Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 04 Listen And Learn 1

What am I looking for in a dentist when my dentist-husband retires?

April 20, 2018
Toni Erdman worked in her husband's dental practice for more than 30 years. As they prepare to retire, she explains what qualities she's looking for in a dental practice for her new dental home. And she's not alone in what she wants.

This article originally appeared in the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative twice monthly practice management ENL here.

It’s really happening. After 30 years in the dental game, my husband is retiring. One employee asked me, “Who will be doing your dentistry?” That’s a great question. I want a dentist who I believe has some proficiency, but more than that, I want a dentist I can trust.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN EXACTLY? It means that everything that happens in a dental office comes from the leader’s mindset. What is the dentist-owner’s philosophy? I realize that the “art of dentistry” can be subjective. My concern is not who is right and wrong. My concern is the doctor’s motivation when he or she gives me his or her professional recommendations.

It astounds me how dentists believe patients choose a dental office. Most perceptions are fueled by clever marketing—by SEO gurus promising tons of new patients, and by the self-promotions of insurance companies. Of course, you have to get people in the door and convert them into patients who will accept treatment. I suggest considering what attracts potential patients that makes them stay and refer.

IF MAKING MONEY IS A DENTIST'S OVERRIDING CONCERN, THEN IT'S GAME OVER FOR ME. Too often I’ve seen doctors who try and numb their financial pressures and on-the-job frustrations with food, alcohol, drugs, too many toys, vacations, or affairs. These behaviors are destructive and can only serve to worsen their seemingly ill-fated life scenario.

The good news is that they can change all of that right now! I truly mean that. But are you ready for what I’m about to say? We are the problem. If you’re willing to look into the proverbial mirror, you can change your life!

I’m not a psychologist. However, my experiences show that the biggest problems in dental practices are indifference born of resignation, self-preservation, and greed. I overheard an employee say to her teammate, “Why quit? It’s like this in every other office.” She was resigned.

You CAN take action

There come times when people can change the world. We can’t change the entire world, but we can change our worlds. We can change the people who cross our paths and the people with whom we come into contact. We can change what we believe and what we think drives our behaviors. The mindset of an office comes from the top. The work environment and culture comes from what the boss wants and believes. Sometimes this is written down in a policy manual and hashed out in meetings. But largely, it’s an office culture whose tone is set by what is tolerated and permitted. How do you like the office culture where you work?

You are the boss of yourself. What do you accept, encourage, and endorse? If you work in a setting that you do not enjoy and you are not in control or cannot influence the rules, then get out! A single mother who was a hygienist in a large corporate dental office said to me, “It bothers me the way they run their offices but I’m a single parent. I produce high numbers and they pay me on my production. I need the money.” I understood her unspoken sentiment of self-preservation. I asked myself if I would I do anything different.

My advice is to have your resumé ready, stay tuned for better opportunities, and when the right opportunity presents itself, seize it. You will find what you seek, and sometimes you just have to look for it.

I offer associate dentists this advice: open your own practice. Then, live within your means, delay gratification, continue your professional training, get your head and heart right to do quality dentistry, and you will sleep well at night. I’ll be in your chair ready to listen to your professional recommendations. I’m looking for you. Employees, like that single mother, are looking for you too.

I’ve interviewed many wonderful people who want to do what’s right and true. They want to work in an office with a dentist who provides the kind of quality dentistry that they want for themselves and their families. I asked every new employee, “Who do you love most in the world?” Now, envision this person in your dental chair, hygiene chair, or front desk. Treat every patient like that loved one.

This does not necessarily mean the same treatment. But it means that you’re listening, hearing their dental story, understanding their circumstances, and will partner with them. If they need treatment, tell them, and explain it in simple terms. Ask what stands in their way of good dental health. Is it time, money, fear? They came to you for a reason. Did your team meet their needs? Remember that ultimately it’s the patient’s choice. Do a great job today and people will return and bring their family and friends.

Dentists will discredit themselves and the profession unless patients’ health takes top priority. The best type of success lies in this, and only this. I don’t believe that anyone’s motives and outlooks can be totally altruistic. I acknowledge that I work and live with mixed motives. My goal is to include ethical behaviors. I helped operate our dental business for over 30 years for profit. Few are willing to work for free. My husband’s overall abiding philosophy was to partner with our patients and treat them with respect through all his business practices.

I want to trust a new-to-me dental office that exhibits these successful business behaviors: compassionate customer service, office cleanliness, good communication skills, follow-through, respect, and up-to-date technology. As my husband and I bow out of dentistry, I’m seeking someone who digs in their heels and does what’s right and true for patients, the profession, and themselves. I’ll be bringing my husband. So, are you accepting new patients?


The controversial spouse in the dental practice: Notes from the positive side


Toni Erdman holds a BS in liberal arts from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University New Orleans. She and her husband experienced the day-to-day challenges of running a dental practice for over 30 years. Their success now allows them to seek new adventures sailing their 45-foot catamaran in the Caribbean. Toni is always willing to encourage those in the dental field. Email her at [email protected].

For the most current practice management headlines, click here.
For the most current dental headlines, click here.