Should You Hire a Dental Practice Consultant?

Most dentists enter the practice because they have a passion for the work, not out of a burning desire to be a CEO. Yet building and growing your dental practice requires you to be a top-notch business owner, capable of running everything from marketing to human resources, and from bookkeeping to daily operations. You certainly do not need to perform all of these tasks yourself, but you do need enough understanding of each process to tell whether it is working well or needs adjustment. As insurance reimbursements go down and expenses rise, it is more important than ever before to run a streamlined practice that drives profits without compromising the quality of care.

A dental practice consultant can be the solution. While you are understandably attached to certain ways of thinking and managing your practice, a consultant provides an outside perspective.  He or she can take an objective look at the business side of your practice and help you see things in a new way. With a consultant by your side, you are truly poised to take your practice to the next level.

However, hiring a consultant is not for everyone. If you are considering taking this step, it is important to understand some basic truths about what to expect.

Consultants Are Not Miracle Workers

A good consultant will challenge your assumptions and help you see your practice in a new way. However, the hard work of implementing changes will fall on you. In the short run, while you are developing new systems and processes, your workload may skyrocket. Your consultant will likely give you lots of homework to complete between meetings, and you may wonder why you brought this person in at all. Remember that it is the consultant’s job to assess your practice and make suggestions, but your job to bring those ideas to life. In the long run, though, your practice will thrive. Just keep your long-term goals in mind.

Change Begins with You

If your dental practice is struggling, it is easy to blame external factors. Your location is terrible, your staff is lazy, you can’t afford a fancy new machine, or a myriad of other excuses. While some of these may be objectively true, they are symptoms of the problem, not the root cause. As the business owner, you and you alone are ultimately responsible for the practice’s success. Bringing in a consultant is a sign of strength and good decision-making—you are admitting where you need help, and hiring someone with the specific skills and knowledge to fix those areas. Take a deep breath and trust the process, remaining open-minded to ideas that might at first strike you as strange.

Clinical Skill Is Important, But Not Sufficient

Many dentists with struggling practices try to educate themselves into success. Post-doctoral training, clinical workshops in cutting-edge techniques, adding in-house dental labs…all of these things help you to become an objectively better dentist, but have little to no effect on growing your practice. Remember, your patients are not trained in dentistry. Although the digital generation has more general knowledge about various treatment options than its predecessors, few patients are really able to judge whether one dentist’s clinical skills are better than another’s.

Continuing education is always an excellent idea, but to truly take your practice to the next level, you need to switch gears to focus on the business management side. Sometimes it’s as simple as going back to basics: Do you accept the insurances that are most common in your area? Are your wait times reasonable? Do you offer online appointment scheduling? Do you have extended or Saturday hours? Your consultant will analyze all of the little details that could be hurting your business.

Avoid One Size Fits All Solutions

Be wary of dental consultants who want to sell you their practice management “system.” Implementing systematic processes is an excellent thing, but they must be tailored to your practice. Every dental practice has a different patient base and different staff members, all with their own unique needs and desires. Local norms and conventions vary widely, as do individual offices. Look for a consultant that will make the effort to analyze your practice and make recommendations that are tailored to your needs, rather than plugging you into an existing system.

In today’s economy, dentists must run smooth, streamlined practices that provide top-quality care at minimal cost. To achieve this, it is vital to ensure that the business side of the practice is fully optimized. As most dentists are not business experts, bringing in outside help can be the solution. However, a dental consultant is not right for every practice. The points above can help you decide whether it is the right choice for you.

Ascent Dental Solutions is dedicated to helping dentists build their practices. If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact us today at 413-224-2659.

Dental implants growth tied to technology advancements

Although pioneering techniques have always been a part of dentistry, I must admit it’s been fascinating to watch how one in particular has evolved throughout my career.

I’m talking about dental implants. When I did my first implant back in 1983, it took three hours to get a single tooth in place. Back then the process included drilling into the bone to test for bone quality and quantity. The theory was that good bone density meant a good prognosis for a successful implant.

Since then I’ve done thousands of implants and the process has developed quite a bit.

Today, using cone beam technology we can plan the surgery in great detail. The cone beam allows us to check for quality and quantity of bone, height and width of bone without any invasive drilling.

Putting the technological advances in the procedure aside, it’s hard to overestimate how important an advance like implants are to the quality of life of patients. Even a patient with no teeth can have them all replaced.

It used to be a very time consuming and expensive process for a fully edentulous patient. Prior to cone beam technology, patients would wait weeks for treatment prep and planning to be completed. The prep has been since dramatically compressed over the years, resulting in a quicker and much less expensive procedure.

There are some companies such as Implant Concierge that are rather handy for dentists in that they handle all the post cone-beam scan work and create a plan for the dentist to work from. These are online processes that eliminate office work in terms of merging, segmenting and thresholding for the procedure.

What I like about such companies is how they allow dentists to integrate implant work easily into their practice without  stand-alone software, and the learning curve that it involved for everyone in the practice.

Outsourcing this type of work is a good strategy to increase your service offerings without impacting your current business. And because it expands the scope of your practice, it is good for client retention, referrals and your bottom line.  

So if you feel your practice is not growing as fast as it should, consider all the options.

Dentistry plays key role in sleep medicine

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.

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.