Investing in dental tech good for patients and your team

We’ve all seen the articles in dentistry trade magazines and skimmed the ads targeted specifically at dentists with some money to spend. Shiny, exciting new technologies that promise of increased productivity and higher profitability. What’s not to like? Sign me up!

But let’s take a step back and ask the fundamental question – is it really worth it to invest in new technology when what you have already does an adequate job?

Well there are two answers and the both start with an emphatic “yes.” The first yes, is that any investment in new technology is great for both patients and your team members. When it comes to choosing and referring your dental practice to others having a reputation as  a dynamic organization is on the cutting edge with new strategies and tools instills confidence and pride in your customers/patients.

Now what about the tech itself?

Let’s not beat around the bush. Some of the technology that is out there would have been science fiction just a few decades ago. In a recent podcast with Kevin McGonigal we discussed a software-driven product that creates a 3D image of dental procedures. For example you can show a patient the exact method you are going to use to execute a dental implant.

This kind of technology also engages and excites your team as they learn more about these procedures, giving them on-site training. And let’s not forget that a practice that’s tech heavy is an enticement to potential employees. After all, who wouldn’t love to work in a practice that looks forward on a constant basis?

In general employees who know what they are talking about and patients who understand procedures increases  the education component for patients and in doing so, speeds up the process of getting a procedure done. For those sitting on the fence about getting a procedure, the 3D can help push the decision from a maybe to yes and that will have a definite impact on your bottom line.

There really is no downside to investing in good, useful new technology. Because if you’re not, your competitor up the street will and that will leave your practice looking a little dusty and unattractive to new patients.

Setting up a good dental practice same as setting up a good business

“So how do I set up a good dental practice?”

When I meet colleagues or new dentists, it’s the first real question that gets put to me, after the hellos and “that’s-a-nice-shirt-you’re-wearing” chit chat.

It’s a great question. But sometimes the answer I give isn’t exactly what they expect.

The answer, or at least my version of it, is that setting up a good dental practice is exactly like setting up a good business.

My colleague Steve Parker is responsible for that observation and he’s absolutely correct.

So how do you set up a good business that just happens to be a dental practice?

It comes down to focusing on five areas:

  • Leadership
  • TeamBuilding
  • Money (finance)
  • Metrics (measurement for the business and systems)  

Whether you be setting up a sole practitioner office or one in a DSO or MSO, the principles are the same. A DSO will provide the measurement systems and some of the team building tools.  But in the end it’s up to you to provide inspired and inspiring leadership.

But here’s the rub. Most dental school graduates emerge from the hallowed halls of their academe wielding a dental drill like a champion but with a limited business acumen that borders on financial illiteracy.

It may explain why some find the allure of DSOs and MSOs enticing. Much of the marketing and business growth is left to the corporate head offices.

But let’s go back to those factors again, one by one…

Leadership: It’s about the buck stopping with you. It’s about standing behind your team members so they know you have their back. Remember, how you behave sets the tone and atmosphere of your entire practice.

Team Building: Your team can build you up if you build them up. Get them to understand that training is a lifelong pursuit. If one of them learns something in any given day, ask them to share it with the others. Encourage sharing of lessons learned and how they were learned them. In essence, you are their coach, showing them how to do the work, push them when needed and cheer them when they do a superb job.

Money (finance): This one is important if only to ensure a smooth flow of finances to keep the doors open.

Metrics (measurement for the business and systems): This is about where you steer your Good Ship Dental and why you’re doing it. If you decide to focus on getting new children patients, then that is where you’ll point your metrics and determine your success.

Is it really that easy? Well yes and no. Within each of the four areas noted above there are multiple areas for discussion and exploration.

But those four factors are the foundation of setting up a good Dental / Business practice.

If you want more direction on setting up a new dental practice, please give me a call.

Marketing an essential part of running a dental practice

What’s marketing? To most dentists it’s a few ads in some dental mags and the local paper.

Marketing doesn’t seem at the top of the list when running a dental practice but it is invaluable.

I alway like to learn from the best so I talked to Russell Trahan, owner and CEO and President of the PR/PR public relations firm.

He says that the sweet spot for advertising is a mix of social media and print media. Although the allure of TV seems tantalizing for some he cautions that the ROI on that expense may not be worth it. Quite simply, radio or TV is here for a moment and gone the second it leaves the air.

Long term results lie with print and social media simply because after the first viewing consumers can return to them for future research. Sometimes they’ll even tear out a page from a magazine or newspaper – wherever they are. As for social media, the options to save content or bookmarking it is a very common practice.

Trahan also says the size of a practice doesn’t matter. It’s all about name recognition.

Here’s perhaps the most important thing. You really can’t stop marketing and promoting your business. Dental schools are continually pushing new dentists into the marketplace, so new competitors are opening their doors monthly.

How much should you be spending on marketing? Trahan says between $1,000 to $3,000 per month. A good goal is to get your name to pop up when a viewer Googles a term like hometown dentist.

