Growing your dental practice

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dental practice growth
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Even the most talented practice owner in the world may struggle to grow their practice beyond a certain point. Fortunately, the solutions to stagnation are close at hand. By Tracey Porter

Clinical ability is not always the best indicator of whether those in the oral health sector will flourish or flounder.

Just ask Dental Business Mastery practice management consultants Julie Parker and Ameena Basile.

The pair have over the decades known many a talented and motivated practitioner finding themselves stuck in a holding pattern.  

Basile says while external factors such as lockdowns, higher living costs and other challenges can play a part, the most likely cause is the practice owner’s inability to foster team culture.

“Dental practices often find themselves in a rut when they resist change and fail to implement new ideas. This stagnation leads to complacency, which can affect the entire team’s motivation,” she says.

Parker says the key to sustaining and growing a dental practice lies in recognising that repeating the same actions while expecting different results is counterproductive. 

She says there are three essential rules that practice owners need to follow to ensure continued sustainability and growth in their business.

First, team training has a substantial impact and it’s important to remember that as each team member improves their skills, the overall success of the dental practice also improves.

Second, keeping an eye on the financial health of the practice by tracking and responding to key performance indicators, such as practitioner hourly rates, productive hours, and treatment plan acceptance rates, will provide valuable insights for practice growth.

Third, research also plays an important part, Parker adds. “Listen to relevant podcasts, brainstorm with your team, and seek inspiration from colleagues in online forums. Don’t let the chance of an idea failing stop you from taking any action at all.”

Effective communication is equally crucial, extending beyond patient interactions to include your team. Clear, confident, charismatic, and empathetic communication fosters success as a practice owner, leader, and dentist.

Rebecca VanZutphen, founder, Staged Dental Coaching

Staged Dental Coaching founder Rebecca VanZutphen agrees.

She says mastering the art of communication and delivering ethical optimal treatment plans can significantly impact patient acceptance and, in turn, practice growth.

“Effective communication is equally crucial, extending beyond patient interactions to include your team. Clear, confident, charismatic, and empathetic communication fosters success as a practice owner, leader, and dentist.”

VanZutphen says paid marketing is a lifeline that should never be severed. It’s common for businesses to halt marketing efforts when times are good, assuming a steady patient flow. Conversely, during lean periods, there’s a tendency to cut marketing to save costs, she says. 

“Establish and stick to a clear marketing strategy regardless of business fluctuations. Consistent marketing is the cornerstone for maintaining a steady patient influx, establishing brand recognition in the community, and ensuring sustainable business growth.”

Continuous learning is vital for professional growth, she continues. “Failing to upskill and embrace new, complex clinical skills or experiment with materials and equipment limits your potential. Without investing time and resources in becoming a more advanced clinician, professional life can feel like Groundhog Day. Keep your brain energised and your thirst for learning robust by regularly expanding your scope of practice.”

Julie Parker suggests dentists looking to rejuvenate their practice consider implementing a community education program. This might involve hosting quarterly informational evenings at the practice, covering topics such as the importance of wisdom teeth removal, Invisalign, implants, and the link between oral health and systemic health. 

“By raising awareness of the importance of oral health, this strategy establishes your practice as a trusted source of oral health education in the community,” she says.

“Another one-off strategy involves enhancing patient comfort during regular cleanings. Introduce advanced technologies such as EMS Airflow, and promote improved comfort through social media, pamphlets, signage, and local area mail drops. This can significantly increase patient attendance and convert non-patients into regular visitors, thanks to the more comfortable experience.”

Ameena Basile says over the past two decades, running a dental surgery has become increasingly challenging for dentists, who often spend four days a week in the surgery. Then there’s other responsibilities such as bookkeeping, promotional activities and admin.

Dental practices often find themselves in a rut when they resist change and fail to implement new ideas. This stagnation leads to complacency, which can affect the entire team’s motivation.

Ameena Basile, Dental Business Mastery

Compliance, marketing, and patient expectations have also become more demanding. 

In light of this, outsourcing certain tasks such as online marketing and promotions, can be a wise choice to help dentists achieve a better work-life balance, she suggests.

VanZutphen says it’s also worthwhile remembering that “if you’re the sole rower in the boat, you’re just going in circles. 

“Team involvement is the key to collective progress. Your team, the force behind your business, should be your most loyal fans. Tap into their insights. They know the business inside out. Unearth hidden talents and ideas that could significantly boost business.”

It is also worth checking if any of your costs associated with promotion, marketing, and team training are tax deductible, Basile adds. 

She says there are also often grants available and other concessions that can provide clear financial benefits. 

Additionally, remember that team training enhances team morale, loyalty, and engagement, reducing the need for staff turnover and the associated costs. 

“The advantages of these initiatives are numerous, and it’s a great way to reward your team members without the long-term commitment of a pay increase.”

All our experts stress there is little advantage to navigating your business journey alone.

Rebecca VanZutphen says by hosting an engaging full-day brainstorming and business-building workshop, diving into current business statistics together, or brainstorming ways to boost new patient numbers, practice owners are providing an effective morale boost to their team—a worthwhile effort likely to pay big dividends. 

“This effort will ultimately lead to a better patient experience, increased revenue and a team that feels more valued in the workplace. Enjoy a casual moment over a beer as ordinary individuals, embracing your shared dedication to growing the practice together and delivering exceptional dental care.”  

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