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Real Talk from New Dentists in Private Practice

Dr. Jill McMahon

Dr. Jill McMahon

The panel discussion Real Talk from New Dentists in Private Practice just concluded. The wide-ranging conversation covered topics from improving efficiency to marketing the practice.

According to the most recent ADA Survey of Dental Practice just over 88% of dentists are owners, either as solo practitioners or partners. For almost every dentist, ownership becomes a consideration at some point in his or her career.

Earlier this year ADA New Dentist News spoke with several new dentists who were new to practice ownership to get their suggestions on how to approach ownership. Dr. Jill McMahon, who graduated from dental school in 2007, is not just the first dentist in her family, she’s also the first small business owner.

“At first it was scary, thinking about all the new responsibilities, and of course the new financial obligations that go with ownership,” Dr. McMahon remembers. “What helped a lot was connecting with other dentists who were in my situation and realizing that if they could do it, I could do it too!”

If you are attending the 2013 ADA Annual Session, you have lots of opportunities to connect with other new dentists. But if you aren’t at the meeting, what’s on your action plan to make sure you can get that real talk from other new dentists exploring their private practice options? Share your suggestions in the comments. And if you don’t have any networking events on your calendar, may we suggest the 2014 New Dentist Conference July 17-19 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Life as a New Dentist — Associate

Dr. Anna Schultz

Dr. Anna Schultz

The ADA is made up of individuals — here’s one of them.

Who are you? I’m Dr. Anna Schultz. I’m a proud member of the Georgia Regents University College of Dental Medicine Class of 2012, and I am working as an associate for a wonderful practice in Newnan, Georgia.

If you could have any job OTHER THAN dentistry, what would it be? I’m an avid reader and writer, so I love the idea of being an author or editing a magazine. Of course, there’s nothing about being a dentist that stands in the way of me pursuing those interests!

Why did you choose to become an associate? After completing my AEGD program earlier this year, I was looking for a practice setting where I could hone my clinical and treatment planning skills while developing patient relationships, all without the responsibility of running and maintaining a business. Now that I’m actually in an associateship, I’m confident that this is the best place and environment for me!

Biggest surprise so far? Treatment planning is challenging! During dental school and residency, the administration would give our patients significant discounts because their priority was to give us the best education. But in the real world, there is insurance, there are budgets, and not everything we plan is financially feasible for patients. It highlights the importance of developing rapport with patients and gaining their trust, so that they will be engaged in their own oral health.

What’s your schedule like? It’s amazing how much free time I find myself with since graduating from dental school! I currently work four days per week and those days change so that every other weekend is a four-day weekend (not bad, huh?) Most mornings start with a team huddle at 7:30, and we finish for the day between 5:00 and 5:30. On Fridays, we huddle at 6:30 and finish between 2:00 and 2:30.

What are you doing for fun? I enjoy running, biking, working out, trying new restaurants and listening to live music. I’m also working my way through a long list of novels that took a back seat to lectures and research while I was in dental school and residency.

Any advice for someone considering your career path? Completing an AEGD program after dental school was one of the best decisions I ever made. A year of busy practice and more education in advanced techniques and procedures immensely improved my clinical skills and speed, and gave me more confidence in my treatment planning ability and knowledge of clinical dentistry. I know every program is not created equal, but mine was invaluable.

What’s the best thing about being a new dentist? Being excited about everything! I love coming to work in the morning, and I am so happy to work with such an exceptional team and wonderful patients. It makes the work not seem like work at all, and it reaffirms why I love my career!

Interested in sharing your experience as a new dentist? If you are fewer than ten years out of dental school we’d love to hear from you! Contact us at newdentist@ada.org

Not going to New Orleans? Join the ADA Meeting Online at ADA365

Annual Session LogoGo to ADA.org/ADA365 and you can

•    watch President Bill Clinton’s address live on Thursday, October 31 (not available on-demand)

•    view Education in the Round courses

•    sit in on the hottest lectures

•    take a virtual tour of the Dental Office Design Center.

Access to ADA365 is free to members; non-members can sign up for $50. Visit ADA.org/ADA365 to join the experience!

Looking for CE? While continuing education credit is not offered on ADA365, select courses from the 2013 meeting, including the Pride Institute Technology Expo will be available at ADA CE Online for credit after the meeting. To learn more about ADA CE Online, including unlimited access through the ADA CE Online Loyalty program, visit ADA CE Online at ADACEOnline.org.

All this CE for One Flat Fee

ADA CE Online logoThe ADA CE Online Loyalty Program gives you access to the entire ADA CE Online course library for one year and one flat fee of $479 for ADA members (non-members pay $719.) Take as few or as many courses as you like – as the course library grows, so do your CE options!

