Dental Practice Marketing-Getting what they deserve.

Dental Practice Marketing

Most dentists get the income they deserve especially now that times are no longer easy…..and they are not in the habit of dental practice marketing

Just back from speaking in Columbus to a room of about 1,000 dentists and team members at Paragon Consulting’s annual client event. Paragon is a great organization for providing the basic management systems that you likely do NOT have in your practice. Truth hurts, doesn’t it?

If you do have basic admin systems (bravo…you are in the minority), when was the last time you reviewed and tweaked your documented systems manual? If the systems aren’t being reviewed bi-annually, it’s a guarantee things are falling through some cracks you’ve forgotten about.

A conversation at lunch with Ken Runkle, president, CEO, and founder of Paragon (by the way he thinks even his best clients need help with learning to sell better PERIOD)…..was talking about how his kids wanted to be physicians and that he tells them they’re crazy. In his words, “they should be dentists hands down!” as he’s seen the income and lifestyle of most of his clients continue to go on an upward trajectory even through the last few years. Clearly these clients are in the habit of dental practice marketing and selling.

There were a lot of clinical vendors at this meeting and while dentists flock to tables to see some gizmo that illuminate teeth or think they’ll start selling ortho cases just because they took a class, training in programs like the McAnally Selling System ARE the gate keeper for all procedures and hi-tech gizmos outside insurance. Without such training and systems for doctor and team in dental practice marketing, plan to permanently suffer with your CE and expensive “toys” underutilized. If you do any of the following procedures (implants, faster than normal ortho, sedation, cerec, TMJ, cosmetic dentures, or apnea) than doing the elite training in promotion (also provides ready to use ads) is a better choice.

Ken’s musings reminded me of a NY times article not that long ago that said pretty much the same thing…. If you want to see the full article, simply register at the NY Times site and happily read away.

‘Boom Times for Dentists, but Not for Teeth’ Excerpts from NYT Article Pre-Great Recession are in quotes. My comments in italics. AND…..many clients making higher incomes than they did even before the recession…

“For American dentists, times have never been better. The same cannot be said for Americans’ teeth. With dentists’ fees rising far faster than inflation and more than 100 million people lacking dental insurance, the percentage of Americans with untreated cavities began rising this decade, reversing a half-century trend of improvement in dental health.”

The big fat “elephant” in the room ignored here is what did not HAPPEN to dental insurance and the lack of priority on how dentistry gets paid for outside of routine medical therapy. A worthy topic unto itself that reverts back to the sales games that the dental insurance companies make with employers by over-promising what the policies they sell can actually delivery to the employees in benefits. It also points to the sinking of the American economic machine and it’s impact on benefits of labor over the past 30 years…..different topic for a different day….google “population employment ratio” to see what’s ahead if you dare.

“Dentists, of course, are no more obligated to serve the poor than are lawyers or accountants. But the issue from a public health standpoint, the critics say, is that even as so many patients go untreated, business is booming for most dentists. They are making more money while working shorter hours, on average, even as the nation’s number of dentists, per person, has declined.” This from an ADA spokesman….

I know of no dentist with a high income that doesn’t work very hard PLUS I’ve yet to meet high earning dentists that are dumb in the categories of marketing and selling or that HIRE an expert to do what he/she can’t do…….especially if they are working mostly outside the insurance system. There’s no magic here. Work + Addressing Promotion/Selling = Very high income………it means simply a better income than 95% of your peers. Even in the midst of the last recession, I was asking for and getting a fee that was substantially higher (3X) that of the guy right across the street…..he was working just as hard BUT there was zero attention paid to promotion/selling.

“Dentists’ incomes have grown faster than that of the typical American and the incomes of medical doctors. Formerly poor relations to physicians, American dentists in general practice made an average salary of $185,000 in 2004, the most recent data available. That figure is similar to what non-specialist doctors make, but dentists work far fewer hours. Dental surgeons and orthodontists average more than $300,000 annually.”

The problems family physicians have with their incomes is one that each MD has a choice in solving. Just like dentists have a choice in making their practice better with elective cases OR not and to continue to add techniques that the public will find valuable if offered to them via good promotion and ethical selling. Why not mention that minor issue instead of “railing” on dentists about salary. It’s the equivalent of yelling at the electrician when the plumbing is backed up. Dentists and physicians can choose to apply business principles to their practice of medicine just like everyone else. Key word – CHOOSE.

“But despite the allure of rising salaries, the shortage of dentists will almost certainly worsen, because the nation has fewer dental schools and fewer dentists in training than a generation ago. After peaking at 5,750 in 1982, the number of dental school graduates fell to 4,440 in 2003, as several big dental schools closed their doors. The average dentist is now 49 years old, according to the American Dental Association, and for at least the next decade retiring dentists will probably outnumber new ones.”

By the way, no matter what demographic changes come about, whether in the population or provider numbers, there will always be patients that can never afford care and there will always be patients that could easily afford “elective” reconstructive care, that would make a big difference in their daily existence, but won’t choose to seek care because it isn’t their priority.

“Dr. Kathleen Roth, president of the A.D.A., said that the association is working to increase Medicaid’s reimbursement rates to make it more cost-effective for dentists to treat low-income patients. While Medicaid is supposed to cover both basic care and emergency procedures for children, the program will pay only for emergency procedures — not basic care — for adults in most states. “Access to dental care, especially for children, has been a growing problem for 10 years,” Dr. Roth said. “State and federal programs have decreased the amount of dollars available.”

At least the ADA spokesperson states a fact. States are not prioritizing dental care for the poor as they are barely funding basic medical services for the poor or near poor. And…..don’t get me going on how we prioritize dollars for education and health….especially dollars that instead go to kill lists and unmanned drones blowing up people inside sovereign lands…….

So…..what’s your choice…….high income by making some distinct choices like planning dental practice marketing strategies OR ????

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