Belle DuCharme

CDPMA, Dental Training Consultant

What is a Successful Dental Practice?

Each dentist in practice will have a different view of what makes a “successful” business.  At the beginning of a practice or the “start-up” phase many dentists won’t give definition to what their practice will look like in the future because all they want now is new patients and lots of them.  To a start-up practice that opened its doors with maybe a couple of patients and those are friends and relatives the focus is on growth that will pay the overhead (expenses) and perhaps a salary to the dentist. 

As the practice grows over the years, there is still an emphasis on obtaining new patients, and there is a shift to retaining those patients so that they don’t look for another dentist.

Responses to the question, “What is the definition of a successful dental practice?” are as follows;

  1. “A practice where I love to go to work every day.”
  2. “ A practice where I have patients that want to have health and not just what the insurance pays.”
  3. “ A practice where I have a loyal and dedicated team who share my vision and treat the practice like it is their business.”
  4. “A practice where I can practice the way I want without the boundaries set by insurance limitations or  by corporate entities or Dental Service Organizations.” 

These are some of the environments that must be in place to realize that feeling of happiness and success.  How do you get this for your practice?

  1. To create a practice where you love to go to work make sure that you are the CEO and you set the vision and the culture of the practice.  Many dentists don’t like to go to work because another staff member is running the practice. If the dentist owner/CEO doesn’t take an active interest in the team and is only there to do dentistry someone else will lead the team. Most dentists are not natural born leaders and need some coaching in this area.    
  2. To keep patients focused on health and not just insurance don’t bring insurance into the picture when you are diagnosing treatment.  Give the patient the best options based on their health needs and what will solve their dental problems most effectively. If they want to know what the insurance will cover, that would be explained when they are discussing payment with the business or financial coordinator who will define the limitations of their plan.
  3. To have a loyal and dedicated team, you must share your practice vision with them.  Define what you consider a successful practice and invite them to contribute their ideas to build it.  Ask each of them what a great place to work would look like and then make it together. Be accepting of their thoughts and suggestions even when production is up, and things look good.
  4. Freedom to practice dentistry how they see fit is the goal of most solo practitioners.  To do this, the dentist must understand the overhead percentage standards and stay on this budget without fail.  The dentist must know how to read the financial statement and understand the practice reports generated by computer software.  To practice in the manner that you want is to run a tight ship financially and to control how much insurance you accept. Have controls in place to make sure you are reimbursed for every dollar you have earned and that your accounts receivables (money owed to you) are collected before it has aged 60 to 90 days.

Healthy business systems are only part of the package.  Dentists will need to be the leader and the one who creates the culture and vision of the practice.  Only then can you really create a successful practice where you enjoy coming to work each day.  


Dental Billing Tips and News for Pros; Edition #139


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