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Can your dental practice survive without new patients?


If you’re not losing patients, why should you work to attract new patients? What’s wrong with the status quo? Many things, says one practitioner.

What is the state of your dental practice right now? Are you growing? Are you winding down in preparation for retirement? Are you holding steady and happy with stability? Many dentists embrace stability.

After all, we’ve chosen a profession that is fairly safe, has reasonable hours and pays a good salary. If you’re not losing patients, why should you work to attract new patients? What’s wrong with the status quo?

There is plenty wrong with a “stable” practice. A dental practice is like an organism. It's got multiple “organs” (or departments), all working towards its overall health. When one department is sick, the whole practice suffers. And, like a living organism, the alternatives aren’t growth or stability. They’re growth, or a slow but certain death.  Why do you need to grow to survive? Consider some of the effects of a stagnant practice.

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A stagnant practice can’t offer new services

It’s a great time to work in dental medicine. Our field has benefitted from all sorts of technological advances. 3D printing and chairside milling technologies let us give our patients top-of-the-line treatments in a single appointment. We’ve got a better understanding of the oral-systemic health link than ever before. We can prevent disease and decay, treat infections effectively and help our patients improve their smiles through orthodonitcs and other means and manage their chronic conditions.

However, training and technology require pretty large up-front investments. In a growing practice, there’s enough money coming in to train staff, buy new tools and reconfigure spaces to work with new technologies and work flows. In a stagnant practice? Your services remain stagnant too. That means you can’t invest in patient care, and you no longer provide the latest and best treatments.  As other dentists in your area adopt new technologies, you’ll lose patients and go from stagnant to dying.

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In a stagnant practice, skills get rusty

So, a practice without growth means a practice without new services. Well, that’s not a big deal, right? After all, your old services are just fine. You’re happy with them, your patients are happy with them. What’s not to like?

If your practice isn’t growing, you’re seeing the same patients over and over again. You get to know their teeth very well. You may become an expert at dealing with those particular mouths and those particular patients. You’ll have stability, but not variety.

They say variety is the spice of life, but it doesn’t just add interest to your practice. Variety also adds challenges. It encourages you and your employees to stretch in new directions, learn new skills and hone difficult techniques. Without the variety provided by a growing practice, you can fall into a rut. And that means that when an existing patient has an odd problem, you and your staff won’t be qualified to address it.

Continue to the next page to see other detrimental effects...



When your practice stagnates, wages stagnate (and benefits decline)

Your patients are fairly price-sensitive. Either they’re paying out of pocket and counting pennies, or they have insurance and don’t want to pay anything above the official reimbursement rate. However, your staff probably expects annual raises. When you go too long without giving a raise, your best people will feel unappreciated and start looking for an employer who can pay them what they deserve. Meanwhile, you probably also offer some sort of health insurance, and those costs never go anywhere but up. 

So, how can you keep your employees happy and your patients happy? You can’t, unless you grow. Without growth you’ll either lose patients to keep your employees, or you’ll lose your employees to keep your patients-and then lose your patients anyway, since you’ll no longer have top quality employees.

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Learning to grow

So, what’s the problem with a stagnant practice? You end up with unhappy staff, unhappy patients, and lowered standards.  A stagnant practice is an ailing practice. If you want to care for your patients, your staff, and yourself, you need to grow.

Look at the growing practices in your area. Why do you think they’re so successful? It’s not necessarily that they do a better job than you do. It’s not because their owners are better looking than you are. It’s not simple luck. Growing practices succeed because someone is taking the time to find underserved groups, develop programs to serve those groups, and make members of those groups aware of the new services. 

Growing your practice takes planning. But, as with any change, the first step is to understand why you need to change.  If you’ve made up your mind to be a growing practice instead of a stagnant practice, you’ve taken the first step to a better future filled with new patients.

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