How vision and tracking numbers can lead to a successful dental practice


I recently gave a presentation at the Yankee Dental Congress on “Growth using National Quality Standards.” Although this title sounds like a snoozer (I’m open to suggestions), the concept is revolutionary.

The guts of the Baldrige National Quality Award is to:

1. Set a vision for what you want to achieve

2. Create a plan to make it happen

3. Measure to see how it’s going

4. Rinse & repeat

Yes, it starts with a vision – what do you want to accomplish with your dental practice? Even if your entire vision is to make as much money as possible, that’s still a vision that you can set a plan to achieve.


Try to avoid a generic vision like “I want to be the best” – how do you define "best?" Maybe best to you means clinical perfection, which might be measured by the number of remakes in your lab cases. Maybe best to you means to serve the largest number of people in a certain zip code.

You can have multiple layers to your vision as well. Profitability probably plays a part, clinical care, perhaps community service? The great thing is you get to make it up … and as you grow and develop your practice (and your life experience), you get to change it! For those of us who are parents, our vision for our children may start as simple as, “I pray they have 10 fingers and 10 toes,” and evolve into, “Let my 6th grader survive middle school,” then change again into college and career dreams.

Once you have your vision and a plan to achieve it, figure out how to measure your success. This is the revolutionary part. Every dentist I know is using Dentrix or a similar dental practice management software, yet they are not demanding the reports and information this software will provide to give the feedback necessary to monitor success. For example, every dentist I know would like to increase the number of new patients. How many dentists are running a report at the end of every month to look at where that month’s new patients came from? This takes a few minutes to run this report and, guess what, I’ll bet that you’ll discover some blanks, meaning that some new patients do not have a referral source documented! Make it the responsibility of your dental office manager or dental receptionist to ask every new patient, “Who may I thank for referring you to us?” Then, document this in the dental practice management software.

Tracking your new patient referrals allows you to determine your return on investment for marketing. Dentrix tracks this for you … as long as your team enters the referral source. Then, at the end of the year, you can add up the total production generated from each referral source. Compare that to what you spent on each marketing activity. You should be generating 3:1 (for every $1 you invest in marketing, you should generate $3).

This is just one example of tracking for your practice. I’m a big fan of the Dentrix – Office Manager – Letters function. You can run just about any report you can think of using these fields. Since you can always make up a new code (and set the fee to $0), you can literally create a tracking system for anything you need. The more you measure your performance, the more know what is working … or failing! I’ve listed my Top 10 Measures for a Dental Practice and, for Dentrix customers, I’d be happy to run those reports for you if you’re interested.


The business of dentistry is becoming more challenging. Tracking your performance 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 world of online reviews, handling patient complaints well is essential. As your practice grows, hiring dental staff becomes more important. With more than 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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