Dental wisdom: 3 threats to private practice today

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A coiled snaked ready to strike.

Dentistry used to be thought of as a recession-proof industry. However, after the most recent economic downturn, it is doubtful many dentists would agree. Even as the country continues to pull out of the recession, it remains difficult to maintain (let alone increase) dental practice production.

Dentists across the country face a host of challenges when it comes to running their practice today. Running a private dental practice is becoming more difficult as three emerging threats gain momentum across the industry:

The economy: Despite recent news that the nation’s economy is on the upswing, recent surveys show that dental production rates have continued to fall over the past five years, accompanied by delayed payments and reduced collections. All of this has resulted in dentists seeing a decrease in their incomes as well as later retirement ages.

A rise in DMSOs: High-volume dental chains owned by corporations known as dental management service organizations, or DMSOs, are becoming more widespread across the country. Dentists in these offices are able to focus almost solely on patient care, freed from the burdens of the administrative and business operations that the corporation manages. These “corporate” dental offices are often seen as a major competitive threat to the private solo or group dental practice.

Falling reimbursement rates: Insurance companies continue to decrease reimbursement rates while the paperwork and regulations (not to mention hassles) increase for those dentists who wish to remain in network.

Fortunately, the outlook does not have to be all doom and gloom. Dentists can overcome changes in the marketplace and the economy by focusing on patient relationships. Long-lasting patient connections foster a loyalty in patients that will safeguard them from any competition and keep them coming back to the practice.

One of the simplest remedies is providing affordable solutions to patients so that they feel like they can afford the care they need without having to rely on insurance benefits. Options such as outside/in-house patient financing as well as in-house dental savings plans like Quality Dental Plan help dentists reach more patients, foster patient loyalty to the practice, and increase case acceptance all while reducing third-party influence.

Solo practitioners have enough on their plates managing the day-to-day responsibilities without having to worry about the rise of corporate dentistry or increasing their reliance on managed care. While new challenges have emerged in the marketplace, dentists have options available to help them adapt today so they can continue to thrive well into the future.

Dan Marut, DMD

Editor's Note: Contributing to this article was Dan Marut, DMD, who founded Quality Dental Plan to connect dentists looking to make a difference in their communities with new patients, while giving people without dental insurance a compelling reason to go to the dentist. He is also a practicing dentist, a sought-after lecturer, and a published author. Dr. Marut is committed to giving back to his community and the world through his profession, and founded his practice and both of his companies with that vision in mind. For more information about Quality Dental Plan, visit www.QDPdentist.com. Dr. Marut can be reached via e-mail at danmarut@qualitydentalplan.com.

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