The Family Dental Practice’s Survival
The family dental practice is no longer what it once was. Being a dentist used to be a sure ticket to financial security, but that is no longer the case. A dentist’s name was scarce on a bankruptcy list, but it is now quite common. To read the Avalon Dental Group Reviews, click here
So what happened to the family dental practice to cause this financial shift? To understand this difficulty, you must first understand what is happening in the dental community. Here are some of the factors that contribute to the high bankruptcy rate among dentists:
The rate of dental caries (cavities) is decreasing. Caries rates are declining due to increased dental health awareness and preventive practices, fluoride in water, dental health education at a younger age, and healthier diets. Furthermore, more people now have dental insurance through their employers or private health plans, so they can get regular checkups, which helps prevent caries from developing. This decreasing caries rate may also imply a decreasing income for a dental practice.
There will be more competition. With more dentists graduating from dental school and fewer dentists retiring (due to their high debt load), the dental market is oversaturated. According to the US Census, 116,000 dentists were practicing in 1970; by 1996 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), that number had risen to 196,000.
According to historical data, there are now (2011) twice as many dentists practicing in the United States as in 1970. Because the population did not double during the same period (203,392,031 in 1970 vs. 310,759,842 today), so there is an oversupply of dentists.
Business practices are lacking.
While dentists today receive adequate training in dental procedures, they are woefully under-trained in business management. Most dental students graduate with student loans totaling $80,000.00 per year of study. They begin as an associate in a dental practice, open a new one, or purchase an existing one. Regardless of how they start their dentistry careers, most graduates begin with close to or more than a million dollars in debt.
The debt, combined with a lack of business training and marketing knowledge, creates the “perfect storm” for potential bankruptcy. If you ask almost any dentist to share their marketing strategy, they will most likely show you their yellow pages advertisement and website.
This, unfortunately, is NOT a marketing strategy. It is ONLY for advertising purposes. To maintain and grow a business, marketing must include customer follow-up, community involvement, networking, online promotion, and other tactics.
What can the Family Dental Practice do to ensure its current and future success?
1. Fundamental Business Practices. First and foremost, dental practice owners must remember that their business must be treated as such. A successful business must have a business plan, a marketing plan, a financial plan, a sales strategy, and an exit strategy. A business professional will develop and write all of these.
2. Make use of a Mentor. Never undervalue the importance of a business coach. “The reason I am successful is that I surround myself with people who know more than I do,” Bill Gates once said. Your mentor could be another dentist, successful entrepreneur, or business owner outside the dental industry. A good mentor shares their knowledge and serves as a guide. Where can I find a mentor? Local business associations are an excellent place to begin (Chamber of Commerce, etc.).
3. Network, Network, and more Network. This includes joining local business community organizations, volunteering on non-profit boards, and attending community events. It also entails getting to know the other dentists in your area and networking with other healthcare providers who may refer clients to you – and you to them.
4. Ongoing education. Many of the treatment options available today were not taught in dental schools. This includes dental implants, bone grafting, and dental lasers. Becoming a “Jack of All Trades” does not imply that you will have to place the implants yourself; instead, you will learn enough information to discuss the benefits and contraindications of implants and then direct your patient to the appropriate treatment. In addition, many dentists now provide cosmetic procedures such as Botox.
5. Keep up with technological advances. Keeping up with technology does not require you to purchase every new piece of capital equipment that hits the market, but look around your office and ask yourself if your chairs are out of date. Is your sterilization unit located next to your dental lab? Do you still use a dark room and dip the x-rays by hand? If that’s the case, it’s time to take advantage of what newer technology offers you and your patients.