The Business of Dentistry

Why are some dentists struggling to make ends meet while others are absolutely flying?

I’ve asked myself this question many times over and have yet to come to a conclusive answer. The truth is that deep inside I know the answer but I just fail to believe in it.

The way I work within my practice is very much determined by the way I think and the way I think is very much determined by my attitude to dentistry as a career. I’ve discovered that my attitude is very much a product of the mindset I have formed over the years. The way you think is largely determined by past experiences and ideas you have formed in your mind. These ideas we choose to accept in our mind as reality whether or not they are correct or true.

I am not referring to the clinical practice of dentistry – rather the global idea of how a dental practice works. Obviously clinical practice is quite specific, for example – 2 mm of bone is required on the buccal aspect of an implant for there to be no recession and adequate soft tissue attachment. That is a fact and one based on clinical evidence and trials – but the business of dentistry is not based on clinical evidence and trials. Everyone is different – and everyone has a different view on how to manage and maintain a dental practice.

I have been brought up to believe that if you work hard and get a degree at University you will be successful. I chose a career in dentistry because I was fascinated by the mechanics of dentistry and wanted to work with people – I’m a people’s person. This made dentistry the perfect fit. So when I qualified I assumed I’d automatically be successful. This was not the case. What I was taught at University had nothing to do with running a successful dental practice. What I was taught at university had everything to do with how to be a good dentist – clinically. Specifically.

The rest I had to teach myself through painful trial and error. And I am a very slow learner… Everything I have learnt I’ve taken years to get right.

The business of dentistry is not taught in dental school. The business of dentistry is taught through painful trial and error deep in the trenches of private practice. Experience counts and learning from others who have gone before you is paramount to your survival and ultimate success.

After 20 years in the so-called trenches of private practice I’ve discovered that learning from others who have gone before and who have been successful is so important. But what’s equally important is who that person is – it’s no use learning from someone who is struggling themselves to make ends meet and to run an efficient practice. Finding the right mentor can make or break the future and success of your dental business.

Dentistry is a business and we have to treat it as one. This is not what I was taught at dental school but it is what I have come to realise is true.

We spend so much time trying to improve ourselves clinically so that we can offer our patients the very best treatment available in today’s modern age and we are very good at this. It makes us proud to be able to offer these treatments and we should be proud we are bettering ourselves and helping our patients get the best we can deliver.

But is the remuneration adequate for the hours and hours of postgraduate study we put in to improve the scope of our clinical skills? And are we charging our patients fairly and adequately what we deserve to be charging? And is our business running efficiently – in a way which makes us want to come to work every day?

These are the questions which I think about and the ones I continually try to find the answers for.


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