Why Continuing Education is Critical to Your Success in Dentistry

Every state requires dentists to comply with mandatory continuing education requirements. In addition, there are a wide range of optional continuing education courses available to dentists across the nation. If you are a practicing dentist, though, you might wonder why. After all, you are using your clinical skills every day, so you certainly aren’t rusty. Yet even beyond the need to comply with regulations, continuing education is vital for all dentists. Here’s a look at why continuing education is critical to your success in dentistry.

Emergency Care

Maintaining current CPR certification is mandatory in most states. Many also require continuing education credits in topics such as infection control, blood borne pathogens, and HIV/AIDS. Some require dentists to have regular training in ethics, professional responsibility, and recognizing the signs of abuse.

All of these are topics that the average dentist does not frequently confront. You probably have sterilization and infection control procedures in place that work well for your day to day operations. You likely face few situations that require you to perform CPR or make complex ethical decisions. Yet when you suddenly find yourself in an unusual scenario, you need to have sharp, recently practiced skills that you can rely on.

Innovative Technology

Technology continues to develop at lightning speed, and there is no way that the average busy dentist could keep up with all of the new possibilities. Continuing education courses that focus on technology sum up your new options and present them in a way that is fast and easy to digest. You will receive enough information that you can then easily research any new tools that catch your eye.

New Clinical Skills

The field of dentistry is also transforming rapidly, partly due to innovations in technology. Dentists today have more options than ever before for treating different dental diseases. Continuing education courses give you an overview of new techniques and methodologies, some of which could revolutionize the care you are able to provide.

Changing Business Landscape

“Disruption” is the new buzzword in business, as companies attempt to turn old ways of doing business on their ear. As new disruptors enter the marketplace, service providers such as dentists must stay on their toes. Agility, streamlining, and the ability to pivot as needed are key skills that any business owner must learn. Attending continuing education classes focused on the business side of your practice ensures that you stay aware of the changing landscape and are prepared to take on new disruptions as they occur.

Continuing education requirements can feel like just one more thing on your never-ending to do list. Yet these classes are the best insurance your dental practice can have against the ramifications of a rapidly changing field. When looking for continuing education courses, try to select a range of topics that address emergency care, technology, clinical skills, and business knowledge. Your success will be worth the hassle.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

The Importance of Proper Goal Setting in Your Dental Practice

If you run a dental practice, you are probably at least loosely aware of the importance of goal setting. If not, here is some food for thought. A recent 10-year study of Harvard MBAs found only 3% had written goals with a plan of action for achieving them. Another 13% had goals in mind, but never shared them with others or wrote them down. A stunning 84% had no specific goals at all. At the end of the 10 years, the 13% with unwritten goals made twice as much money as those with no goals. And the 3% who had written goals earned 10 times as much as the rest of the group combined!

Yet simply setting goals is not enough. That 3% also had a plan to achieve their goals. To develop and execute a plan of action, though, it is important to set SMART goals. Here’s what that means:

Specific: General goals, like “grow my practice” are a terrific way to start the goal setting process, but are not enough on their own. The goal must be specific in both scope and area. To set specific goals, consider the five Ws—who, what, where, which, and why.

Measurable: A goal must be able to be measured or quantified in some way. Try asking “how” questions—how many, how much, how will I know when I’ve achieved the goal?

Achievable: To be achievable, a goal must be within your control and must be realistic given your available resources. For this step, ask the practical questions—can I afford the cost in both time and money, do I have the necessary manpower, are there alternative ways to reach this goal that I haven’t yet considered?

Relevant: A relevant goal is both personally important to you and in alignment with your other relevant goals. Ask questions such as: does this feel right, is it the appropriate time, will it take too many resources away from other goals, does this flow well with other efforts I am making?

Time-based: Deadlines are essential to keeping you moving forward, but they must be realistic. Each goal needs a final deadline for completion, broken down into smaller components. A popular way to go about this is to work backwards. First, what is my final deadline? Then, to reach that deadline, what needs to be done by six months from now, six weeks from now, one week from now, and today?

Some experts expand SMART goals into SMARTER goals, acknowledging the importance of Evaluation and Review. The key takeaway from that is that you must acknowledge the reality that life gets in the way. If you don’t make your six-week deadline on a particular goal, don’t give up! Evaluate the situation to learn why you didn’t make it and review your timeline to make necessary shifts.

Likewise, a goal that seemed critical six months ago may no longer seem relevant. Evaluate the goal to see if you should table it, and review your overall goals to determine whether it is a necessary component or something you can simply let go.

Your goal list, like your business plan, should be a living document that adapts and evolves as needed. Having a written list of goals with deadlines is vital for success, but at no time should you become a slave to an outdated goal sheet. Take the time to sit down and set SMART goals, and then revisit them at least biannually to ensure that you are making adequate progress and to refresh your list as appropriate.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

How to Choose the Right Dental Practice Management Consultant

A dental practice management consultant can help you vastly improve the day to day operations of your practice. While a dental business coach assists with matters such as your business plan and long-term and short-term goal setting, a dental practice management consultant creates systems and processes to boost efficiency and profitability. Yet not all consultants are right for every practice. Here’s how to choose the one that is right for you.

