Monday, July 16, 2018


I know what you're thinking: "What in the world is an elevator speech?" Years ago, I heard this term defined as a brief summary of a company's highlights and strengths, designed to encourage the listener to patronize that business. Now imagine that that business is your dental practice.

Think about the duration of most elevator rides: maybe a minute or so. Try to come up with an equally brief speech that would convince an elevator rider to come to your dental office for care. Speak in headlines. Emphasize such qualities as the gentleness of the treatment, the comfortable aura of the office, the well-trained staff, the dentist’s specialty and CE prowess, new equipment and methods of delivery, your excellent website and social media postings, and so on. Choose a few outstanding facts about the practice and weave them into a brief "elevator speech" that you can use to attract new patients.

A recent personal example: my grandson, a general practitioner, has joined a practice in which laser cavity preparation is used when appropriate. I recently made an unintentional "elevator speech" when I told a friend about fillings being done at his practice without the need for anesthesia. She called his office that day for an appointment. She is more than willing to drive nearly 60 miles to his office to see if she is a candidate for fillings done without anesthesia.

This exercise is most effective when used by team members while they are out and about the community. Discuss the idea with them during a staff meeting and ask that "speech" ideas be discussed at the next meeting. To stimulate participation, consider rewarding each person with a small gift, perhaps $10 or $20, for a new patient referred by that particular team member. Elevator speeches can be fun and rewarding for the practice, for team members, and for new, satisfied patients.

Monday, July 9, 2018


Think about one ultra-successful dentist you know. In addition to excellent clinical skills, what are the strong attributes of that practitioner? Chances are, you might list characteristics like outstanding people skills, a warm, memorable personality, genuine concern for others, and so on.

I was recently shown a note card with a short personal note from just such a dentist—one with very high visibility in his community, noted for being both an outstanding clinician and an excellent communicator as well. The note was sent by the US Postal Service (YES! By snail mail, with a stamp and envelope) to an equally successful colleague. The recipient who showed me this note had saved the card not only for the gracious words, but also for the quotation imprinted on the front of the card:

Rules for Life
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.

Selected from the writings of John Wesley,
Founder of Methodism
The last line printed on the card read, "Compliments of Dr. ___________________."

This small token, memorable and valued, marks the sender as a sensitive, caring individual, just the kind of professional you might like as a close friend, and one to whom you might choose to refer patients. Your colleagues and others in the community who receive a personalized card or note from you would probably feel the same way.

If you have a favorite quotation, scripture, or statement to live by, consider personalizing note cards or your business cards with an imprinted quotation. Recipients will be most appreciative. Further, it is often these small personal touches that mark a dentist as practitioner extraordinaire.

Monday, July 2, 2018


We're all familiar with the "KISS Principle," right? Well, this acronym fits the following idea perfectly. It's simple, it's free, it takes very little time, and it pleases all those involved.

Patients are most comfortable, trusting, and relaxed when they believe they are recognized, appreciated, and warmly welcomed at each appointment. One way to foster this positive impression is for the entire staff to address each and every patient by name. This is particularly comforting for young patients and their parents or caregivers. Dr. Ted Croll of Doylestown, Pennsylvania recently shared this excellent idea with me, giving full credit for its origination to Nancy Cohen, his long-term dental assistant and "right-hand person."

Nancy came up with the idea of writing each young patient's name on the patient's bib. As setup trays are prepared, Dr. Croll’s team uses broad felt-tip markers to print each patient's name on the bib using letters large enough to be seen across the operatory. This allows the dental assistant who seats and prepares the patient to greet him or her by name immediately. The dentist and all clinical staff can then follow suit.

This simple, effective idea adds a warm, personal touch to each visit. Try it with your young patients. Their parents will be impressed.

Monday, June 25, 2018


Many dentists with whom I have consulted declare an annual planning retreat to be one of the most productive days of their year. Assessing this year's work results and activities leads to setting new goals with improved systems for next year. Fall, perhaps September or October, is an ideal time to schedule an all-day planning retreat.

This should be an annual event for the entire dental team, dentists and staff, part-timers included. The event should be held off-site, away from the work-a-day atmosphere of the office, and include a light breakfast and lunch on the premises, with snacks and drinks available throughout the day.

Led by the dentist(s), the practice administrator, or the practice management consultant, the agenda should include reports and input from team members. The session should have a well-planned agenda, written and posted at least one week prior to the retreat. Sharing the agenda before the retreat allows staff members time to consider topics to be included in the day's discussion. Encourage individuals to think through all aspects of the practice and to be prepared to discuss what's working well, what's not, and what needs improvement.

