10 Common Mistakes Dental Practices Make and How to Fix Them


There’s nothing worse than someone coming into your life, into your space, and trying to tell you that you’re doing things all wrong; but, in many cases, such a statement is nothing less than fact, and fact can be a hard thing to hear.

There’s something about truth that when objective, can cut deep, like a sharpened knife. But if we never get cut then we never learn when we need to pull back to avoid the pain. For many dental practice leaders, the words, “You’re doing it wrong,” are right. That doesn’t mean you can’t make things right, however.

According to dental practice consultant, Kevin Henry, who spent many years of his career on the editorial teams of Dental Products Report and Dental Economics, and who recently founded – an education portal for dental assistants – many practices are, in fact, doing this whole dental business thing wrong. Henry discussed the topic during a recent webinar, “10 Mistakes Your Practice Is Making and How To Fix Them,” sponsored by NEA Powered by Vyne.

“The days of us thinking we’re in a dental practice and not a business areearn re doing things all wrong,ne t Practicesionsify underlying problems is mentionrior to claim submission.ith the payer’ and  over. You must know your data, you must know where your marketing dollars are being spent and you must know where you are getting your returns,” Henry said. “The days of just ‘being in a practice’ are over, and that kind of thinking is going the wrong way.”

Instead, practice leaders must ask themselves what can they do well, what can they do better, and what can they do to be better advocates for their patients. Henry says many practices simply do not reflect on such values and instead leave themselves open to the following 10 costly mistakes in the business that is their dental practice.

10 Costly Mistakes

1. Not treating the practice as a small business.

You need a business mindset every day; if you don’t run your practice like a business, it won’t thrive like a business should. Henry encourages dental practice leaders to think of their favorite business. Each of these produces a certain image in your mind, and all are different – Starbucks, Amazon, McDonalds. All are perceived differently. Thus, you need to identify what your core message is and think about how to get that message across to patients.

If you’re going to treat your practice like a business you need to get down to the nitty-gritty details of the practice. You need to fully understand how it functions from front office to clinical areas to the back office and everything in between. You have to understand these areas so that, if there are issues, you can correct course and make improvements to become the business you want your patients to perceive.

2. Not treating your team well.

Your team represents your business and, in many cases, your patients have more interactions with your team members than with you. It goes without saying that you should always treat your staff with respect in front of patients and in private. Encourage team members to provide feedback on areas they see as opportunities for improvement and reward them if their ideas are successfully implemented. For example, if they bring you an idea on how to save money on claim processing or recycling of fillings and it ends up saving the practice money, reward them with a gift card or bonus as a token of your appreciation. It’s a simple way to keep the ideas flowing, it makes everyone feel more engaged, and that leads to improved employee retention. Positive reinforcement leads to greater productivity all around.

3. Lack of a training budget.

Practices need a training budget to stay on top of changes in the industry. Whether it’s practice management, hygiene, insurance, marketing or other areas – you have to invest in your employees in order to reach your business goals. If you’re like most businesses, you’re only using a small portion of the functionality of  your equipment and software. Invest in training your entire team to get the most out of the tools you have in place and make sure to cross-train so that you have back-ups for emergencies or employee turn-over.

4. Not putting yourself in the patient’s position.
The first and last impressions your patients have of your practice is usually occur at the front desk and in the waiting area. How they’re greeted can go a long way in forming their opinion of your practice. Is your front desk staff so busy that they simply direct patients to a clipboard for sign-in, or are they personally greeting each patient with a friendly smile? Think about how you like to be greeted for a business appointment and put that into play in your practice. Do your patients feel valued, or do they feel like they’re running on an assembly line through the practice during their visit?

5. Not being willing and open to change.
Change is scary, but it’s necessary for growth. In business, you need to be aware of your surroundings. Know what practices are opening in your area and what they are doing to attract new patients. Are there things going on in the local economy that may impact your practice? What about major trends disrupting care protocols? Is anything coming your way that might be problematic for the business if ignored? Remember, your way is not always the best way. It’s just a way; there may be better options available to you, but you have to look. Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s the right way or the only way.

6. Not utilizing team members smiles as an advertising tool.
Seriously, the team members of your practice should all have attractive smiles. They should showcase the practice and be usedas a billboard for your messaging. If you do the work for free or at a discount, consider it an investment in marketing your practice.

7. Not including all staff in continuing education courses.
Practice teams should grow and thrive together. No person should be left behind. Invest in everybody’s career, no matter who is on the team.

8. Not attending yearly dental trade shows.
Tradeshows present great opportunities for education and exposure. When you go to a tradeshow, do your homework and research which classes are you going to take and which sessions you want to attend. These events represent a perfect opportunity for the team to earn CEs and bring back new ideas to the practice.

9. Not being transparent with the team about the numbers (salaries not included).
As we discussed previously, you need a game plan and your team needs to understand what that plan is. You and your team need to know the score and sometimes to move the game forward you just need to throw the ball. According to Henry, every team member needs to know if you are ahead or behind, and where you need to go. Share an overview of how the practice is performing, where you’d like to be and discuss how you can all get there as a team. Transparency breeds trust.

10. Ineffective or no use of social media to reach patients.
Obviously, the use of social media in a dental practice can be scary as practices worry about what information they can share and promote without putting them at risk for violating HIPAA. Patient engagement via online tools is critical to today’s successful dental practice. Set up a profile and some protocols then consistently post quality information to engage patients. There are some things to remember, though. You need a signed model release form if you’re going to use images of your patients. Henry recommends practices contact their state dental association and request a copy of the form for use. Don’t rely on Google for these forms as they must be specific to your state and always include the signed model release in the patient’s file.