3 secrets they don't teach in dental school


Dental school only teaches you half of what you need to be a successful dentist.

When I ask most dentists about dental school, they usually tell me how they left feeling ready to take on the dental profession but that they quickly discovered their degree didn’t prepare them to run a dental practice. Sound familiar?

Many dentists often find themselves in this situation because dental schools don’t teach much at all about the business side of dentistry. Their first priority is to create clinicians, not CEOs. However, your current role as dentist and business owner requires CEO thinking to ensure practice success.

If Only I Had Learned This in Dental School

So what now? Since getting angry at your dental school and throwing your hands up won’t help increase production, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Actually three secrets, secrets to practice success that they didn’t teach you in dental school:

1. Patients are more than a set of teeth

Always remember that patients are more than a set of teeth.

They have feelings and opinions and if their needs aren’t being met I promise you, in today’s competitive dental climate, they’ll go elsewhere. I know what you’re thinking. Every patient is different and they aren’t always rational, reasonable or logical. I get it. However, your job is to focus on WOWing each patient. Greet them warmly. Offer amenities like beverages and magazines. Take the time to get to know them better at every visit. Exceptional customer service builds patient loyalty and increases referrals.

Related article: Are you struggling with running your dental practice?

But it doesn’t end there. Every month, review what the practice is doing and implement something new. There are a million great customer service ideas that can be discovered from talking to your team, exploring the internet or reading great books.

2. Your staff needs to grow

In managing your team, you should have one ongoing objective - growth. For your team to grow, they need leadership, mentoring, training and exposure to new and better ideas. Each year, evaluate whether a person is continuing to grow. If they are, great. Keep things as they are and add on a new goal for professional development.

If not, examine the problem. Most team members have the ability to grow, albeit at varying paces. See what changes can be made - by both you and them - and create an action plan. Providing your team with the right training and motivation positions your practice for success.

3. You are the CEO of your practice

Every business needs a CEO, and as the practice leader, that’s you. So in addition to practicing dentistry, you must oversee all practice operations. The good news is that it’s still possible to learn and master the business of dentistry after dental school.

There is a great deal of helpful information (e.g., manuals and training resources) that can be accessed from organizations like the American Dental Association. Another great resource is a good dental business education study club. Becoming an active participant in monthly discussions with colleagues facing the same business challenges will encourage you to run every area of your practice like a CEO.

Related article: Top 10 tips from the old guy to recent dental school graduates

Also keep in mind that all successful CEO’s know how to delegate, and dental practices often use experts such as accountants, attorneys, and consultants to help guide them.


Dental schools aren't great sources for business education and this will not change anytime soon. That leaves only one choice. Learn and master it after dental school. Start by setting an objective for managing your patients, staff and operations and work toward acquiring the knowledge and implementing the systems that will ensure success.

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