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Want more revenue for your dental practice? Think outside the box!

If your hobby is dentistry and you have another profession that brings in money don’t read this article.

Dentists want to be busy producing fillings, crowns, root canals, veneers and more however busy is not always bringing in revenue to the business. Sometimes being busy is doing the opposite-it is costing the practice money.  Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you spend much time talking to employees about performance issues?  

Absenteeism, tardiness, lack of attention and errors in their work that affect the practice in negative ways causing you a distraction from your patient dental care?

2. Do you have the best communicator for answering your phone?  

The one with an excellent attitude that can build rapport with any caller.   Most dentists have no idea how many would be patients do not appoint due to a bad experience with the person that answered the phone.

3. Do you have too many rules and no availability of appointment times that turns callers off?

Most patients don't bargain for something in a month; they go to the next dentist on the list.  Patients want to schedule an appointment within a week or two (same day if in pain) and they want what they request. If it is a teeth cleaning, make sure it happens even if the patient hasn’t seen a dentist in 5 years. They want to buy where they see the value, and it is up to you to guide them after they come in.

4. Does your business coordinator diagnose over the phone?  

If you tell a patient on the phone that they can’t have their teeth cleaned at the first appointment because they "might have a periodontal disease" you may have many patients say, "I have never had periodontal disease, I want my teeth cleaned!" Getting off on the wrong foot with patients is not the way to sell them on future services.

Before you can rev up production in your practice, you must engage your team and get them to want to give their best work.  A top-notch synergistic team may effortlessly raise production because the team sees value in the work and want to make a difference in the patients' lives.

When you have the best team, thoughts go to doing more dentistry because you have moral support to pursue it.  Want to know the actual numbers of what you have been producing? Analyzing what you and your associates have been producing by running a Production by Code by Provider Analysis report to see what codes (procedures) are bringing in the most dollars answers this question. The report gives you a breakdown of the percentage of the total produced by each code and each provider.

From this report examine what you are doing and what it would take for the existing practice to give you more of the same. For instance, are you diagnosing realistically or are you too conservative fearing to scare patients away.

Statistically, most practices see a return of 45-65% of their production from the recall patients

A dentist friend of mine asked me to look at his dismal production numbers.  It appeared that he diagnosed very little treatment from patients that returned on their recall (continuing care) appointments.

I set up a monitoring system for his Office Manager and asked her to track his diagnosis numbers for a month.  At the end of the month it was not good as the numbers were deficient and one week there was nothing diagnosed at all even though he had examined sixty-five patients.  He confessed that he wouldn’t want to treatment plan for a crown unless the tooth were fractured beyond repair. Unfortunately, he was making the endodontist upstairs a wealthy man with all the referrals of pulpal exposers.

Diagnose teeth as accurately as possible

This may give patients news that they don't want to hear, but facts speak the truth.  Judging patients by their ability to pay is another path that is counterproductive in dentistry.  Patients prioritize differently, and some people want quality health and optimum care no matter what the monetary cost may be.  It is wise to communicate to the patients' treatment options kindly and with compassion but let them decide whether they want to invest.   

A story comes to mind of the "beach bum" that another practice referred to my dentist employer for a toothache. He was described to me as a person who "wants the tooth yanked" said the Office Manager of the practice where he was a sometime patient.  He presented at the practice barefooted in torn shorts and a tee shirt with his hair sticking up all over his head. Yes, he did look like a bum, but upon getting to know him and asking some probing questions, I discovered that he was a twenty-year veteran lifeguard for the city of San Diego.  He had an excellent Delta Dental Insurance policy with 2,000 dollars a year coverage. Someone told him that it wasn't a good policy, so he never mentioned it to his dentist. They never asked either because they were judging him by his appearance.

Bonus: Acquiring new skills is one of the best ways to improve production revenue 

Placing implants has never been more possible for the general practitioner as it is today.  With newer innovative techniques, better surgical materials and instrumentation and great options for restorative work many general practitioners are doing more implants instead of referring the patient to a periodontist or an oral surgeon. 

Being able to offer the patient an affordable superior alternative of implants instead of inferior dentures makes for a "win-win" for the patients and the practice.

Once a patient has established a trusting relationship with their general practitioner it becomes difficult for the patient to want to see a specialist who is a stranger.  Most patients would love to stay with the general dentist for every procedure. That is not always the most favorable choice for the patient and depends on the level of training, licensing and skill of the dentist.

If dentists step out of their "box" and make an effort to learn more valuable skills that they can use to keep their patients happy and as a result bring better production numbers and revenue source into the practice, they can achieve an improved working environment and the practice should thrive.