Monday, November 13, 2017


One of my hobbies is collecting quotations, poems, meditations, proverbs, and brief musings from the famous and not-so-famous, from family and friends, from clients, and from books, periodicals and journals. Over the years, I have enjoyed sharing such thoughts with dentists and their team members to be pondered during the few precious quiet moments they may have or to inspire the staff during meetings. I think we dental professionals need food for the spirit, psyche, and brain in order to stay upbeat and fresh as we experience the daily stresses and problems as well as the pleasures and successes of dentistry.

Suggestion: start each morning huddle, staff meeting, and planning retreat with bits of wisdom and humor such as these. Doing so sets the stage, assuring a positive ambiance for productive discussions about practice business while encouraging close interpersonal relationships among the dental team.
On Today...
Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
On Attitude...
Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?
Dennis Mannering
On Leadership...
I learned that being in charge means making decisions, no matter how unpleasant.
If it’s broke, fix it.
Officers always eat last.
Never be without a watch, a pencil, and a notepad.
Stuff happens! Do the job right, but don’t take yourself too seriously.
People want to share your confidence, however thin, not your turmoil, however real.
Find ways to touch everyone in a unit. Make individuals feel important and part of something larger than themselves.
If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception; it is a prevailing attitude.
Never step on enthusiasm.
If you get the dirty end of the stick, sharpen it and turn it into a useful tool.
When debating an issue, loyalty means giving your honest opinion. Disagreement can be stimulating. But once the decision is made, debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.

Colin Powell
A Morning Prayer...
Dear God,
So far, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped or lost my temper. I haven’t been grumpy, nasty or selfish, and I’m really glad of that! But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to be getting out of bed and from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot of help. Amen.

(Many of us who are honest with ourselves)
The Measure of a Person
Not—"How did he die?" But—"How did he live?"
Not—"What did she gain?" But—"What did she give?"
These are the things that measure the worth
Of a person as a person, regardless of birth.
Not—"What was his station?" But—"Had he a heart?"
And—"How did he play his God-given part?"
"Was she ever ready with a word of good cheer?"
"To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?"
Not—"What was his church?" Not—"What was his creed?"
But—"Had he befriended those really in need?"
Not—"What did the sketch in the newspaper say?"
But—"How many were sorry when she passed away?"
These are the things that measure the worth
Of a person as a person, regardless of birth.


Monday, November 6, 2017


Accounts receivable (A/R) is one statistic that is often overlooked when the doctor or practice administrator analyzes monthly reports. Yet this figure represents services which have been delivered but not paid for, money the practice is owed. To personalize the importance of collecting fees promptly, think of it this way: every day you do not collect the fee for delivered care, it is costing your practice money. You do not have that money to pay staff salaries, or for supplies, utilities, or even your own compensation. Furthermore, if you are in debt, you are essentially borrowing money and paying interest to compensate for uncollected fees.

The recommended maximum goal for total A/R is 1 to 1½ month's gross production. Recommended A/R ratios are:
  • Current – 50% to 60% of total
  • 30 days – 15% to 20% of total
  • 60 days – 10% to 15% of total
  • 90 days – under 10% of total
  • 120 days – to outside collection action or deducted from total A/R as a write-off
The overall collection rate in a well-managed dental practice should be 97% or better. Suggestion: check the collection rate in your practice at the end of each month. If the collection rate falls, it is easier to analyze and solve problems on a monthly basis than to allow the problem to reduce collections for a prolonged period. Although all business staff members may collect fees at check out, one business person should be responsible for monitoring the collection rate, generating reports monthly for the doctor's review, accompanied by explanations for any anomalies.

Monday, October 30, 2017


Shortly after I began work in a dental office, following years as a classroom teacher, I heard a practice management seminar leader speak of "pearls" in the title of his lecture. To me that seemed an odd term to use in dentistry, but, as he proceeded, it took only a few minutes for me to realize pearls referred to valuable nuggets of advice on the details of managing a dental practice.
So...let’s look at a few pearls of our own:
  • Review several lists monthly, assigning one staff member to be responsible for follow-up on each report:
    • Outstanding third-party-payer claims
    • Accounts receivable aging report
    • Broken or canceled-not-rescheduled appointments
    • Overdue recare appointments

  • One staff member should be responsible for petty cash, balancing the cash box each month by matching receipts to the amount of cash used that month.

  • Make certain CDT (Current Dental Terminology) codes used to file third-party claims are current. A complete new set of CDT codes is generated annually with additions, deletions, and modifications included. (Go to to order your copy of Coding with Confidence, The "Go To" Dental Coding Guide by Dr. Charles Blair. Dr. Blair’s book is updated annually and contains tips for reducing coding errors and increasing legitimate reimbursement.)

  • Create a written emergency protocol for your office, laminate copies, and post them strategically around the office, visible to staff," But not to patients. Several times during the year role play each person’s responsibility during a real emergency. This is a valuable activity to include in a staff meeting agenda. Address what to do and who to do it for medical, weather, fire, or intruder emergencies. Additionally, the doctors and staff members should program first responder emergency telephone numbers into their cell phones.