Choose from a variety of educational courses featuring embedded video, live-patient dental procedures, and case study examples to enhance your education.

Imagine having a library of CE courses at your fingertips for one year and never having to search for an online CE opportunity again!

If you’d like to learn more, or if you are ready to get started visit ADACEonline.org.

I Wish I Had Known…Exploring My Options

Dr Ryder Waldron

Dr. Ryder Waldron

By Dr. Ryder Waldron

When I was in dental school I was under the incorrect assumption that all dentists were private practice owners. I thought that I either had to buy an existing practice from a retiring dentist or start my own from scratch. I became a practice owner right out of dental school. It was a struggle to make ends meet for several years.

I wish I had explored more options.

  • I wish I had a course in dental school to help me with that exploration
  • I wish I had started researching before my third year in dental school.
  • I wish I had considered an associateship, an employee situation, or other approach to earning a living immediately after graduation

Ask yourself this question: Why did I choose dentistry?

  • To be your own boss?
  • To earn a comfortable income?
  • To set your own hours?
  • Because you’re a people person?
  • Because you’re good with your hands?

These are all questions that I wish I had answered before setting out on a career in dentistry.

The good news is that it all worked out and I’m thrilled to be doing what I love every day. But I could have saved myself a lot of time, stress and money by doing more research prior to graduation.

That said – now that I’ve been there, I’ll know to take a step back and evaluate things before I make any major career changes in the future. I will get advice and input from other dentists who have come before me. And I will continue to share what I’ve learned with my dentist colleagues along the way!

***

Dr. Ryder Waldron is a proud member of the class of 2003 of Marquette University School of Dentistry and the co-author with Dr. Marcus Neff and Dr. Troy Stevens of the book So You Want To Be A Dentist? What you Must Know To Succeed In Dentistry.

Want to be more productive? Get the Happiness Advantage

New Dentist Reception

Happiness is hanging out with colleagues

At the Build Network blog, Jeffrey Goldsmith writes about happiness expert and former Harvard researcher Shawn Achor. In the research projects, Achor primes some subjects to be happy (by giving them candy.) The takeaway is that happy people outperform others:

“I can give you an SAT test, a Sudoku puzzle, a crossword puzzle – any of 15 different tasks all requiring intelligence – and prime you to be in a happy group, a neutral group or an unhappy group,” says Achor, citing a study of 65,000 businesspeople. “The happy group will outperform the others every time.”

How can you apply this approach yourself? During one tax season, Achor managed to improve both the happiness and productivity of tax managers at the accounting firm KPMG simply by asking them to do one of these tasks during the workday:

  • Jot down three things you are grateful for
  • Write a positive message to someone in your social support network
  • Meditate at your desk for two minutes
  • Exercise for 10 minutes
  • Take two minutes to write down in a journal the most meaningful experiences of the past 24 hours

How about you — is there anything in your daily routine that contributes positively to your workday? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Ethical Dental Marketing

Young girl using tabletNo matter whether you are an employee, an owner or practicing in another setting, the way you market yourself as a dentist must be ethical, as well as effective. Consult the ADA Advertising Basics for Dentists and Dental Associations: A Guide to Federal and State Rules and Standards for information on common questions dentists have when preparing marketing materials.

Find information on assessing an advertisement for problems, substantiating claims made in advertisements and navigating the ethical considerations of newer marketing tactics such as deal-of-the-day social couponing sites.

Truthful advertising can be a solid foundation for building a trusted dentist-patient relationship. Be sure to consult your local and state dental associations and your own legal counsel for advice.

Developing Your Dental Practice Brand

open mouthA brand identifies a good or services as distinctive from others—think of the original use of branding as a way for ranchers to identify cattle from various owners. Having a distinctive brand is especially important when many similar businesses compete in a single marketplace. For instance, a restaurant’s branding helps you to decide whether it is the perfect location for a romantic dinner, a great setting for a group celebration, or an easy option for an early supper with young children. The restaurant’s brand singles it out in a crowded marketplace, much as the cattle brand separates one steer from the herd.

The brand of a particular dental practice will be informed by the owner dentist’s philosophy of dentistry. Having a target makes it easier for your brand to take aim, shifting your focus from a “one size fits all” approach. Here are three tips adapted from ADA New Dentist News:

Good Graphic Design is a Good Start It’s true—everything from the practice website to the reminder postcards benefits from having a consistent graphic identity. This means fonts, colors and images must all work together harmoniously, and that is a job for a professional, not an ambitious amateur. Just remember that they are the expert designers, and you are the expert dentist!

