Dentistry, it’s a risky business

Having spent last weekend at the Dentistry Show, I was struck by the same concern for independent dentists I have had ever since working in the sector, are they ready to take the risks and play the hand they are capable of playing to hold their own in an increasingly ruthless market?

One of the most fascinating exercises we run for dentists, in an attempt to get them to understand risk, is to ask the practice owner to imagine that he has just sold his lovely practice to a corporate for 10% more than he was expecting.

He has agreed to work for the corporate as the principal dentist for the next three years on a guaranteed salary of his last three years income averaged.

The corporate then says to him: ‘Bob, we would like to grow your practice by at least 30% in the next year but we really are not sure how to do this, can you please come up with the 10 things you would change or invest in to deliver this growth?’

Without exception all of the participants love this exercise and quickly come up with 10 cracking ideas.

The question we then ask is why don’t they do these things in their practice right now? It’s a very liberating exercise – you should try it!

Mitigating risk

The overriding driver behind making business, or life, decisions is understanding and mitigating risk.

Risk is not just the reason why people don’t do things, perversely, it’s also the reason why people do them – the gambler loves the adrenaline rush of rolling the dice or waiting for the next card, it’s the anticipation, the uncertainty that drives them on to the next gamble.

We are all risk takers to a greater or lesser degree, we all take risks every day, driving at 85 when the limit is 70. We all get a bit of a rush when we take a chance and it sort of spices up life.

Strangely, not taking a risk can have a long-term depressing effect on your life, creating an irritating merry go round of thoughts in your head when things go wrong or are flat in your life: why oh why did you not take that associate job in Sydney back in 2001? If you had done you would not be in this miserable NHS practice on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in February with a waiting room bursting full of patients…

Your attitude to risk shapes your whole life.

This is an edited extract taken from Moonwalking For Dentists, now available to order at

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