How to Survive and Thrive in Uncertain Economic Times
The Keys to Maintaining a Thriving Dental Practice in Turbulent Economic Times

"Larry Rosenthal, DDS Class of 1972 Founder and principal of The Rosenthal Group, a highly successful private practice located on the upper east side of Manhattan"

Like all professions, dentistry is seeking innovative ways to survive and thrive in these turbulent economic times. Dentists are fortunate to be independent and our services remain sought after; but although we are not yet in a crisis mode, we cannot ignore economic realities that have produced lower productivity in many practices. To prevent practice productivity from trending further downward, I believe that we need to revisit and review not only how we conduct the business aspects of our practice, but also the quality of the product that we are delivering. To that end, I offer my top 10 strategies for creating a long-term practice philosophy based on reframing your practice's value proposition. Quality and longevity are key, as is establishing personal connections with patients. Patients return to dentists ("brands") they trust because they are not willing to experiment. I predict that implementation of the following components of this value proposition will work to your benefit over the long run.

  • Revisit your practice's recall system. This is a major effort, but it is extremely valuable. There are patients who have trusted you and have remained loyal to you over the years. The treatment you have provided for them in the past has built your "brand." Now is the time to burnish that brand by recalling them to schedule appointments to treat any new unmet needs.
  • Purge your files. Patients who are in transitional treatment plans need to be rescheduled for a visit to your practice. Contact any specialists who are still in the process of treating these patients to check their status. In addition, review old charts and re-examine dentistry that is over 10 years old. There is often a need to create new records for these patients.
  • Review and re-evaluate existing treatment plans. Re-examine these treatment plans using sequential treatment if applicable. Often these patients were given a long, extensive plan that was overwhelming at the time. Perhaps these treatment plans can be sequenced in stages.
  • Hold weekly staff meetings. You need to ensure that all office personnel are on the same page when it comes to providing "Five-Star Service" to your patients. Take advantage of weekly staff meetings to review the level of service you provide; evaluate existing protocols; and perhaps introduce new office protocols. Always remember that service is more important than ever before.
  • Review your fees and adjust them accordingly - up or down. Even in uncertain economic times, there are procedure fees that can be reduced while others might need to be raised. These fees can be broken down for the patient if necessary. We prefer to give a total fee and provide a payment plan.
  • Sign up for Care Credit patient financing or a similar plan. This affords a patient the opportunity to finance many restorative and surgical procedures over a period of months or years.
  • Address the business aspects of your practice. This is often overlooked in the dental profession. You need to evaluate your overhead, including lab fees, staff salaries, office hours, and your fee for each procedure. After you do that, it may be worthwhile to work with a consultant or financial advisor to review the business pros and cons of your practice.
  • Think comprehensive, complete care. Re-examine all emergencies, existing recall, and new patients as they come back into your practice. Spend time making certain that they understand the value of what you are presenting.
  • Conduct staff one-on-ones. Privately ask your staff their views of your existing practice. Let them elaborate on both their positive and negative criticisms and ask them for their suggestions. They know your practice perhaps as well or better than you do.
  • Be proactive - not reactive. Advise dental treatment according to need and not only want. Explain the benefit of treatment before it becomes a problem. Lastly, explain the benefits of a healthier, more beautiful smile, including increased self-esteem and better oral and total health.

I am confident that if you decide to follow these guidelines, your practice will become stronger than ever before. Good luck!