Monday, September 25, 2017


...about germs on the mobile devices used in your office?

In a recent study, experts reported that the average mobile phone has 18 times more bacteria than surfaces in a public restroom. Further, there are over two million germs on a mobile phone at any given time. The same is true for any mobile device, tablet, laptop, etc., including those used in your office. Infection control procedures begin with the recommendation that all such devices used in a dental or medical office be placed in a waterproof, durable case that can be disinfected regularly, preferably by a broad-spectrum disinfectant that kills a variety of bacteria, viruses, and fungi in just a minute or two. Dental professionals are ultimately aware of infection control measures for instruments, equipment, and operatory surfaces. Be sure to include mobile devices, particularly those used in the clinical setting, in routine disinfection regimens as well.

...about educating your patients to disinfect as well as clean their removable oral appliances?

Dental researchers have estimated that up to 80% of removable oral appliances are contaminated with Candida albicans, a mouth yeast infection. Additionally, the pathogen Streptococcus is often found on dentures, partials, night guards, and retainers. Patients should be made aware that toothpaste and a toothbrush can put microscopic scratches on these appliances, making them less clean and more prone to serve as a breeding area for bacteria. Many leading brands of denture cleaners have no effect on pathogens. To assure disinfection, patients should be introduced to products that disinfect as well as clean their appliances. Encourage your patients to disinfect their removable appliances by teaching them the dangers of NOT doing so. Suggestion: emphasize the importance of disinfecting removable oral appliances and win loyal patients for life by presenting them with an ultrasonic cleaner and several packets of an appropriate cleaner at the delivery appointment. Kits of home care paraphernalia, purchased as part of your marketing budget, are available for a reasonable price. I can think of no better way to say “We care!” to your patients.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Thirty-seven years ago, as a newbie in the dental office, I attended a seminar presented by a well-respected practice management expert. After he made one particularly prudent point, he followed with the words, “Do it because I say so, dammit!” That phrase (minus the slang) stuck with me during the ensuing years as a practice management consultant. Although I’ve seldom used that exact phrase (minus the slang) with clients, I’m using it now to urge you readers to do something positive for yourself and your practice.

Many dentists agree that the most difficult tasks in the office are not the clinical decisions and treatment delivery. Rather, the difficulties and stresses come primarily from management challenges—personnel administration, fiscal management including production, collections, and cost control, meeting increasingly intrusive government rules and regulations, personal retirement planning, investment strategies and other financial issues, the reality of managed care and corporate dentistry invading the dental profession, and so on. One publication that addresses all of these issues plus many others with sound advice written clearly and succinctly is The McGill Advisory.

The McGill Advisory is a monthly publication by John K. McGill and Company, Inc. I have mentioned this publication previously, but now I am challenging you to subscribe for at least one year because I say so! I believe you will find The McGill Advisory an invaluable aide in managing your practice. As I write this posting, I have just finished reading the July 2017 issue and found it filled with pertinent, practical ideas and advice in articles like, “How to Provide Cost-Effective Health Benefits to Attract and Keep Your Top Employees”, “Don’t Lose $2,196,000 to this Tax Trap”, and “Boost Practice Performance by Firing Problem Employees Now!” Many other topics are covered as well in the July issue.

Please note: I have no connection whatsoever with the McGill Advisory, its owners, or staff. I simply want Practicon clients and customers to have a variety of sound advice from seasoned, respected management, financial, and legal experts. And I believe The McGill Advisory can add significantly to the information I share with you here at Practicon’s website. For subscription information, go to or call 1-888-249-7537.

Monday, September 11, 2017


There are two ways to increase profitability: earn more and spend less. Many practice management experts place more emphasis on ways to earn more—better scheduling, increased production, more new patients, improved recare system, etc. While earning more is important, control of expenses remains one of the most under-utilized, yet valuable, ways to increase profit. Spending less (saving) becomes a reality only when practice expenses are analyzed and controlled. Dollars not spent go directly to the bottom line.

There are two types of budgeting:

  • Incremental
  • Zero based

Incremental budgeting is familiar to most business/dental practice owners, regarded as next year’s financial plan for the practice. In order to write the budget, a net collection goal for the year ahead is set. Expenses, including monthly operating costs and any capital expenses, are projected. The current year’s production, collection, and expense totals are reviewed, projecting increases or decreases in income and in costs. The budget, covering both income and expenses, is monitored monthly. Only after thorough analysis and justification of numbers that vary greatly from the budget will adjustments be made to the original budget plan.

Zero based budgeting involves questioning every activity in the practice outside of hands-on patient care to see if it is necessary, if it adds value to the practice, and if the cost can be justified. Activities such as marketing, website function and costs, legal, accounting, and management consulting fees, supply costs, lab costs, janitorial and maintenance services, CE costs, acceptance of reduced payments from managed care or government-assistance patients, on and on. Even details such as magazine subscriptions, staff activities and meals, costs of various insurances; merchant fees for credit card use, trash service, cost of telephone service, and so on need to be scrutinized.

In summary, list every activity or function done in the office outside of hands-on patient care. Then ask the following questions to analyze each and decide whether to eliminate, replace, or modify each activity or process.

