How to Build and Run a Successful Dental Practice

July 5, 2022

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In 2021, 73 percent of dentists owned private practices, a decline from 84.7 percent in 2005. While owning a practice is a common goal for many dentists, developing a practice from the ground up is no easy feat. On top of the need to provide patients with superior health care, you also need to worry about day-to-day operations like billing, technological advancements, hiring excellent talent, and getting the word out about your practice through marketing and branding.

Any one of these tasks can feel daunting when you’re just learning how to build a successful dental practice—let alone balancing all of them at once. That’s why we’re here to help you access the tips you need to not only survive but also thrive within the dental industry. Let’s explore six key priorities that can help you define success at your dental practice and achieve your goals.

1. Identify Your Unique Value Propositions

According to IBISWorld, there are an estimated 196,999 dental practices in the United States. Why should a patient choose your care over another practitioner’s? What makes your practice special?

While many dental practices will have things in common, there are a few ways you can help yours stand out from the rest. Perhaps you offer a niche specialty or an expansive array of services such as sleep apnea treatments. Maybe you’ve had a practice in your area for several decades.

Your value proposition can even come from your people. Do your hygienists have training in soothing patients with anxiety? Have they worked with people across a wide range of age groups?

Whatever your unique propositions are, be sure to communicate them to your patients and team. Not only should you make sure your employees embody your values, but you should also use them throughout your marketing. For example, if you offer specialty care, you could make it the headline of your email outreach.

2. Develop an Excellent Culture

With happy employees come happy patients. Not only are satisfied employees more productive than their peers, but they are also more likely to stay at your practice for years to come. In fact, 74 percent of American and UK workers report that company culture is an important aspect of their job satisfaction, and 58 percent of them say they would leave their current company for a competitor if they felt their culture was better.

Every company has a culture—the sum of its values, behaviors, reward systems, and performance enhancement. Employees and patients alike will pick up on your culture as soon as they walk through the door. So, what do you want it to look like? Do you want to lead by example and with warmth or with an iron fist? Do you want your team to work with you out of fear or inspiration? The happier your employees are with your culture and leadership style, the more likely they are to want to stay with you in the long term. Here are just a few ways that you can improve the culture at your dental practice.

Celebrate Wins

Rewarding individuals and celebrating their accomplishments is an excellent way to not only boost the morale of a specific team member but also encourage the rest of your employees to embody those characteristics. Whether it’s through monthly awards or office parties, celebrations will help people from across departments bond with each other, improving your dental practice as a whole!

Build Personal Relationships with Your Team

Not only should your team know each other well, but you should also strive to get to know each individual. A healthy workplace relies on its leadership, so lead by example. While you don’t have to be best friends with everyone on the team, it’s important to connect with your teammates. Eat lunch together, share experiences, and ask questions about their lives—both inside and outside of the office.

Identify Individual Strengths

You may be wondering how to run a successful dental practice through your culture. Well, it doesn’t hurt to assign work based on each employee’s strengths. According to a study from Gallup, employees are 12.5 percent more productive when given tasks based on their strengths—a significant leap considering it doesn’t require a large chunk of budget or resources.

Foster Work–Life Balance

Work–life balance is a key aspect of boosting the employee experience to make sure they’re as happy and healthy as ever. Seventy-seven percent of Americans who work full time report experiencing burnout at their current jobs at least once, with half of them admitting that they’ve experienced it more than once.

As a result, an estimated $190 billion is invested in addressing the effects of burnout each year. In terms of company losses, disengaged employees can cost employers 34 percent of their annual salary—not to mention the risk of employee turnover! Not only will offering flexible work improve your employees’ well-being, but it will boost your own success as well.

3. Offer Comprehensive Training and Empower from Within

Along with developing a great culture at your practice, focusing on retention through training and promotion is key to empowering your employees and saving money in the long run. By providing your team with ongoing training, you can ensure that they’re well equipped to contribute to your success and express that you’re invested in their personal development. Remember, staff is what makes a dental practice successful, so don’t leave them behind. A 2020 survey of employees revealed training and development is one of the most important job benefits.

