nuances of the industry, the latest technologies, and the gaps that exist in the market. Research the different segments and specialties of the industry, such as general dentistry, orthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, etc. so you can identify opportunities for growth and development. By understanding the industry and identifying gaps in the market, you can position your company to meet the needs of your customers and create a successful business.

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