Every Encounter Makes a Difference But a brand is more than distinctive visuals. The way the team answers the phone, greets patients when they arrive and schedules follow-up appointments are all touch points that communicate your brand.

The Dentist is the Most Important Part of the Brand A logo or slogan is not what makes a practice successful. Your patients and your team will look to see if your actions are in alignment with your brand. Activities such as attending community events, shopping and dining locally, joining the Chamber of Commerce, and connecting on a person-to-person basis offer proof that you fully support the ideals of your brand.

Protecting Against Embezzlement

Embezzlement is different from ordinary stealing. An embezzler, by definition, is someone you trust, such as an office manager or a valued employee. A 2007 study by the ADA found 17.5% of the surveyed dentists reported that they were aware their primary practices had been embezzled.

An embezzler, by definition, is someone you trust

An embezzler, by definition, is someone you trust

The ADA publication Protecting Your Dental Office from Fraud and Embezzlement contains several steps you can take to protect yourself and your practice. Here’s three of the steps:

Maintain Separation of Duties Don’t concentrate too much control over cash into the hands of one person, such as using only one team member to issue checks, record deposits and reconcile the bank statements.

Instead, divide these tasks among multiple employees, or between the employee and yourself to create a cross-check where unusual activity is more likely to be noticed.

Use Random Monitoring Let your team notice that you are keeping an eye on the details. Monitor some reports every day, including every patient visit, every payment, and every EOB. Other checks, such as payroll and inventory, should happen randomly, without prior notice.

It’s easier to “beat the system” if the embezzler knows that as long as everything looks good by the end of the month, no one will be the wiser.

Keep Valuable Documents and Materials Locked Up Reduce temptation — keep blank checks, payment receipts, prescription pads, and accounting records out-of-sight and locked up.

Consider securing valuable supplies, such as whitening materials or toner cartridges, which can be easily re-sold outside the practice.

In addition to tactics that may help prevent embezzlement, the publication also addresses the actions you should take if you believe you may have been a victim. From working with attorneys to termination issues unique to suspected employees, Protecting Your Dental Office from Fraud and Embezzlement addresses a plan of action that can mitigate losses and minimize hassles.

Life as a New Dentist — Pediatric Residency

Dr. Christine Hammer

Dr. Christine Hammer

The ADA is made up of individuals—here’s one of them.

Who are you? I’m Dr. Christine Hammer, a proud member of the Class of 2013 of Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine — Arizona, and I’m currently enrolled in a two-year pediatric dentistry program in a Philadelphia hospital.

If you could have any job OTHER THAN dentistry what would it be? I’m a huge music theater nerd and I grew up dancing, singing and performing. If life had worked out differently I would probably be producing and directing musicals on Broadway.

How did you choose this program? I was interested in very clinical programs with strong hospital components where I could work with medically complicated patients. This program seemed to offer a balance of everything I was looking for to develop my skill set.

As for my interview, that day was tough! I landed, interviewed, toured the hospital, visited Philadelphia for the first time and departed all within 18 hours. My big takeaway was that the program residents were approachable, relaxed, and cohesive. I’m pleased to say my first impression was accurate—we are busy, we are a team and we learn from each other!

What’s your schedule like? There are six of us first-year residents. The regular schedule is Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. There are rotations that vary the schedule on a resident-by-resident basis. And each of us first-year residents is “first call” on the on call schedule for a total of eight weeks spread out through the year.

About being on-call — I heard stories but nothing can truly prepare you for the first time that pager goes off. There is something very intense about arriving in an emergency room knowing that the patient and parents have been waiting for me.

What are you doing for fun? I’m getting to know Philadelphia (in case you were wondering, yes I have run up the “Rocky steps”) and I travel to Maryland/D.C. as often as I can to support my other half — he’s doing his Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery residency.

Any advice for someone considering a pediatric residency? Well it’s obvious that you should have a rapport with kids, but it’s less obvious that you also need to get along with adults — some parents need more management than their children! It helps to be passionate about prevention, and to be realistic about a kid-customized schedule.

What are your plans for after you complete this program? Geographically, I’m planning to move to Maryland to be near my husband while he completes his residency. Professionally, I’d like to do an associateship in the greater D.C. area. I would like to find a position that gives me an opportunity to practice in a hospital-setting. The challenge of treating medically compromised children is one of the elements of this residency that really is meaningful to me.

Interested in sharing your experience as a new dentist? If you are fewer than ten years out of dental school we’d love to hear from you! Contact us at newdentist@ada.org.