Make certain the team sees the retreat as a special day, with time set aside for expressing appreciation to each other, for assessing how things are going in the office, and for a reality check on the state of the practice. Encourage candid discussion, with no knee-jerk reactions or defensiveness. It is a day to evaluate office activities and systems—scheduling, recare system, production, collections, physical facility, interpersonal relationships, marketing including online postings, the office itself, and any new equipment or refurbishing needed.

An annual retreat agenda must be customized to fit your practice. Consider analyzing the operational systems of your practice by department:

Personnel Department
  • Individual personal success and happiness reports from the past year
  • Interpersonal exercises—a resource person may be brought in to administer these exercises and surveys.
  • Staffing needs?
  • Training needs?
  • Teamwork efforts?
  • Charity/community give-back projects? budget for projects?
Financial Department
  • Production—% growth compared to same period last year; new goal per day, per month, and total goal for next year?
  • Daily production goal VS daily actual average production
  • Collections—% of production collected?
  • Problems; needs?
  • Write-offs—managed care, welfare, bad debt, charity, courtesy discounts?
  • Billing process
  • Accounts receivable—current, 30/60/90/120-day totals; in collections?
  • Daily collection goal vs. actual average daily collections
  • Budgeted needs—new clinical or business equipment for next year; other capital expenditures?
Scheduling Department
  • # days worked; # hours worked?
  • Total # appointments scheduled (restorative and hygiene)?
  • Show rate—% of appointments kept as made for restorative and for hygiene, calculated separately (# seen as appointed / # appointed for that same period)
  • Changes needed so that scheduling pattern works to meet production goal?
  • Records audit—# active patients; # inactivated and reasons? fixes?
Restorative Department
  • # restorative appointments scheduled; # seen as appointed; % show rate?
  • % of diagnosed treatment scheduled? (Tx scheduled ÷ Tx diagnosed and recommended)
  • Restorative is ____% of total production?
  • Lab cases—successes; problems?
  • Inventory control—costs; savings; problems?
Hygiene Department
  • # recare appointments scheduled; # seen as appointed; % show rate?
  • # recare appointments needed monthly to meet 75% - 80% effectiveness goal?
  • Hygiene is ____% of total production
  • Needs in hygiene department—more hygiene chairs; additional staff; instruments; appointment time?
Marketing Department
  • New patient goal — # per month?
  • # new patients last month; same month last year?
  • # new patients year to date? last year to date? growth # and % growth?
  • Website and social media activities—effectiveness; patients’ comments; problems; successes?
  • Marketing plans for last 12 months and for next 12 months—activities; dates; staff in charge; costs; successes; problems; changes?
Agenda items can be omitted or added to suit the needs and goals of your own retreat and practice. Some dentists prefer to omit collection data, working on that issue with their practice administrator or accountant only. Or a dentist can share the daily collection goal with the entire staff, provided the daily costs of running the office are also shared. If a staff member knows the sizeable daily average cost of operating a practice, the collection-per-day figure and its achievement make more sense.

The goal of a retreat is to review all processes used in your practice, evaluating their cost and effectiveness while involving the team in the assessment. The dentist(s) and the staff members will benefit from this team effort, thereby increasing the synergy and cohesiveness with which the practice operates. A retreat is a positive day, a day for enthusiastically reviewing the practice to see if all systems are on GO. Presented to your staff in a positive way, the concept of a retreat will be well received and supported by all team members.

And, bottom line, this review and planning day will benefit your patients, the care and service they receive, and, therefore, the enthusiasm with which they recommend your comfortable, well-run office to others.

Monday, June 18, 2018


In a recent blog, I shared an acrostic about sealants and encouraged you to reproduce the piece to help educate your patients about the efficacy of sealants for primary or permanent teeth. The first letters of each line spelled the phrase: Do Seal Out Decay. If you’ve not seen the acrostic, please see Practicon’s archived blogs.

If you are hesitant to recommend sealants to your patients consistently, let me share a quote from The Journal of the American Dental Association. In a review of the 2016 literature focused on sealants, the article said “available evidence suggests that sealants are effective and safe to prevent or arrest the progression of noncavitated carious lesions, compared with a control without sealants or fluoride varnish.”

Sufficient evidence-based information exists to assure your patients that sealants help prevent and stop caries and are safe for general use. So, once again, I encourage you to do research on the evidence of sealants’ safety and effectiveness, explore the wide variety of brands on the market to choose the one you prefer to use and recommend it with confidence to your patients.