The 3 Biggest Financial Fears Dentists Face

February 24, 2016
Bill Schu

No matter your profession, financial concerns are often front and center. But dentists and other healthcare professionals face some challenges unique to their profession.

No matter your profession, financial concerns are often front and center. But dentists and other healthcare professionals face some challenges unique to their profession. Dentists, in particular, who often run their own practice or participate in a partnership, share some common fears. Let’s take a look at three of the biggest. While we can’t make you fearless about these legitimate worries, we will offer one reason to fear less.

1. Law and Disorder

According to the American Board of Legal Medicine, 13.1% of all professional malpractice claims are filed against dentists. Some of the most common forms of dental malpractice include infections caused by improperly sterilized equipment, failure to diagnose and treat periodontal disease, or the misdiagnosis of a dental condition. Lawsuits can be damaging financially on more than one level, as the hit to your reputation and time spent defending your practice all add up.

Fear less: No strategy will protect you from all lawsuits, but one of the most important things you can do, aside from having dental malpractice insurance, is to keep patient records that are thorough, clean, and accurate. Clearly record all interactions with your patients, and never change a patient’s record after the fact.

2. Help with the Help

Staffing an office is one of the most difficult and challenging aspects of being a dentist. Administrative staff, hygienists, and dental assistants play a huge role in the overall success of your practice. In order to avoid fear number 1, each and every member of your staff must be conscientious about cleaning equipment and taking care of patients.

Fear less: People skills aren’t essential in every career, but they are in your chosen profession. Of course it’s crucial that any candidate must be skilled and knowledgeable, but no matter their qualifications, they must also interact well with your other employees and your patients. Err on the side of retaining personnel who have a good track record with your patients, and if you do need to expand your staff, ask references specifically about their skills and history interacting with others.

3. Planning a Successful Retirement

For dentists who own their own practice in part or in whole, a big part of your retirement strategy may involve selling the dental practice. Depending on how far away you are from retirement, estimating what your practice may be worth can seem like a pointless exercise. Who knows what the supply of dentists will be then, if competition in your area will have weakened your patient base, or if local demographic or healthcare changes will change the profitability of your practice. Uncertainty often drives fear, and this is certainly the case when it comes to anticipating how much your practice will be worth.

Fear less: The old cliché about not putting all your eggs in one basket is tired, but it’s true, and simply “watching that basket” won’t necessarily help you avoid the potential changes in the market. Make sure you have a strong retirement investment strategy throughout your career. The earlier you start saving and investing for retirement, the more likely you’ll be to have enough money to retire on regardless of the sale of your practice. Then, if your practice appreciates in value over time, the extra income you’ll earn just as you sail off into your career sunset will all be gravy.

A Last Word

Fear is not unhealthy. Rather than an albatross holding you back, you can use it as motivator to prepare well and avoid pitfalls. Facing these common fears head-on won’t eliminate them altogether, but it can serve as a roadmap to a bright future.

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