As for print media, local is usually better. But Trahan told a story of a dentist who once bought an expensive ad in Sport Illustrated. As he told it, it made his business profile pop. He was now a local dentist with an advertisement in a national publication. Because of that, he got new business from people who cited the ad when they came in. It was the proximity effect and his clients told him that as well.

So should you be planning your next advertisement in Time magazine? Well, probably not. But you need to continually market and advertise your practice. Because if you don’t, you’re not really open for business.

Profitability rises when focus is on patient

If you begin to think of every hour of your day as billable, you may soon start to believe any time spent away from the chair is a lost revenue opportunity. I understand that. But it’s a trap.

In order to provide the best customer care you have to be rested. So taking time to recharge your batteries is an investment in yourself that you can’t ignore. On one side of the equation you need to make time to be with your family, take a vacation to simply go to a movie. Professionally you can invest your time away from the office in networking events or even conferences.

Although I still love to take in new viewpoints on dentistry, these days I’m often behind a podium more than facing one.

The topics I speak to are all based on the questions that others ask of me. And one of the most common questions concern profitability.

Here’s the thing: profitability isn’t about chasing the dimes. It’s about leading.

There’s a big difference. Managing is about counting the dimes, leading is about growing your business over time. Although they are not mutually exclusive, they are in no way the same!

It’s about being focussed on the patient experience. Every member of your staff must focus on positive patient outcomes and a truly great patient experience. If you’re only focussing on the dollars, you’ll never get there.

For example you already know you have a wide variety of patients in your practice. Developing different customer service strategies for all of them is key toward retaining all of them. Are they positive, negative or neutral? Different types mean different handling procedures. Those have to be developed by you and your team.

On top of that, designing different processes and procedures for every engagement point of the customer’s contact with your practice is essential. Yes, your dental assistants and technicians are important to your workplace but so is your front desk person. Designing and delivering processes for every part of the customer contact chain is key to a positive customer experience and therefore, greater profitability for your practice.

Helping transform your practice into a growing one is what I do and can also do for you.

Please take a look at my Speaking Programs page: one of the topics there will speak to you and your experience. Then speak to me to get started on the road to greater profitability!

Early decisions in a dental career are the most crucial

New dentists don’t often think of themselves as business people. But that’s exactly what they are. Whether you are starting your own practice, buying into a practice or joining an established team as an employee, your decisions are all primarily business decisions.

And the choices you make at the beginning of your career are some of the most important you’ll ever have to make.

When you leave dental school you are ready for patient care. But what about career care? What business prep have you received?  I can tell you that when I left school it was very little and that hasn’t changed much.

I was out on the street with a DDS and not much else.

Thirty-four years later, I have 14 dental offices, 23 dental associates and over 150 employees.

I learned a few things over those years. Today I coach young dentists, so they don’t have to figure out the toughest part of the job  – the business part.

I still practice dentistry day after day. Oral surgery, implant surgery, TMJ, orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics, fixed and removable prosthesis: I do it all. I can do this because I learned how to implement processes and procedures that make the business part work efficiently.

I talk to new dentists all the time and I get the same questions over and over again.

“Do I open my own practice?”

“Should I take over a practice from another dentist or join a corporate practice?”
“What should I consider before signing a contract?”

“How can I research a practice and learn more about it’s potential for growth?”

These are all great questions and I wish a simple FAQ would do the trick. But every dentist’s situation is different. While some are more entrepreneurial, others might prefer to clock in and clock out in time to hit the golf course a couple of times a week.

Defining your goals and then mapping out a career plan to reach them is something I enjoy doing.

If you’re interested in this specialized career guidance, take a look at my dental coaching program and I will help you match your plan to your goals.

Denture solutions as varied as the patients themselves

If a patient wants or needs a prosthesis solution, there are a few good options available.

Although many would prefer a non removable denture solution, sometimes medical history, time and / or clinical conditions and of course expense can work against that option.

When patients consider a denture solution, it is usually with limited information as to the hows and whys of such a procedure.

For example most consider a denture solution to be a one-time mattter which is not true. A removable prosthesis must be relined periodically, which can mean they will have to live without it while this is being done.

Prior to treatment planning, you need a complete review of dental records and the patient’s medical history to date.

The design of your removable prosthesis will start with which type of material should be used, such as acrylic resin, vulcanite, polystyrene, metal, or flexible material. The guide planes and the height of contour of abutment teeth are other important factors.

Whether it is a full or partial denture, the goal is to reduce or eliminate lateral forces and attempt to transmit forces parallel to the long axis of teeth. When designing your prosthesis, consider the necessary support, retention, stability, and esthetic requirements.

When creating treatment plans for full dentures, please make sure you review with your patients the fact that they will need denture adhesive for a more secure fit. The advantage here is if they do not need it, you look good. If they do, they will not be surprised.

I recommend informing patients that ideally, they would benefit from two to six implants on the upper or lower arch or both arches for the best and most secure fit. Mention that the placement of implants reduces the need for relines and in many cases reduces the bone loss caused by resorption due to disuse atrophy.

