Becoming a dentist takes hard work, determination, and an extreme amount of skill and intelligence. After hours of grueling coursework, clinicals, and working with other medical professionals, you can be sure a career in dentistry is one of the most rewarding there is. Once you become one of the 200,000 dentists in the United States, finding work can be as easy as applying to a myriad of different dental offices. However, some dentists choose to be their own boss, and begin running a dental practice on their own.
Owning a Dental Practice
Running a dental practice is similar to running the more than 30 million small businesses in the United States. A dental office, like other medical offices, is a business that operates to give goods to customers. In this case, the goods and services you offer are dental care and dental health treatments. It’s important to not get flustered when starting a business, and to sit down and make a plan to improve your small business. Medical offices can be highly successful, but only if you put in the research and effort to make it profitable and reputable.
What Goes into a Business
You might be thinking, aren’t all medical offices already reputable? Isn’t it a given I’ll have customers walk through my door? On the contrary, even if you’re the best dentist in town, it still takes a little bit of work to make customers aware of your practice. Furthermore, certain factors, like where you operate and what others say of your practice all affect how many customers come to you. Here are 15 tips to use to get you started on running a dental practice. Remember, utilize the best partners, get the best help, and never stop striving to make your dental practice the best one in your area.
1. Get an Accredited License
Though you might be trained as a dental hygienist, this alone isn’t enough to start running a dental practice. If you’re still in college and thinking about starting your own dental practice one day, understand that dentists go through years of medical school and ear their DDS or DMD in dental school. Likewise, a dentist is trained to deal with the teeth, gum, nerves, and the jaw, while orthodontics is a specialty within dentistry that focuses on correcting bites, occlusion, and the straightness of teeth. Consider which path to take, and learn the proper way to be licensed in order to practice general dentistry.
2. Get a Mentor
Running a dental office takes lots of know-how, planning, and networking. Who better to tell you about how to run this business than a dentist or orthodontist that’s been running a successful practice themselves? It’s always a good idea to get a mentor in order to help teach you the ropes and give you advice on how to run your dental practice. Not only can this help you in improving your business, but also in helping prepare you for any problems you might face. Difficult patients, issues with billing, and hiring staff are all issues that a mentor can help talk you through and overcome.
3. Make a Business Plan
Before you start running a dental practice, you must ask yourself how committed you are to your business. How long will you be open for? What is your timeline for opening your practice? Will you be practicing alone, or will you team up with other medical professionals as well? What about an exit strategy? Though it’s rare that a dental office doesn’t succeed, when a dental practice doesn’t take off the ground, it can prove costly.If it helps, you can also talk to a business consultant before starting to run your practice.
4. Talk to a Realtor
It’s essential for your office to be located in a great location. Location is everything in real estate and business, and this is especially true when it comes to attracting customers. Take into consideration what your customers are going through in order to reach your practice. They must take time out of their busy schedules to come to your office, and sometimes wait for hours until their procedure is done. Afterward, they can be drained, and don’t want to navigate through a complicated city just to get to your office. Make sure you have ample parking available for your customers, have it near other convenient shopping centers, and also make it easy for your clients to get to.
5. Do Market Research
Marketing is an integral part of any business, and without doing proper internet marketing research, you can be sure your business won’t be as successful as it could be. Marketing research involves conducting surveys or other methods of questioning your customers to see what they want. Do they want a dentist who is warm and friendly, or curt and gets the job done quick? How much do they pay for services? What do they want an office to look like? All these questions can be answered before running a dental practice through simple research. Doing so can guarantee you have a leg up from the competition and ensure that you are giving better prices, services, and care to your patients than they are.
6. Save Up Enough Beforehand
Don’t underestimate the cost of starting a dental practice. Though you can secure financing and get the help of a medical practice loan to start your business, it still takes cash up-front to build your office. Usually, this up-front cash amount ranges in the $500,000 range. It’s important to budget for supplies, equipment, hiring on new employees, and even to help market your business. For example, choosing a digital marketing firm will be much better in helping get your practice off the ground than marketing on your own. But, you must pay for the services of this firm on your own. Still, it’s better to pay for professional help than not!
