Monday, August 22, 2016


Looking for new team members?  Not the easiest task, right?  Many dentists so dread this process that they retain an unsatisfactory team member or delay hiring an additional person until absolutely forced to do so.

In this and next week’s blog posts, I’ll share some secrets that professional interviewers use and a set of 40 interview questions that you may choose to implement in your office to make interviewing less onerous and more productive.

First, let’s examine hiring “musts”:

Said another way, you want to ask interview questions that stimulate sufficient discussion so you, the interviewer, can access the applicant’s aptitude and experience for the position she/he will fill in your office.  Additionally, you want to know the person, once trained, will have sufficient initiative to carry out job responsibilities without constant supervision. 

You want to interview to get an insight on the applicant’s temperament, communication skills, sense of cooperation, etc. so that you can predict she/he will bring a positive attitude to the job.  It is then up to you, the dentist, and other team members to provide a good office aura/environment that will engender a positive attitude in the new team member.

An applicant who shows aptitude, initiative, and positive temperament/attitude has the best chance of developing into an effective team player, one who will strengthen your group in many ways.

More on this subject next week…..,

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


In case you missed the story and accompanying flap, let me catch you up on the latest example of a department of the U.S. government making mischief.  In this case, the mischief will undoubtedly harm your patients’ oral health and make your care for them more difficult.  A recent report on dietary guidelines and personal health by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has caused a stir by omitting any mention of the benefits of flossing.  How this might affect the public’s attitude toward flossing remains to be seen, but Stephen Colbert may have summed it up best: “Now I can stop flossing. For the last 38 years.”  The American Dental Association has already issued a response reinforcing their continued support for flossing.

According to a DHHS spokesperson, recommendations in their guidelines must be supported by sound research, and the only studies on flossing are “weak” and “inconclusive.”  We understand that government agencies must be bound by their regulations, but we also understand the critical importance of flossing.

To put it simply, flossing is just common sense.  Floss was invented over a century ago because it was clear to its inventor and dental professionals of the time that brushing alone simply could not remove food debris and plaque from between the teeth or sub-gingivally.  Ask any hygienist, and he or she will tell you how easy it is to tell the difference between a patient who flosses and one who does not.  Ask them which one is harder to work on.  Ask any periodontist how many of his or her patients were regular flossers before their first visit to the practice.  Ask any dental professional about the effects of flossing on the incidence of interproximal caries and periodontal disease.

With such widespread empirical evidence, recognizing the benefits of flossing does not, in our opinion, require in-depth comprehensive research, in the same way we don’t need any comprehensive research or government recommendation to tell us that shielding our eyes from the direct rays of the sun will be beneficial to our vision.  We just know it.  It’s common sense.

Suggestion:  be prepared to answer numerous questions from your patients about the necessity of flossing.  Review with your dental team all the reasons flossing is beneficial so that answers to patients will be on the tip of your tongue.  Familiarize yourself with the ADA statement on flossing so that the reasoning included can be added to your armamentarium of information for your patients.  And consistently emphasize to patients the method of flossing and specific reasons flossing is beneficial to them, including less cost for extensive dental treatment, improved oral hygiene including no halitosis, and setting an example their children may follow to keep their own teeth healthy for a lifetime.  


Monday, August 8, 2016


During my years of working closely with hundreds of dentists, I’ve heard every emotion expressed about life after one lays down the instruments and strips off the gloves for the last time.  Some of the commentators were well past retirement age---they’d stayed at the chair out of love for the profession and their patients or, perhaps, out of a slight fear of boredom. Others I’ve known are eager to retire from private practice early to teach in dental schools, to do mission work, to enter an entirely new career field. Still others are forced out of practice by health crises, accidents, financial instability, or such.

I’ve known a dentist who started a small appliance and lamp repair business, and one who started a business doing minor home repairs and installations of appliances, shutters, fans, etc. Yet another dentist partnered with a hand-made furniture artisan, and the pieces they created were so in demand they couldn’t meet all orders.  One fairly young retiree invested in franchises of hand-made pretzels sold in mall kiosks and store-front cubbyholes near college campuses or in downtown sites---last I heard he was having fun and making more money than he had in dental practice.  Another opened a gift shop-garden emporium with her best friend and loved the new career.  One became the captain of a charter fishing boat---talk about a relaxed lifestyle!  Another became a full time missionary for the Christian faith.  On and on---we see a huge variety of new opportunities enjoyed by dentists leaving daily practice for any number of reasons.

Before I tell you about one fantastic change of career made by a dentist/friend, let me assure you that if you’re considering your last days in dentistry, almost 100% of the dentists I’ve known who’ve moved on to another career are happy and satisfied with their decision or their forced choice.  They assure me that there is, indeed, life after dental practice.  

With his permission, let me tell you about the abrupt change of profession forced on Dr. Pitts Hinson who practiced pediatric dentistry in Columbia, Tennessee.  I’ll paraphrase some of Pitts’ words:
  • “Is your life like mine?  I have all the technology toys…smart phone, laptop, desktop, a variety of mobile devices.  Internet, Facebook, Instagram and all the online and social media jargon are part of my vocabulary.  I guess you would say, “I’m wired.”
  • I remember a time in my life when I was “burning the candle at both ends.” I was building my practice, active in civic clubs, present at every event in which my children were involved, attending continuing education courses, participating in professional activities nationwide. Yep, I was really “wired” then too.
  •  Without warning, my world crumbled.  A massive heart attack while on the ski slopes during attendance at a dental meeting said…”It’s time to stop, to slow down, to take a deep breath and not try to be all things to all people.  It’s time to take care of what really matters.” After the life-or-death-several-week crisis  passed, while discussing my “wired life”, a heart failure specialist looked at my family and me and said these words…”All of that ended last week!”  I realized God had blessed my life.”

