Make Dentistry Great Again


Practice the Best Dentistry for You and Your Patients.
In the last year, everyone has heard the phrase “Make America Great Again.” Regardless of your personal political affiliations, that slogan forces each of us to ask a very basic question. Are we satisfied with the current state of affairs, and if not, what can we do about it?

This is an especially important question for today’s dentists, who should ask themselves, ‘Am I happy with the current state of my practice, and if not, what can I do about it?’ The last decade has seen huge changes in the dental industry. The emergence and growth of corporate dentistry is threatening the single practitioner/owner model that has defined dentistry for the past century.

In addition, legislative and insurance changes are complicating the regulatory environment in which dentists are forced to compete. New technologies and materials are expanding the scope and scale of treatment options for patients at a rapid pace. And finally, patient expectations and the Internet are changing the doctor–patient relationship in profound ways. With all this change it is easy to understand how some dentists might be wishing for the good ol’ days.

One of the biggest stresses in dentistry is and has always been productivity. Too many dentists work a long day only to find a low production number at the end of it. The problem isn’t really production, though—it’s a problem of perspective. If dentists become locked into doing only what insurance companies will cover, or based on preconceived notions of what patients will pay for, they will struggle.

To make dentistry great again, dentists should be comprehensively diagnosing and presenting all the great solutions that dentistry can offer to patients. Implants, full arch reconstruction, splint therapy, sleep dentistry, and enhanced cosmetics are but a few of the options dentists can explore.

If you find that you are dissatisfied with your practice, I issue the following challenge: diagnose and present a full arch reconstruction case this week and every week thereafter to a patient who genuinely needs it. Learn to see it!

Don’t prejudge patients on their ability to pay. Just present the case in terms of value and confidently quote the fee. You’ll be surprised at how great dentistry becomes when you are doing the life-changing dentistry that makes each month more productive than the last, and patients are happier, too.

This issue of Aesthetic Dentistry highlights a life-changing case by Dr. Thomas P. Shortell. His patient, Jack Peavey, underwent a full mouth reconstruction, and the results were more than satisfying for both doctor and patient (see the article “Tackling Jack’s Smile” on page 14).

Another common feature among those who are dissatisfied with dentistry is a daunting feeling of isolation. When you’re in a single provider practice, it can feel like it’s just you against the world and the competition is everywhere.

Dentistry can only be great, however, when you have the right support structure. If you don’t currently have a mentor, find one. Being able to talk with someone who knows your struggles and has found answers is key to being able to navigate the challenges that we all encounter. Bring your staff on board by sharing with them your philosophy of always doing your best.

Finally, making dentistry great means providing a great product for your patients. If you constantly look for the cheapest and fastest way to do things, you’re operating solely on a price-driven strategy. Following the lowest price may mean that you are busy, but not necessarily productive, and certainly not satisfied—nor is your staff happy with low wages.

Dr. Jim Downs offers a membership plan for patients who want to receive the highest quality care, regardless of their insurance plan—or lack thereof. To read Dr. Downs’s story, see “Join the Dental Membership Club!” on page 22.

Dentistry becomes great when it is value-driven. I recommend using the formula “Value = Benefits – Cost.” The key to the formula is making sure that the benefits outweigh the costs. If so, then the treatment has value for the patient.

Seek to become a dentist who offers the results that patients just can’t get anywhere else. That means offering the best techniques and the best materials for the best outcomes. Then you’ll become the go-to dentist for life-changing dentistry. And dentistry will become great again for you and for your patients.

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Dr. Dick Barnes is the leader in practice development for today’s cosmetic practice. A graduate of Marquette Dental School, he began his general dentistry practice in Rialto, California. As his practice, skills and reputation grew, he became known as one of the world leaders in cosmetic dentistry. In addition, Dr. Barnes taught at Loma Linda University and the University of Southern California, at their respective dental schools.


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