How Long Does It Take to Become a Dentist?

Are you considering becoming a dentist but want to know more about what it takes? How much school is involved? Do you need more than a four-year degree? These are very important questions to ask when considering a career in dentistry. Whether you are just starting out or have completed several courses already, this article will provide a basic overview of what it takes to become a dentist in 2021.

KNOW YOUR WHY

Before starting any endeavor, it’s wise to consider the “why” behind your wanting to do something. This is especially the case with dentistry because it is a rewarding career as well as a demanding one. Consider what draws you to the dental field. Are you interested in how dentistry works? The desire to help people improve their oral health? Maybe you come from a family of dental practitioners and you feel this is expected of you. Whatever the reason, by addressing these questions, you can be prepared for the hours of training ahead with purpose, which can make all of the difference in the long run.

UNDERSTAND THE COST

If you want to pursue a career in dentistry, it’s important to understand the cost. Dental school is a financial and time investment, although, for many aspiring dentists, the benefits outweigh the cost. It is helpful to consider how you plan on paying for school beforehand, for example, and to keep in mind the amount of time that will be required of you. While you most likely are aware of this, understanding the financial, emotional, and mental investment ahead of time often means you are more prepared to tackle setbacks along the way.

EDUCATION AND TESTING

In terms of actual timing, it takes most aspiring dentists about four to eight years of school before joining a practice or starting their own. Most dental schools require several prerequisites, including college biology, physics, and chemistry, before applying for a spot. After you have completed these prerequisites, the next step is to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The majority of candidates take the DAT about a year before they plan on enrolling in a dental school program. After the admissions test itself, you complete the application, which can also include interviews, personal recommendations, and academic evaluations from your GPA and DAT results. Once you are accepted to dental school, the majority of programs take about four years to complete. However, if you are interested in a more specialized field like dental surgery, for example, expect several years of schooling following the initial four years. Each state has specific licensure requirements as well. Review the Massachusetts requirements for dental licensure here.

While the path to becoming a dentist takes time, money, and energy, it is a highly rewarding and fulfilling career. To learn more about the steps to becoming a dentist, your career options, and everything in between, contact Dr. Coughlin at kcoughlin@ascentdentalcare.com.

Which Practice Management Software Should You Choose?

In today’s technological world, it’s not surprising that there are myriad options for dental platforms. Advancement in technology has made it simpler to run, manage and access virtually anything about your dental practice. Most software options popular with dental practices include cloud-based features, making it easy to access charts, appointment scheduling, and billing information from anywhere with an Internet connection. Thinking of trying out or upgrading to a new technology platform for your dental practice? Here are some features you should consider when evaluating which platform to use.

PATIENT RECORD MANAGEMENT

For any dental practice, the patient experience is vital. This is why choosing a platform that is easy to use, accessible and seamless for the patient is so important. The easier your patients can access dental records, scheduling appointments, etc, the more engaged they are likely to be. This kind of customer satisfaction affects not only your reputation but also your bottom line. By focusing on your patient’s needs and experience, you can set yourself up for success both now and down the line. For an all-in-one cloud-based practice management platform, consider Denticon.

ONLINE SCHEDULING AND TELEHEALTH

Given the impact of Covid-19, telehealth has become a matter of necessity for most service-based businesses, and dental practices are no exception. Teledentistry is an option that benefits both your practice and your patients. For your patients, teledentistry offers flexibility when making appointments that might not require in-person evaluation. The option to provide remote dental care gives you the ability to see patients that otherwise may not be able to come in person. Although these services are popular during the coronavirus pandemic, consider keeping them as a service going forward to differentiate from your competition. Teledentix is an easy-to-use, HIPAA-compliant mobile and teledentistry platform option.

REVIEW GENERATION AND MARKETING TOOLS

One of the benefits of technological advancement is how easy it is to market your dental practice. Gone are the days of having to go from door to door or sending out mailers. While marketing is made simpler and easier with the use of technology on its own, a platform that generates features to promote return on investment and/or grow your practice through word of mouth can go a long way. Look for features for software platforms with automated email campaigns, reminders and prompts for patient reviews, and even SEO tips to bring traffic and potential customers to your website. As an example, Dentrix offers these options through their Practice Marketing feature.

QUESTIONS?

If you’re looking for a new dental practice software or want to learn about the benefits they can bring to your practice, now is the time. Contact Dr. Coughlin today for more information and insight on the importance of marketing, growing, and sustaining your dental practice.