Pitts turned this near-death experience into a new career, an exciting opportunity to enter the world of art.  The unspeakable crisis through which he and his family passed is now regarded by them as the path to understanding what really matters in life.  I believe they would name family, friends, faith, health, and charity among their greatest values.

Pitts spent months in recovery mode.  While in that more relaxed time, he tried creating pottery, took a few lessons, and realized he had a fantastic gift for the potter’s clay and wheel. Out of My Hands Pottery is the name of his now-several-year-old undertaking.  His home and his studio are in Franklin, Tennessee.  Pitts has garnered awards and acclaim from a nationwide fan base, art critics, art retailers, and consumers, people who cherish his art and display the magnificent pieces in their homes, offices, clubs, and showrooms.

He has added porcelain pieces to his line of pottery, with the latest porcelain undertakings entitled “wired.”  Each piece is actually adorned with wire, a symbol to remind the beholder to, in Dr. Hinson’s words, “Stop, take a deep breath, count your blessings, look around and see what really matters.”

For more information on his life-after-dentistry, highly acclaimed career and to learn about Pitts’ pottery and porcelain creations, contact him at

Monday, August 1, 2016


No matter how hard a dentist and staff work to increase production, it is likely that the practice profit will not rise unless all fiscal aspects of the practice are monitored and managed.  “Earn more” plans must be accompanied by “Spend less” plans for profit to reach potential.

Question:  How can you improve fiscal accountability in your office?  Answer:  Know the numbers you need to collect; know what those numbers mean; and know how to drive those numbers to increase profitability.  To accomplish those goals, set up a template, a spreadsheet, to be completed monthly by an experienced business staff member or your bookkeeper.  Review this monthly monitor at the end of each month---no procrastination allowed.  Ask questions and get understandable answers.  In short, pay attention and understand the whys and wherefores of your practice finances.


Income comparison by actual $’s and by % of increase or decrease over last month      and over year to date (YTD) compared to last year to date.  Break production and       collections into -self-pay, -indemnity insurance; -managed care; -welfare

                        Production this month to last month; YTD to last YTD
                        Collections this month to last month; YTD to last YTD

% of collections to production (To calculate: divide collections for a period by    production for that same period. 97% is minimum goal, not counting managed   care which should be discounted from production prior to calculation of collection % rate.)

Sources of payments

            Cash, checks, debit cards over the counter - % of collections (Goal=30%-40%)

            Bank card payments - % of collections.  (At least annually get competitive bids                           on the merchant rate you pay.)

            Indemnity insurance
                        # claims filed
                        $ amount filed; $ amount collected; % of production; % of collections
                        New insurance providers; employers using those providers
                        Problems collecting claims from providers; reasons for problems, solutions
                        Patient feedback; complaints; comments

            Managed care
                        # of managed care providers; employers using those providers
                        # claims filed
                        Production on managed care patients : to total production
                        Collections on managed care patients---$ amount filed; $ amount collected; %                                       collection rate
                        $ amount written off; % of total practice production written off

            Welfare---monitor points similar to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, & 5th points listed above for                           Managed Care

Write offs  (adjusted off your regular fees)
            Managed care - $
            Welfare - $
            Professional courtesy discounts - $
            Bankruptcies declared by patients - $
            Charity dental care - $
            Bad debt - $

Billing - date; # statements mailed

Accounts receivable (A/R); total $, and breakdown of current, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days,120 days-sent for outside collection action.   
                        Current-50%-60% of total A/R,
                        30 days-15-20% of total A/R;
                        60 days- 10-15% of total A/R,
                        90 days-under 10% of total A/R,
                        120 days-$ in collections

Accounts payable - $

Budget - reconciliation and update; priority needs for cash outlay

A regularly-scheduled monthly meeting with the staff member or advisor who is responsible for collection of this data is minimal for proper analysis and management of the fiscal part of your practice.  Regular analysis followed by corrective steps will mean more money in the bank for you and your practice. 

Monday, July 25, 2016


Most dental offices are exceedingly busy places.  Aspects of a small business with lots of customers and aspects of a hospital with lots of patients are combined and packed into your office every day.  Ideally, the most important aspect of yours or any dental practice is top quality treatment delivered with tender loving concern for patients.  To assure such care is part of your practice, you must have a superlative relationship with and among team members.  And in order to have such a relationship, you, Doctor, must take the time to listen and really hear what your staff is saying to you. 

The following staff survey, Questions about My Feelings and Our Practice, may prove helpful to start the kind of meaningful dialog that enriches a dental team, lifting it to the necessary level of trust and synergism.  Two ways to use the survey:  distribute copies a few days before the staff meeting or staff retreat at which it will be discussed to give team members time to consider their opinions and suggestions; or distribute copies to be completed by individuals on the team and schedule one-on-ones with each person.  Either way, you will receive invaluable input from your team---if you, Doctor, listen non-defensively, hear what is meant, and act on feasible suggestions.

Questions about My Feelings and Our Practice

What do I like best about our practice?
What do I like least?
What are one or two things I would change about our office?
What in the office made me feel stressed recently?
What did we do this week that was unnecessary?
What wasted time or money or energy this week?
What did our patients complain about this week?
What did one or more team members misunderstand this week?
What can we do to fix these problems?  Which should we tackle first?
What three positive things happened in the office this week?
What took too long this week?
What is top priority for our office?
What is top priority for me as part of our dental team?
What do I need to help me do a better job?

What do I tell people when I want to brag about our office?