This is an important concept for your patients to understand: in the time without dental implants, they will have more and more bone loss causing their dentures to fit poorly, causing many problems as well as discomfort.

A word of caution regarding patients who come to you and only want a reline: once you do a reline on a patient who has had dentures for a long time, you will be irreversibly changing his or her denture, which can cause problems.

I strongly recommend that you consider a new prosthesis first so you never touch his or her original denture. I find that patients who have had dentures for a long time develop a feel for them, much like an old pair of blue jeans.

To learn more about helping customers transition to prosthetics and more customer-focussed approaches to dental care, please contact me.

Dental implants good but only in specific situations

Dental implants have grown in use over the years and for good reason. In an ideal scenario, an implant can replace a problem tooth quite well.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the ideal procedure for all patients. There are many mitigating factors to consider before recommending an implant.

First, check the condition of the teeth next to the implant area. If they’re good, then I would recommend proceeding. If not, I would think a conventional crown and bridge treatment would be better.

Here are some common questions and answers that arise during treatment planning:

  • How long will the implant last?
    • Typically ten years or longer.
  • Does implant surgery hurt?
    • In most cases, implant surgery is less painful than having a tooth removed. 
  • How long does implant surgery take?
    • Most of the time, placement of a single implant will take less than fifty minutes.
  • Do dental implants fail?
    • Yes, about 10 percent fail on the lower arch and 20 percent on the upper arch.

Many factors increase the failure rate, but the most common are smoking, diabetes that is not under control, and poor patient home care.

A dental implant cannot get a cavity but it can develop periodontal disease. Other failure factors include poor quality and quantity of bone and putting the implant into function too soon.

Can you place the dental implant immediately after you extract a tooth? Yes, but you have to be able to remove the tooth with as little trauma as possible to provide the implant with the best bone available.

If the dental extraction is completed with little to no damage to the surrounding bone, than in many cases, the implant can be placed immediately.

When discussing the cost of a dental implant with your patient, make certain they understand that at least three different fees may apply.

  • The first fee is the surgical placement of the implant.
  • The second is for the implant abutment.
  • The third covers the placement of the implant crown.

Your patient should be aware of the total cost before treatment.

An implant is a good way to handle a problem tooth in the right circumstances. But a truly successful implant experience includes involving your patient in the entire process, from rates of success to the cost.

This is just one of the best practices I talk about when coaching other dentists. If you want to talk to me about coaching your practice, please contact me.

Being a coach to your patients the best dental strategy

When working with my patients, I’ve come to see that aside from fixing their teeth, I’m also a consultant and at best, a coach to them.

If all I did was fix their chompers, that would get old rather quickly. Helping them change their habits and become proactive in their own care is a very fulfilling process for both them and myself.

As a dentist, I’m looking to establish a relationship with my patients much like a medical doctor.

Your physician talks to you about your health and what you can do to improve it. Same with dentists.

Short term thinking would have it that a dentist should allow poor patient habit to continue in order to profit off of their bad decisions.

But most of us are in the long game as dentists. We want our roles in their lives to be meaningful. We want them to change their bad habits and learn better dental hygiene.

Here’s the odd twist. Despite the seeming financial benefits of letting a patient worsen in their habits, it’s not at all true. If a patient’s dental health deteriorates one of two things will happen. They will either stop going to a dentist or only show up when they need a tooth pulled. Eventually dentures will enter the picture, another one-time solution to dental care. In short, they won’t be a patient of you – or any dentist – for long.

Keeping a patient by coaching them to better personal care will result in a fulfilling long-term relationship, one that, circumstances permitting, will see them as your patient for many years.

So if you want to bring greater purpose to your role as a dentist, become a coach to your patient. It will bring dividends both personally and financially for that matter.

If you want to learn how to be a better dental coach please get in touch. I can be your coach too.

My spring break: going to ‘Excellent’ and talking profitabilty

Even dentists need a spring break. But I’m going to be working during mine!

It’s a good kind of work though: I’ll be talking at the Excellence In Dentistry Spring Break Seminar taking place April 27 to 29 in Destin, Florida.

Even better I’ll be speaking about one of my favorite topics: Process and Procedures to Improve Profitability.

When it comes to building a more profitable dental practice, cutting corners is a short-sighted strategy. Better to invest in processes and procedures that drive the growth of your practice.

Over the course of my 90-minute talk, I’ll outline how I did exactly that in my 14 practices and outline the simple but crucial changes you can implement to make your practice S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

These include:

S scheduling tips that make a big difference to profitability by increasing efficiency.

P production improvements to provide better care and service to patients.

E employee or team member management that drives everyone to want to deliver better results and perform at higher levels.

C collections improvements that will show you how to reach a 98% success rate.

I internal controls to help you manage your practice

A Associates and accounts receivables as a tool for growth

L liability and asset management to protect yourself and your business

So please join me on April 27th at 1:30pm at Destin for my talk and make certain to reach out to talk while there or in advance about how to improve your practice.

See you there!