Tips for a Successful Dental Practice Website

In today’s virtual world, it’s important that your dental practice stands out and sends a clear message to potential clients. In most cases, your website is the first impression someone will see of your practice. Make sure it’s a good one! Read on to discover some of the most important features of any dental practice website to attract clients and get them in your doors.

RESPONSIVE

Now more than ever, any business website needs to be mobile responsive. Responsiveness refers to the ability to view content on any size screen, like a phone, tablet, or computer. If you only develop the website for computer viewers, mobile users may be frustrated trying to access the information about your practice. This can even lead some to search elsewhere. Since many Americans use their phones to access the Internet, having a mobile responsive design on your practice website is imperative.

CLEAR AND CONCISE

Although most people think they know what to expect when it comes to dental offices, your practice is unique. When you think about what to include on your website, what makes your practice stand out among the competition? Do you offer the newest products and services? Would a potential client be able to understand what you do by the information on your website? These are all questions to address. The clearer and more concise your content is, the more professional and credible your practice appears. That leads to more clients in your business.

SOCIAL PROOF

Social proof refers to using the positive experiences of other clients to boost your image and credibility. You can incorporate reviews from across the Internet, including Google, or ask current clients for feedback on their experience at your practice. The power of social influence should not be ignored. The more social proof your business has, the more you can expect your practice to be shared organically, resulting in more clients for your business. Whether it’s a testimonial section or a client highlight feature, make sure to have some form of social proof on your website for optimal success.

OPTIMIZE FOR CONVERSIONS

All of these tips, especially when combined, make for a website that is optimized for conversions. This means that a client who comes across your practice website is persuaded to book an appointment or just to call your office with questions. On a practical level, including a “Contact Us” box that links to the office email address is beneficial. Go a few steps further and have an appointment scheduling system directly on your website. You can also provide access to any paperwork a client might need to fill out before their first appointment.

WANT FEEDBACK OR IDEAS?

Inspired by these tips and want to learn more about how to implement them? Reach out to Dr. Coughlin today. Ensure your dental practice website is optimized to bring you success and targets your ideal clientele.

Four Traits of High Employee Engagement

Whether you manage your own dental practice or work in one, you know that happy employees make an office more effective and enjoyable. The term to gauge employee satisfaction is ‘engagement’ – how much your staff participates and relates to your practice’s productivity and values. The higher your staff’s engagement, the better results both in your practice environment and on your bottom line. Read on to learn four common traits of highly engaged employees.

PRODUCTIVITY

The first important sign of a highly engaged employee is productivity. If an employee feels supported, motivated and recognized by their employer, they are likely to respond positively in the form of overall excellent performance. This includes excellent attendance, meeting and or exceeding goals and expectations, demonstrating exemplary behavior, etc. It’s easy to see why this would be a benefit to your practice, but it’s really a sign of a healthy working relationship.

ENTHUSIASM

Like productivity, highly engaged employees are enthusiastic and motivated to show up and do their work well. While some aspects of enthusiasm rely on personality, if your employees are encouraged and supported effectively, they will respond with proper motivation. Alongside motivation is discipline, and the two traits often go together. One of the main goals of an effective manager is to encourage and foster self-motivated and disciplined employees.

LEADERSHIP SKILLS

What do most effective leaders have in common? The best management teams also have many overlapping qualities present in highly engaged employees, so it’s probably obvious that team members who exemplify these attributes also make great leaders. If one of your staff demonstrates consistent attendance and top job performance, their behavior provides a great example for other employees to follow. Think about ways to reward such positive contributions to the team and see where such an employee might fit in on the leadership level. Not only does this help create a good reputation among both your clients and staff, it also helps your employees feel valued and appreciated. It’s a win-win for both of you.

COMMUNICATION

Good communication is vital to any relationship, and especially so in the workplace. Highly engaged employees demonstrate the ability and skill to communicate not only with their peers but also those in other leadership and/or other departments. Engaged employees know how to communicate what’s expected of them both personally and professionally, in addition to positively representing their workplace. If your dental practice has an environment of effective communication, your staff are likely engaged in other areas as well.

HAVE QUESTIONS?

Employee engagement plays a big role in the overall success of your dental practice. To find out more tips on how to run a successful practice, schedule a consultation with Dr. Coughlin or pick up one of his books today.

