Redmond-based Advantage Dental announced Friday that it intends to sell a majority stake in the company to DentaQuest of Boston.

Terms of the deal, including the amount of DentaQuest’s investment, were not disclosed. The transaction requires approval by the Oregon Insurance Division.

Advantage, which has about 400 employees statewide, is the largest provider of dental services to Oregon Health Plan members. About 340,000 OHP members are assigned to its network. Advantage administers benefits for 300 independent owner-dentists as well as operates 39 of its own clinics.

Founder and President R. Mike Shirtcliff said Advantage simply needed more capital to continue its growth as well as to pay the 100 or so dentists who are retiring and want to cash out their equity stakes. Shirtcliff emphasized that the Oregon operation will continue as-is.

“I’m still going to be the president,” he said. “Nothing’s going to change here except we’ll have a partner that has more resources.”

DentaQuest is the largest Medicaid dental-benefits administrator in the country and has a presence in 30 states. CEO Steve Pollock said taking the stake in Advantage provides insight into how the company operates in Oregon’s Medicaid system, which he believes will be adopted by other states.

“Every state we work with is looking at its Medicaid program and trying to figure out how to get a better outcome at an affordable cost.”

Shirtcliff said a notice to the Oregon Insurance Division will be filed early next week. Insurance division spokesman Jake Sunderland said the state cannot comment while the Advantage-DentaQuest approval is under review, a process that could take two months to a year.

Shirtcliff said he first made contact with DentaQuest two years ago when he spoke at a conference of the Medicaid Services Dental Association.

“What we realized was we have like philosophies,” he said. “Everybody in the country is interested in how Oregon’s doing the Affordable Care Act and the accountable care organizations.”

Advantage was started in 1994 by a group of dentists in the Roseburg area and focused on serving rural Oregon. Shirtcliff said Advantage still wants independent dentists to have a stake in the company and is looking to recruit new, younger dentists.

“This will give us the resources to do that,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860,

kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

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