Consider implementing the following strategies in your training procedures to give your staff the foundation they need to excel:

  • Create training days dedicated to training
  • Offer shadowing opportunities to new hires
  • Practice patient interactions with staff
  • Prepare detailed and accurate job descriptions for all staff members
  • Offer training beyond the office
  • Provide proactive feedback often

Along these lines, promoting from within can help you maintain the culture at your practice and save money. Do you have a dental office manager who shows promise in hygiene? Consider offering them the opportunity to learn more! You’ll never know just how great someone could be until you allow them to thrive in any context they choose.

4. Define Your Patient Flow

Patient flow is something you must consider as you explore how to build a successful dental practice. The more efficient your flow is, the more patients you can treat in a day, and the more you can grow your practice. From the moment a patient walks through the door to the minute they walk out, the entire process should be as seamless as possible. And don’t forget to consider next steps after they leave!

Make sure your staff knows the procedure for scheduling an appointment, check-in, hygiene appointments, checkout, and following up. For example, proactively asking for all important financial and health information prior to a visit can help save time come day-of, leading to less hassle for both your team and patient. If you’d like to make that process a best practice, be sure to communicate that to everyone at your office. That way, all team members will be on the same page, ensuring everything runs as smoothly as possible!

5. Utilize Technology and Automation

With the right technology, the processes at your practice can be even more efficient and profitable. For example, automation can help streamline operations like lengthy manual tasks, enabling your team to focus on the patient experience.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some of the areas where automation could help.

Patient Intake Forms

Electronic forms can help streamline the patient intake process by reducing effort for both patients and staff. From eliminating check-in time to preventing errors in information, electronic forms can help your practice save time and money on acquiring new patients.

Targeted Campaigns

Continuing to communicate with your patients after a visit is key to retaining them. Whether you choose to send them postcards, texts, emails, letters, or a combination of various outreach methods, automation is essential for making sure everything gets sent on time.

Treatment Follow-Ups

Following up after important appointments is an excellent opportunity to show your patients how much you care about their well-being. By automating it, there’s even less of a reason for your team not to do it. For example, you can send important care instructions through email after an extraction, provide additional resources or references for necessary treatment, and more.

However you choose to use technology, being at the forefront of advancements can help you differentiate your practice from the crowd.

6. Determine Whether Fee-for-Service Dentistry Is Right for You

You may be wondering how to run a successful fee-for-service dental practice. Is it the same as building any other dental practice? The truth is that deciding if developing a fee-for-service office is beneficial for you is key to developing your office. Fee-for-service dentistry means that your services aren’t limited to those that are already covered by insurance companies. You can provide your patients with whatever they need or want in any form—not just what’s offered by their insurance.

While offering fee-for-service dentistry doesn’t mean that your office can’t accept insurance, it might cause you to attract different patients. Because this is a big decision, let’s explore a few of the benefits and drawbacks of adopting fee-for-service.

Benefits

Perhaps the great benefit of fee-for-service is that it’s easier for patients. Instead of relying on in-network dentists or arguing with their insurance, they can access the care they need through you! Running a fee-for-service practice also means that your fees aren’t capped, allowing you to receive a full reimbursement for your services. Plus, if abandoning insurance is something you don’t want to do, you could even adopt a hybrid model!

Drawbacks

With benefits come the possibility of challenges. First, fee-for-service means that patients will see an increase in upfront fees, resulting in the loss of several patients who may not be able or willing to pay. Along those lines, you could lose recurring revenue that is normally gained from capitation fees, as well as the patient referrals that come from insurers. This means you’ll need to cover your own marketing expenses and provide greater patient education for everyone who comes to your office.

Take all of the pros and cons into account as you consider how you want your dental practice to run and function. Deciding how to bill your patients is essential to the rest of your office’s development!

Building and running a successful dental practice takes grit, determination, and a desire to thrive. The good news is that by asking how to build a successful dental practice, you’re already one step closer to achieving your goals and driving profitability. Do you want to learn more about how you can expand your practice to be more profitable and successful? Visit our blog at thevivosinstitute.com/blog, or attend one of our upcoming events—offered both in-person and online!