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Rock Dental: Deals Keep Dake Smiling

3 min read

Rock Dental Brands of Little Rock recently bought the group Arkansas Dentistry & Braces, and it’s not done buying.

The dental group is acquiring another dental group that has seven or eight offices in Arkansas and Missouri, Merritt Dake, one of the founders of Rock Dental, told Arkansas Business last week.

Dake declined to name the clinic, but said the deal should close by the end of the month.

“And then after that, we’re going to take a little bit of a breather,” Dake said. “We feel pretty confident and comfortable in taking all of them on, but it’s always nice to have a few months of operating to ensure that we smooth out the processes before we take on more.”

Rock Dental Brands — founded in 2012 by Dake and orthodontists Mark Dake, who is Merritt’s father, and Bryan Hiller — now has a total of 58 locations, including 39 in Arkansas and Missouri. Most of the Arkansas and Missouri locations operate under the names Westrock Orthodontics, Leap Kids Pediatric Dental, Impact Oral Surgery and Rock Family Dental, and four clinics in northeast Arkansas will eventually be branded as Rock Dental.

Smaller dental groups selling to larger practices has become a trend in the industry, but most dental practices in Arkansas are still operated by sole practitioners.

Rock Dental’s acquisitions have fueled revenue growth. It brought in $8 million in 2014 and $30 million the following year. In 2016, Rock Dental Brands had $51 million in revenue, and this year it is projecting $71 million.

Dake said Rock Dental’s growth has been “meticulously” planned out. “We probably had a lot more interest from other dentists in the community in both Arkansas and Missouri, maybe more than we expected,” he said.

Typically, the dentists who sell their clinics to Rock Dental continue working at the practice, but Rock Dental’s recent acquisition of Arkansas Dentistry & Braces from Drs. Benjamin Burris and Justin Bethel was not typical. “The owners are selling and leaving the state,” said Dake, who declined to reveal the purchase price for the 19 locations, which include offices in northwest and northeast Arkansas.

Dake said Rock Dental first reached out to Arkansas Dentistry in 2015 to see if it was interested in being acquired, but nothing came of the inquiry. At the end of 2016, however, Arkansas Dentistry contacted Rock Dental to ask if it was still interested in the purchase.

Dake declined to say what changed the minds of Arkansas Dentistry’s owners.

Burris didn’t return a text message or an email, and Bethel couldn’t be reached for comment. In a news release, however, the dentists called the sale the “best course of action for our patients, our team members and our community.”

Dake said Rock Dental wanted to buy Arkansas Dentistry, which was formed in 2014, because of its locations in Arkansas.

The Friday Eldredge & Clark law firm in Little Rock prepared the documents for the sale, which closed on April 28.

Arkansas Dentistry bought a majority of its supplies overseas, and Dake said that purchasing will now be handled by Rock Dental. The Arkansas Dentistry name will remain for now but will change to a Rock Dental brand name later.

The acquisition pushed the number of employees Rock Dental has at its headquarters and all clinics to 410. In December, the head count was 230.

As with other Rock Dental clinics, the dental professionals will have the authority to treat patients the way they think is best, Dake said. He said other large clinics sometimes dictate to the providers what treatment procedures to use.

“We take a little bit different approach,” Dake said. “We want the doctors to be comfortable in the procedures that they’re doing, and really making the decisions on treatment.”

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