3 Business Resolutions for 2021

As we near the end of a long 2020, there’s no doubt that you are looking forward to a new year. Whether you own a dental practice or you want to implement strategies to boost your success in the coming year and beyond, planning for the goals you have in mind is helpful. Want to know some examples of no-fail “resolutions” you can make for 2021? Read on.

MAKE BIG PICTURE DECISIONS

One of the biggest struggles of any business entering a new year is navigating the balance between focusing on long term or short-term goals. Both are important, and they each have their place in determining the success of your practice. This exercise is beneficial for anyone in your practice, although certainly most useful for those in leadership positions. Consider the daily goals you have for your practice and see how they might fit into a long-term strategy. Evaluate the unique struggles your business might have and brainstorm how to approach them both on a daily basis and throughout 2021 (and beyond!)

DELEGATE

Have you ever found yourself wishing you could hand off some of the time-consuming work to a more efficient employee or team member? Lack of effective delegation is a common issue that most if not all businesses face. If your dental practice is small, for example, are all staff members working as efficiently as possible? Are you spending time doing tasks that someone else on your team might be faster or more skilled at? Have you spent time investing in your employees to figure out how to utilize their skill sets? All of these questions fall under the need for proper delegation. When duties are assigned to the best person for the job, the higher the overall productivity – and subsequently, profit – your business enjoys.

INVEST IN TECHNOLOGICAL TOOLS

While heavy reliance on technology might cause added stress for some people, there are benefits to taking advantage of resources that can ultimately help your productivity. As we enter 2021, do some research into programs that could make your job a little easier. For dental practices, some good examples are systems that manage payroll, HR benefits, appointment scheduling, billing and patient reminders. There are several options on the market, so make sure to take your time doing the research. The right software can give your dental practice the extra push in 2021 and beyond, both in productivity and increasing revenue.

CALL DR. COUGHLIN

Do you want expert advice on how to prepare your dental practice for success in 2021 (and beyond?) Want to avoid making mistakes before they happen and ensure your business resolutions actually happen? Contact Dr. Coughlin directly, or pick up one of his books to start the New Year on the right foot for you and your business.

Boost Patient Care with Flexible Financing Options

Whether planned or not, dental care is expensive. Although most Americans have private dental insurance through their employer or another plan, patients will likely have some out of pocket costs for the majority of preventive and emergency dental procedures.

These added costs are both frustrating and stressful for many Americans, especially given the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on jobs and the economy as a whole. But when a patient needs a crown or replacement filling, it needs to be taken care of. So what can you do to encourage patients to seek care even if it’s tough on the wallet? That’s where flexible financing options come in. Here are three good reasons to offer financing to your patients.

BOOST PATIENT MORALE

In today’s uncertain economic climate, major or even minor dental procedures can be cost prohibitive. For patients without dental insurance, even the cost of an annual cleaning may be too much. If you offer financing as a payment option, your patients can still receive excellent dental care without draining their funds to do it. This is especially important in today’s social and economic environment as a result of COVID-19. There are several ways to incorporate flexible financing into your payment plans.  Popular options from companies like CareCredit include low monthly payments, zero prepayment penalties, and low interest loans. If your patient has poor or no credit, they may still qualify for certain plans if that’s something you feel would benefit your consumer base.

ATTRACT NEW PATIENTS

Another benefit of offering flexible financial payment plans is that it attracts new patients who might otherwise be unable to seek high quality dental care. As stated before, consider the needs of your patients. How might the pandemic have affected their wallets? What options can you offer to assure them of their options even if they can’t afford standard procedures out of pocket? This applies not only to new patients but also to your existing ones.

INCREASE YOUR BOTTOM LINE 

Although it might mean less upfront revenue at the time of service, incorporating flexible financing terms can result in increased profit later on. Why? Because the alternative is that new or existing patients don’t seek dental care even in an emergency because of the potential costs. This not only puts your patients at risk for developing significant dental conditions, but also affects your practice if no procedures take place to generate income. Flexible financing payment plans are practical, effective and beneficial for your practice and for the patients you serve.

CURIOUS ABOUT FLEXIBLE FINANCING OPTIONS FOR YOUR PRACTICE?

Contact Dr. Coughlin today with any questions you have about how flexible financing options can boost your dental practice.

Benefits for your Team

When starting and running your own dental practice, one of the biggest concerns to think about has to do with how to manage your team. What needs do they have? What basic benefits should you cover for your team in your dental practice? Are there any basic requirements? This article will discuss some of those questions.

SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE

In the United States, employers with W2 employees are expected to pay for social security and Medicare benefits. These benefits make up part of your employee’s tax withdrawals on their paycheck.  It’s important to consider social security and Medicare benefits first when evaluating the costs of benefit programs because they are required for any W2 employee.

DENTAL INSURANCE

As a dental practice, offering your team a discount on dental services is appropriate and maybe even expected. There are several ways you could offer dental service benefits. Some practices cover 100% of employee dental services. You could also cover up to a specified amount per employee.

HEALTH INSURANCE

Another standard benefit for most employers to sponsor for their staff is health insurance. The practice’s financial situation often dictates how flexible you can be, but it’s best to consider what options are valued most for your team. If you can’t afford an insurance policy with both low deductibles and low premiums, which option fits with your budget and your employee’s needs? These questions are important to consider. In Massachusetts, health insurance is required, so don’t skip this.

RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS

Most employers offer employees the ability to contribute to a 401K, 403(b), or other form of retirement account. If your dental practice is profitable with a fair amount of room in the budget, matching your employee’s contribution attracts both current and potential new staff alike. Make sure your retirement benefit program works for both you and your team.

PAID VACATION & OTHER BENEFITS

Your team works hard to bring the best dental care to your patients. They deserve adequate, and even generous time off if your budget allows. Do you want to allocate a specified amount of time off up front for salaried employees? Would you prefer an accrual system? Keep in mind the differences and specific regulations between salaried and hourly employees and plan accordingly. For example, a Massachusetts dental practice with more than 11 employees is required to provide a certain amount of paid sick time as part of the basic benefits package.

In addition to paid time off, other “nice to have” benefits might include things like paid family leave, subsidized childcare, discounts to local attractions and businesses, and more.

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

Do you own or manage a dental practice and still have questions about benefits? Comment below or send us an email and we’ll help you out!

Dental Careers

Are you in your late twenties, thirties or even forties and want to start a dental career? Don’t think it’s a possibility? Despite what you might think, there are options for you to get started in the dental industry if you want to do it. We’ll discuss a few steps you can take to make your dream a reality.

RESEARCH DENTAL CAREERS

Whether you’ve worked in several positions and/or industries up until this point, knowing your career options as a dental professional is an important step. Do you see yourself owning your practice one day? Would you prefer the stability of a salaried position in an established practice? Have you considered a career in the dental research and academic space? What kind of dental career track makes the most sense for your life situation, taking any family or other commitments into consideration? You could even ask a dental school admissions officer some of these questions as part of your research.

TAKE PREREQUISITE COURSES

Dental schools do require basic prerequisites for admission. These typically include about two semester’s worth of classes in biology, general and organic chemistry and physics with a lab component. Some schools may also require additional prerequisite coursework like anatomy. It’s also worth noting that shadowing – where you observe the work and practice of an established dentist – is usually required prior to starting or during your dental school course load.

In terms of where to apply, much of that depends on things like location, clinical specialization preferences, community feel, and more. Are you willing to relocate, or do you prefer to attend somewhere close by? What kind of community and/or curriculum do you want? Do you have an idea of the clinical services you’re most interested in? All of these factors play a role in where you decide to apply.

PREPARE FINANCIALLY

Finally, the path to a dental career is rigorous and demanding, both in terms of the workload and lifestyle but also on your wallet. If you’re switching to dentistry from another career, you may have had time to grow resources or savings you can tap into. If your current employer allows it, you can ask if they would be willing to reimburse some of your education expenses.

If you need to finance your dental school education, there are several options you can choose from. They include federal loans specifically for the dental industry, institutional loans, and third-party financing alternatives.

For more information on financing dental school, go to the American Dental Education Association.

WHAT NEXT?

Thinking about a career change to dentistry? Already in dental school but don’t know which career path to choose? Contact us today and we can help guide you confidently in the right direction.

Re-Opening After COVID19

Covid-19 has impacted every global industry, and dental practices are no exception. If you work, manage or own a dental practice, this is obvious. The nature of dental work involves high-contact personal interaction, which puts both you and your patients at higher risk of contagion if you do not implement and follow recommended hygienic protocols. In Massachusetts, Phase 2 of the Covid-19 reopening plan gives the green light for dentists to offer non-emergent services, like routine cleanings. Although we’re just entering the beginning of the “new normal”, is your practice prepared to follow the recommended guidelines? Here’s just a few ideas you can start at your dental practice today to succeed in the re-opening stages.

ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES

Due to the up close, personal nature of dentistry work, most dental practices opted to shut their doors or limit services extensively during the state and nationwide stay-at-home orders. According to the ADA, 79% of dentists closed except for emergency work, and 17% shut their doors entirely. But the fact is that revenue loss from such a drastic decrease in patient visits is devastating for many dental practices, despite the desire to keep everyone safe.

As we move into the “new normal”, work on streamlining your administrative process. You may already do most or all of these things, but here are a few suggestions to implement from an administrative standpoint:

  • Schedule appointments with enough time in between to facilitate proper cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Limit the number of patients and staff in the practice at one time.
  • If possible, consider staggering or dividing the staff into shifts to avoid having to shut the office down if someone gets sick.
  • Prioritize higher risk patients with a specified window of time after you open each day.
  • Call ahead to verify information with the patient beforehand and advise them on what to do if they feel sick before or after their visit.

PRACTICE ENVIRONMENT

In terms of preparing your physical dental practice for higher patient traffic, the CDC has put together a detailed list of considerations specific to dental offices. Many of these guidelines are most likely very familiar to you. However, here are some basic recommendations when planning to re-open — or stay open:

  • Ensure that every staff member has access to personal protective equipment (PPE) which may include face masks, shields, gloves, and protective clothing.
  • Advise all staff and patients to wear a mask when not undergoing dental work.
  • Mark floors, walls or other visible areas to note proper social distance – ie. a floor marker every 6 feet.
  • Place hand sanitizer visibly around the office and implement strict cleaning and disinfecting protocols in between patients.

WHAT NEXT?

The “new normal” will be different in your dental practice than it was before, but you don’t need to feel overwhelmed. Want further guidance in how to ensure success in a post-Covid 19 environment? Schedule your consultation with Dr. Coughlin today.

Questions to Ask Before Offering Teledentistry Services

Over the past several months, social distancing and remote work have become the new normal for most Americans. For dental practice owners, implementing telehealth options to continue operations is in many cases a necessity in order to comply with both federal and state recommendations.

If your practice hasn’t already done so, consider getting your team and patients on board with a telehealth program. Not only does it mean that you can still offer your services, but your patients will also feel appreciated and thought of during this uncertain time.

However, there are some things you need to consider before turning your practice into a telehealth operation. This post will go over just a few of these factors.

HOURS OF OPERATION

The nature of dental work is that many visits are due to emergent scenarios like cavities or an infected tooth. Other patients may only see you twice a year for their checkups. This can make determining standard hours of operations difficult under “normal” circumstances, but remote services add more stress to the issue.

Here are some questions you need to consider regarding hours of operation in a telehealth-based world. By reviewing these and other factors, you can be more prepared for the changes that telehealth services bring.

• Do you want to set aside certain hours for emergency vs regular visits?
• Will telehealth services only be for non-emergent clients? How does this relate to cleanings?
• If your in-person support team are necessary for your business operations, how do their positions fit into telehealth practices? Is there room for them to work remotely if possible?

PROGRAMS

There are many different platforms available for telehealth programs. However, an important thing to note is that not all of the popular options (Skype, Facetime) offer HIPAA Compliant regulations for their video conference services. Platforms that provide HIPAA compliant protected teledentistry services include Cisco, GoToMeeting and Zoom. Since the privacy, protection, and security of your clients is of vital importance, this is an important aspect to keep in mind. It is also likely that some training for telehealth platforms may be needed for both staff and patients, so preparation in this area can be very helpful for all involved. For example, consider training and designating one staff member to be the “go-to” person for all things related to the technical side of telehealth services.

PAPERWORK

Much of the administrative aspect of running an efficient dental practice relates to the proper use, storage, and disposal of patient-sensitive paperwork. When it comes to preparing your office for telehealth services, make sure to go through these questions about paperwork to ensure as seamless a transition as possible.

• Do you offer your patients a disclosure form to receive teledentistry services?
• How do you plan to store paperwork from telehealth visits for record purposes?
• What systems do you have in place to properly secure paperwork if moving them from one program to another?

NEED HELP?

Want to implement teledentistry options during this time of uncertainty but aren’t sure where to start? Dr. Coughlin is here to guide, support and encourage you now and in the future to grow and sustain a dental practice that goes above and beyond. Call us today!