Dentistry has been a challenging profession for many years, the pandemic has just been an added challenge that everyone has adapted to at this point. The changes that the pandemic has brought will not be going away from your offices soon or maybe ever. As a profession you have overcome many challenges and you need to not forget about some of the recent past challenges to ensure that your office is doing everything right and not just pandemic protocols.
In Ontario, the average number of active patients per dentist prior to 2018 was 1100. Due to changes in licensing and dentists working longer in their careers that number has now dropped to 900 patients for every dentist. What this means is that the patient pool has been spread out and each patient experience needs to be a five start VIP experience, the loyalty and trust that you build with patients is more important now than ever with the patient to dentist ratio changing. Fancy equipment doesn’t buy trust and loyalty, taking the time to explain, educate and showing that you care is what builds patient engagement. Having systems in your office that are efficient in the eyes of patients and happy team in the office is part of the formula as well.
IPAC had more recently become a challenge in office when rules were changed around reprocessing, this meant new costs for offices both in terms of sundries and in many offices an added team member salary. The pandemic has compounded this challenge with added IPAC regulations and almost certainly needing a dedicated person to this task in all offices. The challenge this creates is to keep your sundries budget at 6% to 6.5% of your production and your salaries between 25% and 28% of your overall production you need to increase production to cover these expenses. Looking for tweaks in production comes from decreasing open time and increasing diagnosed treatment follow up.
Many years ago, staffing in a dental office was not a difficult task. As everyone knows more recently finding dentally experienced team members has best been described as a nightmare. The lack of dental assistants available has caused an increase in compensation of 20% to 30% in some markets. In the hygiene field, there was a glut of talent available and now it is more difficult as well as many hygienists have decided to change professions due to the pandemic and their own internal auditing process. To combat this, ensure that your office culture, training programs and support are team centric, your team should be the envy of teams in your area. This means sharpening the soft skills in your organizational health to keep your team happy and loyal in the long term.
Most dentists don’t leave school debt free any longer. The cost of a dental education has risen much higher than the rate of inflation over the last thirty to forty years. This means that a new dentist has increasing pressure to produce to provide themselves with a living wage and service their debt. Fortunately, financial institutions are quick to provide support for the dental profession, while this allows students and dentists to pursue success in their profession it also provides stress that can be overwhelming which in turn affects the dentists and everyone in their lives. A coping strategy for this is managing your finances and not living beyond your means, keep yourself fit and healthy and listening to your own trusted advisors who are aware of your personal circumstances.
All is not doom and gloom, as this article shows dentists are a resilient group who have finely tuned focus which they can use to their advantage. Keeping sight of their goals and asking their advisors for support is not a weakness, it a strength in this profession that has learned to move forward for much longer than the length of the pandemic.