Monday, January 14, 2019



A recent article in Dental Product Shopper included a report on the first six months of the 2018 Dental Technology Census. That survey, continuing throughout 2018, is a summary of how thousands of practitioners view technology as a necessary addition to their practice.

Overall, through June 2018, 66% of respondents agree that technology allows earlier detection of dental problems. 68% of respondents agree that various technologies allow them to be more certain of treatment processes in complex cases. Over 50% agreed that the use of technology increases practice profit. And over 40% of respondents said they plan to invest $75,000 or more in technology during the next year.

Among other details reported:
  • 27% of surveyed dentists own digital impression systems and another 19% plan to purchase a system within the next year.
  • Almost 50% own lasers with an additional 10% planning to purchase within 12 months.
  • In particular, soft tissue lasers are gaining in popularity as education has allowed dentists to become more comfortable using them.
  • The most commonly used technology in dental offices now includes ultrasonic scalers, intraoral cameras, digital x-rays, and updated practice management systems.
  • In addition, cone beam x-ray systems are becoming a necessary tool in practices placing a high number of implants.
Many patients now look for a dental home that uses advanced technology and up-to-date methodologies. They see these on television and online, or hear about them from friends and family members who are seen in other offices, or read about them in health news publications. If your practice lags behind in these advances, these patients may well seek care elsewhere.

Carefully evaluate the technology you consider adding to your office as you consider the initial cost of the equipment plus the cost of educating yourself and team members in its use. Do not jump on the proverbial bandwagon just to keep up with what you think other practitioners may be doing, but do keep an open mind and be willing to invest in the implementation of new technology when it fits your practice and your patients' needs.

Monday, January 7, 2019



As an alternative to in-person case presentations for extensive, complex treatment plans, dentists are starting to understand how effective a virtual video consultation can be. The dentist can record the consultation in layperson's language uninterrupted, concentrating on the patient's needs. The patient can then watch the video whenever it's convenient, and concentrate on the treatment the dentist is proposing.

Models or sketches on which to demonstrate treatment needs, photographs showing results of similar treatment on other patients, alternative treatment proposals, even fees, can be presented in a 10 to 15 minute video. The patient can learn about all aspects of the proposed treatment and review the virtual consultation as many times as necessary, even showing it to a spouse, partner, or other family member who may have a role in acceptance of the proposed treatment.

Suggestion: Discuss the concept of virtual case presentations with your team. Weigh the pros and cons. Would your patients accept or reject this alternative? Consider the profile of your patient population—would older patients, used to in-person communications, accept the virtual presentation, or be turned off by it? Would younger patients like the opportunity to see their case presentation in the comfort of their own home, with no need to schedule another office appointment?

Talk with a videographer or your in-office IT staff who could record your case presentations and distribute them to patients—do they foresee any problems? When calculating the cost of producing virtual consultations, be sure to include the savings resulting from not have to schedule an in-office consultation.

After thorough evaluation, you and your team may choose to try virtual case presentations with a few patients—or you may just reject the idea as not appropriate for your practice. Either way, you will have retained an open mind as you evaluate this new and different method of involving patients in their own oral health decisions.

Be sure to check out our Free Resources for Your Practice for additional insights, information, and practice management tips.

Monday, December 31, 2018



Did you know that more than 15% of dental practices experience embezzlement during the owner's career, with an average loss of $100,000? Beyond the financial losses, these practitioners also suffer the gut-wrenching anguish of betrayal by a trusted, often long-term member of the practice team. They cannot understand what would have led an employee who had been like family to commit such a crime.

Prevention is the key to keeping this criminal act from devastating your practice. Talk with your accountant or practice management consultant about preventive measures to make theft of money impossible. Either of these advisers should be familiar with the ways embezzlement can occur, such as taking cash as it comes across the front desk, posting payments incorrectly, writing bogus accounts payable or patient refund checks, colluding with supply vendors, etc. They will help you implement the safeguards needed to protect your practice.

Several years ago, while consulting with dental offices in two different cities, I found two methods of embezzlement. In the first office, a patient had come to the office to pay the balance of her account in cash. The account was flagged "Paid" while the cash was pocketed. At the time, the dentist did not check that day's production and collection printout against the daily bank deposit, so the money was not missed until the patient happened to come into the office again to ask why she had received another statement when her bill had been paid in full. I overheard the conversation, and with further checking found the problem. What a sad day for the doctor and other team members.

The second case involved paying bills for the practice. Twice monthly, a trusted staff member wrote checks to cover accounts payable for the practice. She would bring the dentist a stack of checks to sign with billing statements or copies of statements attached. The dentist, trusting all was in order, would sign the checks as quickly as possible, without checking payees or amounts paid. Once he began reviewing each check to see if it matched the attached statement, two things stood out. Some of the checks were made payable to fictitious suppliers whose company names he did not recognize and some checks in the second set written that month were identical to checks included with the first set written earlier in the month. The embezzler had simply deposited the checks into accounts she'd opened in fictitious names.

So please implement safeguards against embezzlement if not already in place. Don't let this ugly crime affect your practice.