What Dental Practice Management Consultants Do

Your dental practice management consultant will take a hard look at your daily operations and identify the areas that are not working as well as they should. Perhaps the patient flow from appointment setting through check-in through treatment is bogged down. Maybe your overhead is higher than it needs to be, or your payroll system is inefficient. Your consultant will help you develop new systems that are streamlined and profitable.

In addition, your consultant will help you change the office culture to one of accountability and support. This is best done by involving your entire team in developing and implementing the changes. This promotes buy-in, making every team member feel heard, valued, and responsible for making and maintaining changes. All team members should hold themselves and each other accountable, and foster a culture in which everyone is empowered to support each other.

Questions to Ask

In order to make a successful match, it is important to carefully interview potential practice consultants. Here are some questions to ask:

How will you incorporate our core values, mission, and vision into your recommendations, and how can you help us express them?

How do you see your role?

What is your definition of profitability?

How do you view office culture, and what steps will you take to improve it?

How do you promote buy-in and accountability?

How can you improve our communications, both internally and with our potential and current patients?

How will you evaluate and improve our dental hygiene department?

A dental practice consultant can be enormously valuable in helping you streamline your practice to improve efficiency and profitability. However, not all dental practice consultants are the same. It is vital that you find one who “fits” with your practice, and will work with your entire team to create buy-in and accountability without fundamentally changing your core values, mission, or vision. Although interviewing dental practice consultants can be time consuming, the rewards are well worth the effort.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

3 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Dental Business Coach

Even Olympic athletes have coaches, so why wouldn’t you want one to help take your dental business to the next level? A dental business coach can help you map out future goals, solidify your branding and marketing, provide a new perspective, challenge you to reach new heights, and hold you accountable for moving forward. Yet not all business coaches are the same. To make the most of your investment, you need a coach who is experienced and reliable, and who truly gets your vision. Here are 3 questions to ask before hiring a dental business coach.

    What Does Business Coaching Mean to Them?

Different business coaches have different philosophies and approaches to the job. A good business coach should focus half on you as the owner: helping you become the best entrepreneur you can be, and half on your business: analyzing its strengths and weaknesses and helping you build a clear action plan for success.

A good business coach should also be able to articulate his or her values and techniques. While it is not reasonable to expect an entire plan to be presented before you sign a contract, you should be able to get a good idea of how the coach will approach the project.

    What Is Their Experience?

Not all business coaches are experienced in dentistry, and not all experienced dentists make good business coaches. You need someone who is equally skilled in three areas: dentistry, entrepreneurship, and coaching. The coach does not necessarily need to be a dentist, but he or she should have a strong background in running or coaching a dental practice. Your coach also needs to be able to show a track record of measurable business growth, as well as the ability to teach.

    Is Hands-on Help Available?

While the goal of business coaching is to teach you what you need to know to grow and build your business, learning is a process. In the meantime, a good dental business coach should be available to review documents, advise you in decision-making, and help you get out of the weeds. If the coach is more of a consultant with a hands-off approach, you might not get the most value from the relationship. Of course, you will need to remain actively involved every step of the way. If you want someone to take over certain duties, you should hire a business manager, not a coach.

A dental business coach can be a valuable asset in developing and growing your practice. However, not all coaches are the same. Take the time to interview a few coaches and choose the one that best fits with your vision.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

5 Reasons to Hire a Dental Business Coach in 2018

As 2017 comes to a close, it is a smart idea to perform a quick annual review both personally and professionally. What goals did you have for the year? Did you meet them? What were your biggest successes and challenges? What one thing did you mean to do this year that you never quite got around to?

It is equally important to look to the future, to set new goals and make new plans for the coming year. When it comes to running your dental business, one of the best ways to do this is to sit down with a business coach. After all, even Olympic athletes have coaches. No matter how successful your dental practice was this year, you can have an even better 2018 if you consult with a business coach. Here are 5 reasons to hire a dental business coach in 2018.

    Business Mapping

You might have a fully detailed business plan, complete with 5-year projections and a collection of short-term, mid-range, and long-term goals. Or you might be running your business on the fly, adapting and changing as you go along. Either way, the new year is a wonderful time to revisit your plans and make sure they are as strong as they can be.

A dental business coach can help you refine everything from your mission and vision statements to your corporate culture and values. Branding, marketing opportunities, and future expansion are just a few of the many topics that your business coach can help you map out.

    Perspective

Balancing chairside time with patients against all of your business duties can become a grind, and it is easy to get lost in the day to day. A dental business coach brings a fresh perspective, and takes a zoomed-out macro look at your practice. This may be just what you need to step outside the daily challenges and remember why you opened your practice in the first place.

    Challenge

It is easy to do what you have always done, and making changes can be intimidating. A good dental business coach will challenge you to set lofty goals, and map a plan to meet them. You can do more than you ever thought possible, but many people need someone to challenge them to be their best.

