Practice Management for All Dentists
The ADA is here to help you gain essential practice management skills.
Here you'll find an overview of everything presented at the ADA Success program, as well as links to further resources.
Didn’t attend an ADA Success program at your school? Complete and submit this form to learn more about ADA Success programs offered by the ADA Office of Student Affairs.
There is a system to carefully manage the most essential facets of a dental practice. Owners need to develop management systems, and employees should know how to evaluate these systems and understand her or his role in maintaining them. Patient records, inventory, accounting, HIPAA, and OSHA/infection control all have systems in place to keep things running safely and efficiently.
Leading the Dental Team
Regardless of whether or not you are the practice owner, as the dentist, you are the leader of the dental team. A critical component to being a good leader is being able to effectively communicate with your team. Listen, provide regular feedback, and set clear expectations.
Another key aspect to effectively leading your team is defining roles and responsibilities. Who does what, when and where? This will help you improve efficiency, reduce redundancy and waste, and keep everyone feeling confident and focused.
Finally, great leaders lead by example—they “show” rather than “tell”.
Customer Service and Patient Satisfaction
Patient satisfaction comes down to creating a positive experience. Understanding your patient base
can help you to grow it. Excellent customer service
is also key to patient satisfaction and loyalty.
And how do you know if your patients are happy? Many dental practices find it helpful to survey patients
about their experience. Another way to assess patient satisfaction is to monitor what your patients saying about you on sites like Yelp in order to manage your online reputation.
What do you do if your patients are unhappy? How can you tell, and what do you do about it? How you handle patient dissatisfaction
can strengthen a relationship or indicate that it’s time to part ways. Here are some tips for dealing with dissatisfaction:
- Patient complaints typically result from a breakdown in communication. Be open and willing to discuss patient’s complaints or concerns.
- Patients with complaints usually want the opportunity to be heard, to have their complaint acknowledge, or to get an explanation for why something happened. Give patients enough time to fully explain their concern, so that feel as though they’re being dealt with honestly and attentively.
- Research shows that dentists with the fewest complaints spend more time with each patient at each visit. Get to know your patients well, listen actively, and maintain a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Attracting New Patients to the Practice
In addition to keeping your existing patients happy, you’re also going to want to attract new patients to your office. No matter what kind of patients you want to attract, effective marketing is key!
The Basics of Buying a Practice
If you aspire to buy a practice someday, you may wonder: How will I know when I’m ready and where do I start? There are numerous options to buy, and many different configurations for dental practices out there – these are just a few:
- Partner or Group
- DSO buy-in
Other things to consider when buying a practice include:
- Dentist to patient ratio. A good ratio is one dentist to every 1,500 patients. But be sure to look beneath the raw numbers for more information. For instance, if the ratio seems low, find out how many of dentists in the area have the potential to actually be competition. Similarly, if the ratio is high, consider whether the economy in the area is good enough to sustain a profitable practice.
- Why is this practice for sale? The most common reason is retirement. The next most common reason for sale is disability. Another reason is the death of the practice owner. Changing demographics can prompt a sale; for instance, the rents might be skyrocketing because a neighborhood has become trendy, or there might be an upsurge of crime in a community that is experiencing economic decline.
- Unmet need. How do you set yourself apart in the marketplace? Lots of people can’t take time off work to see the dentist. What if your office was the dentist who was open on Saturdays and Sundays? What if you were the dentist who guaranteed a hassle-free insurance experience? You could be the green dentist, or the dentist who partners with a cosmetologist to provide spa treatments.
- Tangible assets. Consider the facilities – Is the size appropriate and is the building in good shape? And what about the staff?
Understanding Dental Benefit Plans
Before entering into a contract with a dental benefit plan, you need to know what types of plans are out there. PPOs, DHMOs, Indemnity and Point of Service are all examples of various types of dental plans you'll encounter.
Dental plans also have various designs:
- Traditional plans - commonly used in indemnity and PPO plans. A traditional plan offers a certain amount out of pocket, covering the rest of the treatment.
- Dollar-based - a maximum dollar limit per year per eligible person. Direct Reimbursement is a type of dollar-based dental plan.
- Limited benefit - a limited plan might cover only preventative care.
- Cafeteria plans - health savings account for employees to pay for certain qualified expenses pre-tax. Health reimbursement and flexible spending accounts are two examples of cafe plans.
ADA and ASDA Student Membership - Most dental students are members of the ADA and ASDA. You join both organizations at the same time. Members receive special benefits and resources to support you during school and help you prepare for your dental career. Learn more about your ADA student membership. You can find information on ASDA at ASDAnet.org.
Stay in touch with the ADA after graduation. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the Member Profile.
ADA Membership After Graduation - After graduation, you can continue your membership with the ADA. The first year is free and most state and local societies also offer reduced dues. If you’re going into a residency, you receive a special student rate and then pick up the free year after your program. Get on your feet and connect with your professional association to help you get there. Learn more.