The seven sins of dental practice

One of the surprising benefits of becoming a trainer in the VDP scheme has been the necessity to prepare regular short tutorials on different aspects of dentistry.

The daunting prospect of having to present to someone fresh from university when it has been 24 years since I qualified doesn’t go away, but trying to put a general practice slant on the presentation helps. Perio, endo, crown and bridgework, cariology and orthodontics are some of the topics I’ve covered and currently I’m working on the business side of running a practice. This is one area where we aren’t inferior intellectually to the new graduates, as we’ve learnt by our mistakes and flown by the seat of our pants!

I’m focusing on the seven deadly sins best avoided when setting up a general practice. As with the other topics I’ve covered, I’m constantly surprised by the vast amount of information I’ve forgotten and will probably benefit more than my VDP in the long run!

1. Lack of vision

The most important thing is to visualise your dream practice and write down where you want to be in five and 10 years’ time, the type of dentistry you want to do and how many days you want to work. This vision will ultimately give you the direction to reach your destination more quickly.

2. Not having a plan

Just as a builder has a series of architect’s drawings, so also do we need a plan to set up and regularly reassess. We need to look at marketing and systems for all areas of the practice, as well as further training to add to our productivity and profitability.

3. Failing to understand business

One area we were poorly prepared for was the business side of dentistry. Finance, cashflow, accounts, personnel management, communication skills and customer service are all areas where we need control, but often we’re too busy working in our practices when we should be working on our practices.

4. Focusing on restorations not relationships

New dentists in the flush of graduation are eager to restore when they should be spending more time building relationships. The quiet times during start-up are ideal for both relationship-building and positioning one’s self in the community. Ensuring the staff do likewise is just as important.

5. Surrounding yourself with mediocrity

It’s important when we’re starting out to economise for survival but one area we can’t afford to do this is in staffing. The old adage that your staff can make or break you is true. Similarly, accepting mediocre patients who dictate how you practice is an anathema. Surround yourself with a winning staff to attract great patients and do a great internal marketing job, asking for referrals to build a winning practice.

6. Failing to set and monitor goals

Goals could also be called ‘dreams with a deadline’. Most successful sports\’ stars set and reassess their goals during their quest. We need to follow their example, measuring our progress.

7. Failing to accept 100% responsibility

We’re all prone to what I call ‘excusitis’, blaming others for our failures so we don’t feel bad. However, we are the leaders of the practice and the buck stops with us. We must take responsibility.

We need to take control of our practices, and constantly reassess these seven areas in order to be the best we can be and improve both our profitability and quality of life.

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