Dentist burnout: How to reenergize your dental practice and improve production

It happens. Dentists might begin to experience burnout after 15 or 20 years of facing challenges nearly every day. Here's how you can reenergize your dental practice and improve staff morale. No more burnout!

May 16th, 2017
Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 05 Leadership 1

It happens. Dentists might begin to experience burnout after 15 or 20 years of facing challenges nearly every day. Here's how you can reenergize your dental practice and improve staff morale. No more burnout!

Staff turnover, lackluster production numbers, lousy patient retention—you’ve dealt with it all over the course of your career. It can seem a bit overwhelming at times, especially when all you really want to do is focus on treating patients and not worry about the challenges that come with owning a dental practice.

After 15 or 20 years, many dentists start feeling tired, or just plain burned out. They become frustrated because they know they’re not meeting their full potential, and they start to lose their passion for dentistry. These dentists have no idea how they got to this point or what they need to do to get back on track.

Does this describe you? Don’t worry. I’m here to help you refocus, reenergize, and increase production numbers so you can finally own the profitable practice you’ve always dreamed of. Here’s how to get started.

Embrace your role as CEO—Many dentists find this difficult, but it’s vital to your success. As the leader, it’s your responsibility to give your team members guidance. How, you ask? Through detailed job descriptions, clear performance measurements, and continual feedback. Once they have direction, team members can do their part to help you grow production and reach practice goals. Without guidance from you, they’ll feel lost and not very motivated.

Look at hygiene—If hygiene production is down, it’s killing your bottom line and likely hurting team morale. How can you improve it? First, make sure your hygienists are producing three times their salary. If they’re not, I suggest you find out why. Maybe your scheduling coordinator wasn’t trained to schedule hygienists this way, or broken appointments are leaving too many open slots in your schedule.

Determine what the problem is and then take steps to fix it, whether that means providing your coordinator with more training or finding ways to reduce broken appointments in your practice. This might include ensuring every appointment is confirmed two days in advance via text, email, or phone call (depending on what patients prefer), or moving to a hybrid scheduling system rather than relying on preappointing alone.

Make sure patients understand the value of hygiene visits—If your patients don’t know what happens during a hygiene visit, they’re more likely to cancel their appointments at the last minute or not show up at all, wreaking havoc on your day and hurting your bottom line. That’s why patient education is so important. Take the time to talk with them about why they should care about their oral health. Explain the oral systemic link and educate them about periodontal disease and oral cancer. This will help them see the value in the care you provide, making them more likely to accept treatment and keep their appointments.

Send patients home with a hygiene report summary—This summary should include treatment completed during the appointment, any free products you gave them, and a rundown of any areas you’d like them to pay special attention to between visits. Trust me, when patients see everything written down, they’ll place more value in the visit, and will be less likely to flake when it’s time for their next appointment.

Evaluate how you present treatment—All too often, dentists and their team members sabotage case acceptance in their practices without even knowing it. They might have a certain attitude toward case acceptance, or a way of presenting treatment that encourages patients to say no rather than yes, which doesn’t exactly help production numbers. Ask yourself these questions to determine if this is a problem in your practice:

• Do you or your team members assume patients won’t consider ideal treatment options because they’re too expensive?
• Do team members imply fees are too high?
• Do you suggest treatment is not urgent, so patients think they can wait?
• Are you comfortable presenting treatment, or would a trained treatment coordinator have more success?

Remember, the most effective case presentations happen in a quiet, comfortable room where patients can ask questions about every aspect of the treatment. Patients leave the practice educated about their condition and the consequences of ignoring the problem. This means they’ll be much more likely to accept treatment.

Invest in CE—Learning new skills will help keep you excited about your profession and will enable you to offer new services. Educate patients about these additional services with posters, brochures, and e-newsletters. Adding options such as implants and Invisalign, for example, will give both new and existing patients more reasons to visit your practice, which will help boost practice production and revenues.

Dentists face a long list of challenges every day, and it’s easy to start to feel run down, especially if your practice is struggling. Increasing production can help ease some of that stress while also improving team morale and boosting your bottom line.

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service, nation-wide dental practice management company. Contact her at (877) 777-6151 or sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

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