    Confidence

Your dental business coach believes in you even when your faith in yourself waivers. He or she intimately knows the challenges and opportunities involved in running a dental practice, and can help you learn what to expect if you make certain changes or pursue different goals. This can give you the confidence to face the future and build your practice in a whole new way.

    Accountability

Getting excited about possibilities is easy, but making the long-term commitment to making them a reality is far more difficult. Your dental business coach will hold you accountable, checking in regularly to see how you are progressing. Like a workout buddy, your dental business coach can be the catalyst for keeping your commitments and continuing to build toward your goals.

Ascent Dental Solutions is a full-service agency dedicated to helping dentists build their practices and map out their careers. It is the brainchild of Dr. Kevin Coughlin, who earned his doctorate at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and currently serves as a faculty member there. While Dr. Coughlin continues to practice dentistry as the principal owner of the 14-location Baystate Dental PC, he has a strong passion for helping fellow dentists maximize their success. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

MSO vs Private Practice: The Pros and Cons

Corporate dentistry is divided into two main organizational structures. A DSO, or dental service organization, is dentist owned, while an MSO, or managed service organization, is an equity-backed corporation. Either way, though, for the dentist considering joining the world of corporate dentistry, both types of organizations look and feel similar. Here are the pros and cons of joining an MSO versus a private practice.

MSO

An MSO carries quite a few benefits for dentists who don’t see themselves as business types. Here are just a few pros:

100% of time spent on dentistry:MSOs handle all of the “business duties” associated with a dental practice. You won’t need to worry about hiring, training, and firing office staff. You won’t have to chase down late payments, make sure the light bill is paid, or order office furniture.

Set schedule:In most cases, dentists working for an MSO can set their hours and compensation. If you like to golf on Friday morning or take Monday afternoon off, other dentists will be covering those hours, so you don’t need to worry that patients will not be cared for.

Freedom:Dentists in private practice work hard to establish and retain patient lists. If they want to go on vacation, they have to make sure their patients are taken care of. If they want to move to a new city, they must find someone to buy the existing practice, and then start over in the new location. Dentists working for a national MSO can simply transfer, while those working for a local MSO can give notice and find a new MSO to join in their new city.

Of course, MSOs do have their drawbacks. Here a few cons:

Corporate profits:MSOs are 100% business oriented. You might be pushed to promote certain products or techniques, and your treatment plans will likely be analyzed, all with the goal of maximizing corporate profits.

Restrictions:If you want to do research or explore cutting-edge dental techniques, you will likely be disappointed. MSOs tend to focus on streamlined, well-proven theories and techniques, and do not give dentists a lot of room to deviate from their standards.

Financial considerations:With the risks of private practice come the rewards. While private practice dentists keep 100% of their profits, MSO dentists have an employment agreement that governs their compensation. If you’re a natural salesperson, you could be leaving money on the table by joining an MSO.

Private Practice

Private practice is the ultimate solution for dentists with an entrepreneurial spirit. Here are a few of the pros:

Control:Everything about your practice is under your control. From the theories and techniques you choose to the lighting design in the office, you need only follow ethics and best practices guidelines, and everything else is up to you. You can hire the staff members who best fit with your style, and train them to your standards.

Flexibility:Running a private dental practice is sometimes an exercise in trial and error. You can run promotions, throw a pizza party, or use other creative solutions to build and maintain your patient list. You can specialize in dental implants or focus solely on older patients. You can even find someone to manage your patients while you spend a month in the Caribbean.

Profit potential:While MSO dentists are limited to their agreed-upon compensation, the sky is the limit for private practice dentists. You might choose to discount your rates to make money on volume, or raise them to maximize per-patient spending. You can negotiate with insurance companies or accept only patients who pay in full. However you choose to do business, you get to keep 100% of your profits.

Private practices do have their downside, though. Here are a few cons:

Location restriction:Building a private practice is a long-term commitment. Should you decide to relocate, you will need to go through the process of selling your practice and transferring your patients, and then start from scratch in your new city. This can be time-consuming and expensive, so it is best to start your practice in a place you’re sure you want to be long-term.

Business requirements:A private dental practice is a small business. You must comply with federal, state, and local ordinances in everything from insurance requirements to zoning laws to building codes. You are responsible for hiring, training, and firing your entire staff. You must deal with late accounts, financing programs, and all of the monthly bills. You might decide to hire a business manager to handle these items day to day, but you are the one with ultimate responsibility for them.

Scheduling considerations:Patients like to visit the dentist when they have free time. Depending on your patient demographics, you might find it necessary to stay open late or provide Saturday hours to keep your patients happy. You might find it difficult to take a vacation, as it could mean shifting patients temporarily to another dentist or risking them deciding to find a new dentist.

Neither an MSO nor a private practice is a perfect solution for dentists. Both have major pros and cons. The best way to decide what to do is spend some time soul-searching to determine which factors are truly the most important to you.

Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.