The ABC's of Your Dental Practice’s Clinical and Financial Success

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 @ 05:25 PM


Unless you studied business before entering dental school, the financial and operational requirements of a dental practice may seem daunting. Through THE NEXTDDS, however, you can access a series of helpful resources in practice marketing, liability coverage, accounting, staff hiring and leadership, and many others. As an Academic Advisory Board member for THE NEXTDDS, Dr. Duke Aldridge recently shared two valuable posts that you should review at your next convenience.

For those of you pressed for time, we’ve broken down some of Dr. Aldridge’s most important recommendations in easily digestible A to Z fashion. There are a myriad of systems, strategies, philosophies, and actions involved in running a successful dental practice, but with this A to Z overview, dental students and graduates can get a leg up on their future practices.


Answer the front desk phone with confidence, enthusiasm, and genuine concern for each and every patient. Callers should not feel like they are talking to a droid from Star Wars.

Brand and market yourself and your practice. Enhance your brand through your work habits, appearance, and demeanor.

Communicate. The number one breakdown in a dental office is lack of communication. The entire staff should be on the same page. Morning huddles are a great way to start the day.

Dental hygiene should account for at least 25% of your practice production. A successful soft tissue program is critical to the success of your dental hygiene program.

Emergency appointments always occur. Be prepared. Evaluate your daily schedule to find time to accommodate emergency needs.

First impressions can establish a long-term relationship. Patients expect “excellence” in all areas. When it is delivered, word-of-mouth business referrals will continue to grow.

Google can be your friend or foe. If not referred, many patients seeking a new dentist check online resources and make a decision on what is posted. Address any known office deficiencies (staff attitude, appointment wait times, office cleanliness, etc.) before you see it online.

iStock_000055038294_Small.jpgHanding-off a patient from the dental assistant to the front desk (and visa versa) is one of the most important interactions in your practice. This time with the patient can be used to explain the day’s procedures, recommend the next dental treatment and make the patient feel at ease.

Imagine the ideal practice, then set goals to create it. Implement well-defined systems to eliminate chaos and reduce stress. Manage your time to schedule the perfect day: productive and profitable.

Keep it real. Consider every staff member as part of a winning team. Delegate authority along with responsibility. Celebrate victories. Reward exceptional practice contributions.

Leverage your stock inventory by checking every cabinet on a weekly basis to make a list of supplies/consumables. Use extra materials so you don’t have money sitting on your shelves.

Marketing (internal and external) is a key component to building and sustaining any dental practice. Track your telephone calls, website visits, and other media channels to determine your ROI. Your external marketing budget should be 3% to 6% of your annual production.   

Numbers count! Monthly Profit and Loss statements will help you find your “magic” number and keep you on track to reach your financial goals and objectives.

Own it. Ask your patients what their biggest concerns are with dental care. Then, stop talking and listen to what they say. Dental practices that continually work on providing the best service are by far the most successful.

Periodontal disease is one of the most “under-diagnosed” infections in medicine. A comprehensive exam should always include 6-point probing of all adult patients. Your treatment plan will be more accurate and your profits will soar.

Qualify your payment policy. Eliminate misunderstandings with a payment policy that is easy to understand and provides clarity. New patients will appreciate your thoroughness by knowing what is expected of them before their treatment.

Reimbursement from PPOs is a substantial part of a practice’s income. Keep on top of it. Look at your fee schedule and renegotiate your fees at least on a yearly basis.

students_662_v2.jpgScripting is an important tool for your staff. Everyone should be on the same page, so they will be prepared to answer patients’ questions while developing a positive rapport.

Turn over your staff renewal rate. The average dental staff member is employed for less than 2 years. Have a clear picture of the type of person you want to hire, their level of experience, personality style, and complementary values.

Undertake monthly training for the entire staff. A well-trained staff can provide solutions to just about any issue that arises.

View yourself as the practice’s CEO (or director of success) and lead by example. Effective leadership is the key to practice success.

Work with a coach to overcome what you didn’t learn in dental school about business.

X-rays, photos, diagnoses, recall, billing, impressions, and many more tasks can be programmed into your practice’s computer system, the core of the business.

Your life work balance is important. Schedule for your success and work smarter, not harder.

Zero-in on your new patient “acquisition cost.” Your external marketing budget should be 3-6% of your annual production.   


Duke Aldridge, DDS, MBA, is an Academic Advisory Board Member of THE NEXTDDS and CEO of Aldridge & Associates, Bend, OR.

Find more helpful information by enrolling in THE NEXTDDS


Tags: dental practice management, dental practice

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