If you are fresh out of college, it is a good idea to start by working in a reputable dental clinic or a hospital setting to build your expertise and network in the field. For those who are further along in their careers and are considering forming an independent dental office, there are a few key things to consider.
Between 2012 and 2022, the dental industry is expected to grow by 16%, as independent dentists continue to open their private practices with dental support organizations (DSO). Increasing demand has also resulted in increasing the annual incomes of dentists. For instance, a dentist can earn up to $149,310 annually, and this is expected to increase in the coming years.
Owning a dental practice also comes with many responsibilities and selling your practice is no easy task, so you should check in to make sure that you are mentally and physically prepared to take on the added responsibilities. Unless you plan to hire a team of dental assistants to help run your clinic, you will be solely responsible for providing oral healthcare to your patients and all administrative aspects of the business – including daily operations and maintaining stock.
Because most patients walk into a dental clinic with high expectations, it’s up to you to offer them cutting-edge, patient-centered services. Granted, a majority of patients make a trip to their local dental clinic for cleaning and filling cavities. However, a significant number of patients are also likely to come for cosmetic enhancement services to improve their smile and hygiene, such as veneers or whitening. Best practice is to clearly define your scope of services on your business website and materials so that prospective patients know what you offer. After all, when a patient isn’t pleased with your services, they could leave a negative review on your business page.
If you are employed as an independent dental practitioner, you are expected to pay as much attention to your business as you do to your patient’s health and care. This has the dual advantage of helping your business to grow and running a smooth clinic. We have created this beginner’s guide for you, so that you can run and administer your dental practice independently.
Common mistakes to avoid when running a dental practice
If you are passionate about your career and want to take it to the next level by starting your own dental practice, you should always weigh the pros against the cons. What’s more, this will help you to avoid the common mistakes that can hamper your business success:
(A) Insufficient capital
Owning a private dental practice may give off the impression that you have a lot of money under your belt, but most of the time appearances are deceiving. Most dentists are motivated to open their practice to avoid the reduced income offered by private and public hospitals which doesn’t properly compensate them for their skills and qualifications. They tend to think of their future practice as an opportunity to make more money.
While you may accumulate wealth in the long-term, make sure that you have enough money in the short-term to rent a hygienic and sterile location for your practice. Next, you will need to renovate the site to make it look professional and invest in top dental equipment. (If you are short on cash, you can request crowdfunding or similar ventures to gain money for your clinic.)
You will also be required to pay for staff training and wages. If you do not have enough money or income to do this, it may not be possible to sustain your practice, unless you come up with a savvy investment plan to maximize your capital and savings.
(B) Failing to advertise your practice
Imagine that you own a cutting-edge dental practice and it is offering the highest quality services, but you are still not getting any patients. What went wrong?
To reach your target audience and put yourself on the map, you need to advertise heavily. Through social media networks and platforms, you can broadly disseminate patient testimonials, photos, and videos of your clinic to attract potential patients. Use incentives and promo codes to boost your promotional efforts and you will find patients booking an appointment with your practice in no time.
(C) Prioritizing the wrong patients Use your specialization and scope of practice to target the right patients. For example, if you offer cosmetic enhancements you don’t want patients approaching you for a root canal. It’s important to be clear and specific about the services you offer.
Additionally, if you are marketing your clinic as “family-friendly,” you should arrange for family waiting areas and a child minding service. You might also consider arranging a small tuck shop or canteen.
(D) No system for online appointments
Many prospective patients expect a dental clinic to feature an online appointment system. Lacking one is not only unprofessional and inconvenient, but it leads to walk-ins and administrative hassles. The steps to running a successful dental practice
Starting a dental practice is a surefire way to boost your success, advance your career, work independently, and receive proper compensation for your skills and credentials. If you are serious about getting started, Beacon Dental Partners recommend the following steps:
1. Secure funding for your clinic
Opening a clinic is becoming increasingly common in the US and it is becoming easier to secure funding for this, particularly through dental support organizations. Alternatively, you can obtain a bank loan or seek out an investor. Major lenders in the industry specialize in preparing comprehensive financial and budgetary plans for dental practices, so you shouldn’t be shy about working with a lender.
It is also important to consider the costs associated with the process: i.e., rent, equipment costs, training costs, salaries, and other miscellaneous expenses. To help you make your payments easily, you should work with a lender/bank that promises a low-interest rate.
2. Refurbish your clinic
Hire an interior designer – with experience in clinics – to create an appealing layout and design. They will present a list of colors, furniture, and design options to help you envision your clinic. The ambience of your dental clinic is crucial to your patients, as it makes them feel comfortable, relaxed, and welcomed in your space.
Beacon Dental Partners recommend being selective with the color theme, choosing neutral (earth-tone) colors while adding pops of colors through accent pieces. Make sure that your color preference doesn’t clash with your office lighting.
When shopping for furniture, make sure that you invest in the best dental chairs in the market. Low-quality dental chairs are not only uncomfortable, they often do not include stands to keep your dental equipment nearby. Purchase a quality sofa for your waiting room to maintain patient comfort.
3. Hire the right team
One of your top priorities is to hire the right team for your day-to-day operations. For instance, if your aspiration is to expand your dental practice, then you should hire experienced dental surgeons or dentists. Make sure that your dentists are experienced in performing several dental procedures accurately, and look into their credentials (and reviews) before hiring them. Make sure that you hire a department head to oversee your residents and nurses and the overall operations of your clinic.
4. Focus on patient retention
Patients are the most crucial part of your practice. Tied to this, a well-managed dental office influences patient retention rates. If you have recently transferred from a hospital facility to a private practice, then you should encourage your previous patients to visit you at your new clinic.
Retaining patients involves more than providing convenient dental services. You should build rapport, discuss interests, and emotionally connect so that they look forward to their next visit. When they leave, offer them free goodies and a dental kit that features your practice’s name and logo.
5. Offer flexible financial options
If your ambition is to run a successful dental practice in your local area, you should offer flexible payment options to your patients. This will enable them to accept more dental care and treatment recommendations from your clinic – improving their health outcomes and increasing the likelihood that they will return. Complementing this, your practice should accept dental insurance from a majority of your patients. For those patients who don’t have insurance, you should offer them a convenient way to settle their fees (e.g., in installments).
6. Use modern dental equipment
Using state-of-the-art dental equipment and dental techniques will enable you to retain your previous patients while attracting new ones to your clinic. It demonstrates that your practice is technology-forward – that it is equipped to offer solutions to a multitude of dental problems under one roof. This allows you to focus on improving patient care, which is crucial for the growth of your practice.
Starting a private dental practice comes with its share of responsibilities and considerations. However, an ambitious dentist can follow these steps to open their clinic, grow it over time, and ensure its sustainability. In this beginner’s guide, we discussed the common mistakes to avoid prior to opening a dental clinic, as well as the important steps to take to ensure the success and growth of your clinic – for you and your future patients.