  • Obtain new bids at least every other year for:
    • Practice, personnel, and personal insurances
    • Merchant charges paid for patients who pay fees with credit cards
    • Office services such as telephone, computer support, shredder services, janitorial, trash collection, grounds maintenance, gas delivery, dental supplies, etc.

  • Outside the office, determine your personal liability for actions and/or activities of the Boards on which you serve. Even Homeowner Association Board members can, under certain circumstances, be held liable for problems.

Monday, October 23, 2017


Should I hire an associate? This can be one of the most difficult decisions a practicing dentist faces. Numerous concerns may surface as one considers the positives or negatives of adding another dentist to the practice. The dentist may wonder:
  • Do I need/want an associate because an occasional day of "over-busyness" is frustrating?
  • Would changes to the schedule or the addition of another hygienist suffice?
  • If I do decide to bring in an associate, can I find a person who is right for the practice?
  • Will our personalities and personal styles mesh or clash?
  • Will treatment philosophies and modalities be compatible?
  • How will the associate be compensated? a daily rate? a percent of production? of collections?
And on and on.

Specific questions about practice systems must be answered as well:
  • Is the patient load sufficient to support another dentist (general rule of thumb: 2,500-3,000 patients in a typical general practice, 4,000-4,500 in a pediatric practice)?
  • Is the recare system 75% to 80% effective (i.e., do at least 3⁄4 of our active patients return regularly for hygiene care)?
  • Is our show rate (percentage of appointments kept as made) 85% or higher?
  • Is our case acceptance rate at least 85% to 90%?
  • Is our collection percentage rate 97% or better?
  • Are restorative appointments booked out more than six weeks? (Note: giving a patient a series of appointments prevents analysis of scheduling delays because it fills the schedule to the detriment of appointing individuals in a timely way. Make one appointment only at the end of each appointment. Additionally, studies have shown that patients, lay people who do not understand sequencing of appointments, are more likely to break appointments if they know they have another.)
  • Must additional staff be hired to support another dentist?
  • Will the office have to be expanded to accommodate another dentist? additional operatories? more reception space? more parking? What is the cost of adding space?
  • How will patients be distributed? Who will see new exams? Will patients be assigned to one dentist or shared?
  • Will current practice overhead increase significantly to cover the expense of adding an associate? Consider potential increases such as additional staff, extra equipment, more instruments, more supplies, associate's wages and benefits, etc.
Typically, the addition of an associate is a financial drain on the practice for six to twelve months. By the second year, the senior dentist should experience at least 10% profit on the associate's production. In subsequent years, the associate should be producing a minimum of approximately three times her/his compensation.

There are many advantages to having an associate; for example, sharing the daily stresses of practice, professional collaboration, and spreading overhead costs between two or more practitioners. Furthermore, an associate allows use of the office over more and longer days and, potentially, means fewer emergency calls and more time off for each dentist.

Conversely, unforeseen problems between the senior dentist and the associate might surface after actually practicing together for a few months. That makes it vitally important to seek advice of the practice accountant, attorney, and management consultant as you consider hiring an associate. Finally, have your attorney write the employment contract so that all your bases are covered should a split occur.

Interview carefully and talk more than one time to each reference given by a potential associate. Talk with dental school faculty who knew the person during his/her training and with other dentists who have practiced with the candidate in former locations. And remember, no matter how perfect the match may seem on paper, the feelings, perceptions, and vibes you pick up when talking with a prospective associate are most telling and vitally important. "Trust your gut!" may be a crude expression, but it is a valuable tool in making this all-important decision.

Monday, October 16, 2017


Did you know that you might be helping to build clean water wells around the world? Clean water is a cause as dear as life itself, and you may already be participating in providing this life-saving gift.

Millions of people worldwide live in abject poverty without access to clean water, sanitation, or healthcare. Water-related illness and diseases flourish where clean water is not available. In some countries, children do not survive infancy simply due to water-borne disease. Young children are unable to attend school because their entire day, every day, is taken up walking miles to get water for their family. Adolescents die early, again due to filthy water consumption. Adults die early for the same reason. Dirty water is an abomination that can be rectified.

Those facts, and the realization that we could help fix this worldwide problem, led Practicon to decide several years ago to contribute a portion of our SmileGoods toothbrush sales to World Help. World Help is an international charitable organization that, with the help of local people, builds and operates orphanages, schools, healthcare facilities, small businesses, houses of worship, and so on. None of these undertakings would succeed, however, without clean water for the local citizens who participate in and benefit from World Help programs. And so, in addition to other charitable work, World Help builds clean water wells all over the globe.

To date, Practicon has contributed just over $200,000 to fund 12 wells in communities around the world. The latest well is in a small village in Zimbabwe, where it has been pumping clean water since June 2017.

If you buy SmileGoods Toothbrushes, you have contributed to these wells; you have given life to villagers who formerly drank, cooked with, and bathed in filthy, putrid water. I do not use online postings to ask you to consider buying a Practicon product; however, SmileGoods toothbrushes are the exception to that rule. Buy these top quality brushes for two reasons: first, to help with the life-saving work of constructing clean water wells where they are desperately needed; and, second, save hundreds of dollars annually by buying SmileGoods toothbrushes at a fraction of the price you may now be paying.

Remember, you can follow your progress in helping to build clean water wells at Well #13 is under construction now.