Six Questions for Zero Based Budgeting

  1. What is the reason for the expense?
  2. Why are we doing this? Why did we start doing this in the first place?
  3. What is accomplished by this activity/process?
  4. Is it still necessary or beneficial for the practice? For staff? For patients?
  5. What would happen if we stopped or changed this activity/process?
  6. Are we getting the best price for services rendered? Are there less expensive alternatives?

An annual review through the zero based budgeting exercise will help keep your practice expenses well controlled. By questioning every activity and cost, there is great potential to save thousands of dollars which will flow to the bottom line in the form of profit.

Monday, September 4, 2017


In past postings, I have recommended books for you to enjoy—histories, amusing stories, business tomes, motivational writings. Several positive comments from our readers have told me that many of you appreciate the suggestions.

An orthodontist friend recently gave me the book, Make Your Bed, Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe the World by Admiral William H. McRaven. And before you ask, “What in the world does that have to do with dentistry?”, I can tell you this book has to do with people, their perseverance, propensity to teamwork, and commitment to excel, to be the best they can be. The work team that reads this book together, seriously discussing and adapting the principles Admiral McRaven presents, will be enriched as individuals and strengthened as a team.

In this short, to-the-point book, the Admiral shares ten principles learned during his training and career as a Navy Seal, principles that are inspirational, motivational, practical, amusing at times, poignant and touching in other instances, and perfect fodder for meaningful team discussions and growth. Originally presented as a commencement address to the 2014 graduating class at the University of Texas at Austin, McRaven relates stories about amazing experiences he has had, tough lessons he has learned, and unforgettable people he has met during his 37 years as a Navy Seal. When first presented, his address went viral with over 10 million views.

I urge you to read this book and to buy a copy for each staff member, reading it a chapter at a time and then discussing it as a group, perhaps during staff meetings. Presented to staff as a gift for their individual enjoyment and for the team’s growth, this book-become-tool will provide enrichment for individuals and team building opportunities for the group. Ten chapters drive home winning principles described in chapter titles such as: You Can’t Go It Alone, Life’s Not Fair—Drive On!, You Must Dare Greatly, Rise to the Occasion, Give People Hope, and Never, Ever Quit. Admiral McRaven’s bold language and graphic descriptions weave his work into a rich, unforgettable story that will, I believe, positively affect each person who reads and shares it.

P.S. If you need additional corroboration that reading and sharing books as a team building exercise is valuable, let me tell you of a meeting I recently attended with the plant manager of Grady White Boats, the ultimate luxury watercraft, built in our hometown of Greenville, NC. For years, the plant manager has insisted that the entire staff of several hundred people read books for their own personal growth and for team building opportunities. She shared with us the list of recommended books that she and other team leaders update from time to time. She is so committed to this concept that Grady White pays a bonus for every book a team member reads and shares with his or her work team. How might you apply her concept to your dental team?

Monday, August 28, 2017


Let’s face it—every minute of every day is not a bed of roses among most work teams, no matter how diligently the leader of the organization tries to facilitate peace and cooperation. Realistic assessment of factors that can exacerbate contention between teammates can help you eliminate problems.

Consider the following points and decide if any sound like problems in your office. If so, discuss the problem with those involved, or, if necessary, seek professional help in resolving conflicts. If not, congratulations—yours is an unusual team.

  • Value differences in individuals can be a source of conflict within a work team. Variations in background, life experience, education, age, and so forth can be a strength or a hindrance. Group counseling with a professional may be necessary to bring about better understanding of one another and why values are different.
  • A key source of conflict within a team may be personality differences that are ignored until they become disruptive, rather than being analyzed and perceived as a source of positive group dynamics. An effective work team must understand that various styles and personalities make the team stronger, not weaker. Suggestion: hire an experienced counselor fluent in the administration of personality inventories to work with your team. Either the Meyers Briggs or the Disc instruments are particularly useful with dental teams. For years, I have seen dental teams heal and coalesce as a result of analysis of personalities followed by clear explanations of one another’s tendencies and styles. Bottom line: if I understand what aspect of your personality makes you act as you act or say what you say, while I may not applaud or agree, I can accept and move on to cooperate with you without hurt feelings or outright conflict.
  • Team members are unclear and therefore at cross-purposes about the practice’s mission, goals, and absolute commitment to care for patients with world-class, extra-mile service. It is up to the dentist/leader to clarify, articulate, and emphasize these important areas.
  • Conflicts over job status or unfair administration of compensation may flare from time to time. Consider several ideas to avoid such problems. Use of the term coordinator rather than manager for the leaders of the business area, the clinical area, or the overall practice describes the role and eliminates the concept of boss among staff peers. From Day 1 of employment, all staff should be instructed in the importance of maintaining confidentiality about their compensation package (wages and benefits). Additionally, compensation should be administered fairly, according to training necessary for the position, experience, skill level, work output, efforts toward teamwork, and general attitude of each individual.
  • Poor communication from the dentist/leader to all staff members can cause misunderstandings and conflicts. Also, poor communication between staff members, particularly “front” to “back” and vice versa generates problems. Communications can be strengthened by more frequent team meetings, including regular monthly meetings, morning huddles, and area meetings in which business staff meet together while clinical staff meet together to address their particular work processes.