Go to the Next Level


OK, so production is up and better than ever. Your dental schedule is predictable, with patients who want to be in your office and in your dental chair. Collections are a breeze, and your financial coordinator has begun to “receive” rather than “take” money from your patients.

Now what? Of course you want to go to the next level. You wonder, “What else can I do? Can I offer more and make my practice better?”

The answer is yes. First, you can—and should—continually expand your education. Invest in advanced clinical training.

Next, train your assistants to be your “other” hands and help you accomplish more. Once you start making a profit, invest in new technology that will make treating patients easier.

Learn how to diagnose your practice. If your business escalates and then drops precipitously like a roller coaster, you should be concerned. This is a symptom that must be treated.

Let’s say you have had a great month. Do the people in your office celebrate too long? Do you lose the desired intensity? Don’t “rest on your laurels.” Just like in a sporting event, let your team celebrate for a day or two, then get back to work.

Avoid the temptation to “coast.” When schedules are full for a couple of weeks, it can feel less urgent to keep working on them. For example, if a hygiene schedule is booked out, we don’t worry much about contacting overdue patients. We leave it until later when scheduling starts to fall apart.

Don’t wait! New patients are vital to a growing practice. Are you marketing to them well, both internally and externally? Do you always have time available for new patients—or is your office “too busy” to accommodate them? Take another look. Perhaps some scheduling principles are being ignored, but this is easy to adjust. You can learn how to schedule the most effectively at a Total Team Training course.

All too often, as an office enjoys success, the team begins to assume “It’s all about us.” While no one person is named, this can be harmful. Remember: The total focus of your dental practice must never change. It’s all about helping the patient.

Recently, a dentist with a very successful practice shared that numbers had dropped and they would not be going to the next level in treatment options. I inquired about their new-patient flow and their hygiene schedules. I then asked the dentist to share a recent story of one of his patients.

At this unexpected reality check, the dentist became very quiet. A few days later, this teachable man called me back and said, “Tawana, our patients still have stories. We were hearing them but not really listening.” Consider that experience while I share another.

Joshua Bell is perhaps the world’s finest violinist. Tickets average $100 to hear him in concert, and his performances constantly sell out. Bell performs on a 1713 Stradivarius violin that cost him $3.5 million.

In 2007, Bell played unannounced in a metro station in Washington, D.C. The people who conducted the experiment were warned by experts that a crowd would surely gather, thus posing a need for added security.

Bell began to play the six most beautiful songs in his repertoire. No one stopped. Soon a thousand people had walked by, captured on video. Everyone was hurrying on because they had other things to do. They did not recognize the maestro, and only a handful of people even noticed him. Why? They were hearing but not really listening.

If we truly listen to our patients, we almost automatically get to the next level. When I visited a dental practice recently, I watched as a man shared how he had never shown his teeth while smiling at his young daughter. He was so ashamed of them.

The dental staff listened and gave the patient hope. He proceeded with treatment and can now show his teeth with confidence when he smiles. The dental practice gained a happy, satisfied customer. Not only is this good “business,” it’s personally rewarding as well.

Author Annette Simmons says, “The missing ingredient in most failed communication is humanity.” As you approach patients each day, do it with humanity and compassion. Listen to their needs—and solve them with expert care—and you will get to the next level.

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Tawana Coleman was a practice development trainer with the Dr. Dick Barnes Group for more than 20 years. She worked with thousands of dental practices across the United States and Europe. The structure that she taught empowered dental practices to dramatically increase production. For any questions, email Tawana at rtcoleman@cox.net.


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