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Have a clear vision, overcome adversity, and run a successful dental practice


person looking through binoculars

Sat with my family watching a “30 Under 30” documentary on Maurice Clarett last night. Amazing what he is doing with his life after some incredible ups (as a freshman, he helped Ohio State University win its first national title in 38 years) and some devastating downs (spent three years in prison for gun and theft charges).

Now he is talking with kids through churches and youth programs and visiting prisons to share his story and how people can turn their lives around no matter their circumstances.

 This story of intentional living through difficult setbacks matches up perfectly with Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath. As always, Gladwell takes an assumption that everyone knows to be true and then proves why it’s false. In this case, it is the idea that going through a difficult experience (such as having dyslexia or losing a parent at a young age) actually causes people to develop their personalities and skills in a unique way that results in amazing accomplishments.


Gladwell shares stories of individuals with painful childhoods that shape them into “disagreeable” people (they are willing to take risks and disagree with their peers and supervisors) and they go on to help cure cancer, build successful companies, or become president!


So, what does all this have to do with dentistry?


Running a dental practice is tough and there are times when you feel like a failure. You work hard to provide the best denture you can for your patient who then refuses to pay you. You love your team and know they would like a raise, but insurance keeps paying less and you just don’t have the profits to afford an increase.

If you are facing serious challenges and setbacks in your practice, then taking some inspiration from Clarett might be helpful. Focus on your purpose in this life. Maybe now is the time when you will more clearly define your dental practice vision?

Dental practice management can be a challenge

As the American Dental Association identifies trends that suggest that dentistry will continue to be challenging in the future, this feeling that running a dental practice is harder than it should be (or than we thought it would be) may affect more dentists. Facing serious challenges in private practice, dentists will have the opportunity to have this experience shape who they are and then choose what they will do next.

One great example of this is a dentist I know who suffered an experience of embezzlement in her practice. The financial and emotional impacts of this experience were devastating and she will be handling the financial impact. One day, she shared with me that she had a patient in her chair for a crown prep. Obviously, she must have diagnosed that in the past but, looking now, she saw no reason to place a crown. So, she sat the patient up and told her she didn’t a crown today.

For a dentist working to cover payroll week to week, this was a difficult financial choice. However, she felt such pride knowing that, despite her personal challenges, she could do the right thing. This gave her strength to face the reality of running her practice and the confidence that she could make those tough decisions and be true to herself.

Overcoming adversity is just one way to run a successful dental practice. If you’re interested in new ideas on running a dental practice, please subscribe to my weekly blog. One of the biggest challenges to managing a dental practice is managing dental insurance.

With dental insurance handled, then dental marketing for new patients becomes a primary focus. In today’s day of online reviews, handling patient complaints well is essential. As your practice grows, hiring dental staff becomes more important. With 16+ years of dental practice management experience, I’m open to your questions to help you run a successful dental office.

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