7. Purchase Tools
Every tool as its purpose, and this is true even in dentistry. The types of tools you purchase will vary on the services you offer. For instance, doing dental makeovers require a variety of supplies such as X-Ray machines, crowns, veneers, dental implants, and cosmetic braces just to name a few. Chairs that are comfortable enough to seat your patient, lights, suctioning tools, dental drills, and everything in between all cost money. Make a list of your most-used tools, and tools you think will make a difference when caring for your patients when doing your budget. Get in touch with a dental equipment specialist to help you in running a dental practice successfully.
8. Get All Proper Licensing
Getting proper licensing doesn’t just mean finishing medical school. Licensing varies from state to state, and also sometimes city to county. It’s crucial that you get your credentials before starting your practice. Not only can you face serious fines, but you can also risk closing your practice if you are not properly licensed. This includes having a national provider identification number, registering with the DEA, and handling all tax paperwork as well. In addition, it’s imperative you earn credentials to begin accepting both private and government insurance.
9. Advertise Your Dental Practice
Like any business, in order to attract customers, you must advertise your business thoroughly and to a big audience. Some marketing ideas for dental office include putting advertisements online, networking with local doctors offices, and reaching out to insurance companies to let them know to refer you to patients. In addition, you can also reach a big local audience by advertising on television and radio. It’s important to hire an advertising professional when running a dental office. You can be sure they know exactly what times to air your ads, how long they can be, and know what to say to attract the most attention.
10. Update Your Design
Though you can have a great medical practice team, offer the best services, and know exactly how to reach out to customers, there’s something about an out-of-date office that just doesn’t sit right with patients. Decorations that are out of style, uncomfortable seating areas, and lack of entertainment for children are all things that can cause a patient to never come back to your office! Reach out to a remodeling company to update the design of your office. Enlist the help of professionals to install TV’s, and have an office that clients look forward to visiting.
11. Have a Great Customer Service Team
A business is nothing without great customer service. A customer service team can help you take your business to the next level, and let customers feel welcome and keep them coming back for countless visits. Without a dedicated customer service team, and without offering great customer service as a provider, patients will feel like they are not welcome and quickly leave your office. This negative reputation will make it difficult to even sell your dental practice when the time is right. Those who seek dental practice sales don’t just want an office that is physically in good standing, but also one who has a client base that is loyal and makes the business successful.
12. Hire Great Medical Professionals
Running a dental practice involves serious help of other great medical professionals besides dentists. Dental hygienists, dental assistants, and X-Ray techs are all just some of the professionals that you will utilize when it comes time to open your dental practice. Use best hiring practices by using a thorough background screening service, making sure all professionals have their medical license, and taking personal references seriously. On top of this, make sure to keep the employees you do hire happy. Use a payroll service that ensures all your employees get paid accurately and on time, and offer incentives such as insurance, vacation, and sick time.
13. Get on Social Media
Sometimes, advertising through traditional means like radio and television just isn’t enough to get your customer base to grow. Getting on social media while running a dental practice is a great way to reach out to a younger audience that might be hesitant to make a dental appointment in the first place. Young adults are more likely to see advertisements online than anywhere else, so it’s crucial you use this online platform to your benefit. Make an Instagram or Facebook account, and stay up-to-date on social media trends such as popular hashtags, memes, and internet culture in general.
14. Maintain a Clean Office
No one wants to walk into an office that is dirty and unattractive. Keeping a clean office is more about appearances, however. Running a dental practice means being subject to visits from health officials, and also being judged by patients that depend on you for their care. It’s important to maintain an office that has a neat appearance, and doubly important to make sure your practice does the same with medical supplies. Hire crews and train staff to properly sanitize surfaces, dispose of one-time-use medical supplies, and keep a neat appearance themselves to earn the trust of your patients.
15. Get Legal Help
Unsanitary practices can be a concern if it leads to a malpractice lawsuit. Unfortunately, as a medical professional, you can be sure running a dental practice will mean facing at least one legal battle in your business’ lifetime. Failing to properly diagnose or treat a patient, unknowingly causing mistakes during a procedure, and causing infection among a ton of other things can lead to a dental malpractice lawsuit. Have a legal team on standby to help you navigate the murky waters of medical malpractice. Having liability insurance can also be a great investment, as it prevents you from having to pay huge sums of money if you do find yourself on the losing side of a lawsuit. But, the best advice would simply be to do the best medical work you possibly can, and also have a dedicated attorney that can help you and your business survive the treacherousness of any legal battles you face.