Be sure to check out our Free Resources for Your Practice for additional insights, information, and practice management tips.

Monday, December 24, 2018



Perhaps you've attended a practice management seminar this year in which the speaker challenged you and your team to set a stretch goal for growth in production for 2019. Good idea—go for it. Keep in mind, however, that growth in production alone will not result in increased profit. Growth in profit requires sound management, well-organized business systems, and constant monitoring. Please consider the two resources described below to help move your practice from poor/fair to excellent on the practice management scale, thereby assuring increased profit.

First, subscribe to the best practice management newsletter on the market, The McGill Advisory. Month after month, this publication from the McGill & Hill Group includes ways to manage all aspects of your practice and control personal finances wisely, as well as other resources to help you meet your goals. The information in The McGill Advisory includes practice management advice, dealing with personnel issues, money-saving ideas, marketing methods, adviser selection, and so on, to help you streamline your office management systems. Common-sense recommendations also enrich your private life, with such topics as financial and tax planning, family matters, practice transitions, and retirement planning. A one-year subscription is $297. This could be the best money you'll spend in 2019 to help you get a handle on managing both your practice and personal financial situations.

The second suggestion is free from Practicon. Why free? For over 35 years, I have enjoyed working as a resource for dentists in all stages of training and practice. I have written scores of articles, dental textbook chapters, educational pamphlets, and a wealth of letters for use by dental offices. I have developed forms, designed interpersonal exercises to help teamwork come alive in offices and dental schools, and adapted the wisdom of generations of business writers and human resource experts to serve the dental profession. I love and respect the profession of dentistry and its practitioners, and now I have the opportunity to give back as a way of saying "Thank you for the support you've given to me and to all of us at Practicon." You are welcome to use any and all of the material posted on Practicon's website: forms, letters, spreadsheets, detailed explanations of all aspects of managing and monitoring the business side of your practice, etc. So visit Practicon's Free Resources for your Practice site and choose from six topics to find the information you need to manage your practice to its maximum potential.

Monday, December 17, 2018


Want to find out how well your practice is meeting patients' needs? Conduct a Patient Survey. An annual survey is an effective way to show patients on an ongoing basis that you value their input and opinion. So why not begin the annual survey for your practice in January 2019? Use that first month of the new year to get patient responses as they come for appointments, and post the survey on your website to poll those not scheduled in January.
An effective survey should accomplish four goals:
  • Tell you what patients want so that you can implement their preferences when feasible.
  • Tell you what patients like best about your office so that you can continue and even emphasize the positive features.
  • Alert you to what patients do not like about your office so that you can stop or modify those negatives.
  • Engage patients, letting them know that you and your staff care about what they want and how they feel about your practice.
Customize the following example survey to include the information you want to get from your patients. Conduct the survey for the entire month; any longer is not effective. Organize the responses by subject so you and your staff can evaluate all input and prioritize any steps that need to be taken. Implement changes where practicable, and be prepared to explain the reason(s) that some suggestions cannot be addressed.
Remember, a survey is successful as a marketing and management tool only when input prompts action. Avoid using the survey as a feel-good exercise with no intention of implementing suggestions received. Patients regard a survey that results in no action as a marketing ploy, an undeserved attempt to gain their trust.
We are constantly looking for ways to improve out practice. Please take a few moments to answer these questions. We value your opinion and want to be responsive to your needs. Thank you!
Are your calls to our office answered promptly and courteously? Yes___ No___
Are your inquiries requiring a response from Dr. Jones or one of our staff members returned promptly or as promised? Yes___ No___
Are our hours of operation convenient for you and your family? Yes___ No___
When you made your last appointment, how long did you have to wait between the day you called and the day of your appointment?
Type of appointment:__________ Time elapsed:________
When you arrive for appointments, are you greeted immediately and courteously? Yes___ No___
Do you find the parking lot, entry way, reception room, patient restroom, and treatment rooms clean, attractive and comfortable? Yes___ No___
What type of music do you prefer to hear while you are in the reception room?
Are there other amenities in the reception area that you would appreciate?
Do you have any suggestions about how we can improve interaction and communication with you and other patients?
Are your oral health condition and treatment needs clearly explained to you by the hygienist and/or the dentist? Yes___ No___
Do you feel free to ask questions of the dentist, the hygienist, or any other staff member? Yes___ No___
If our schedule is running late, did you receive an explanation from a staff member? Yes___ No___
Are our fees and financial arrangements adequately explained? Yes___ No___
Are billing statements clear and easy to understand? Yes___ No___
What do you like best about our practice?
What do you like least about our practice?
How can we improve that aspect?
What do you suggest to improve your appointments and our service to you in the future?
Will you recommend our practice to your family and friends? Yes___ No___
If not, why not?
Please comment about any other topic you feel is pertinent to your care and comfort in our office. We appreciate your choosing our practice for your dental care, and we want to be your dental home for years and years to come.
We sincerely appreciate your interest and the time you have taken to help us make sure our practice is on a constant track to better satisfy your needs and preferences.

Be sure to check out our Free Resources for Your Practice for additional insights, information, and practice management tips.