Updated: Sep 13, 2021
Many argue that the patients, or the team, are the most important elements of a dental clinic.Both of which I would argue against. Not because they are not essential to the clinic. But I'd like to put it all in a different perspective.
No dentist - no clinic. The dentist is a prerequisite for a dental clinic. Therefore, the most important person in a dental clinic, in my opinion, is the dentist. Remember - this does not mean that the other groups are not important. It "just" means that the dental clinic cannot exist without the dentist.
That's why it's super critical that the dentist take care of himself. Partly his physical health, but very much his mental health as well. If you've looked at the suicide statistics of the last 20 years, you've certainly noticed that dentists rank uncomfortably high in the statistics. Just as depression and burnout are relatively common among our colleagues. This could well indicate that, overall, dentists aren't too good at looking after themselves.
The clinic team
Next to the dentist is the dental team. Without your team around you, it is immensely difficult to run the clinic. Not that it's impossible to perform treatments without your team. But running a profitable clinic today requires a team.
Patients come third. Because they actively choose the clinic. If the clinic's concept suits an appropriate number of patients, then you also have the opportunity to build a business that will grow and thrive in the future.
Historically, the dentist managed the business alone. He (for it was usually a man back then) treated his patients alone and took care of everything around the clinic alone.
At some point it became evident that it was more efficient if the dentist had some help working at the chair, in the laboratory and at the reception. At first, these functions were performed jointly, in a division between the dental assistant and the dentist.
The increase in staffing has made running a dental practice increasingly complex. This complexity affects the overview and increases the risk that the practice owner is left with too many tasks on his/her own shoulders.
The dental laboratory
At some point, the laboratory technician joined in. It made sense to have a technician model, sling and polish the gold crowns for the dentist. Because the technician relieved the dentist, the dentist could see more patients and perform tasks that only the dentist could do. Anything the technician could take care of was delegated to the technician.
The receptionist of the clinic
In the same way, the receptionist was introduced. The receptionist was either a person without a dental background, or a clinic assistant who could perform the front desk function. The reason the receptionist was introduced was because it made the dentist and the clinical assistant more efficient at the dental chair. This allowed the dentist to make better use of his unique skills and perform more treatments.
The dental hygienist
In Denmark, the newest member of the dental team (in most clinics) is the dental hygienist. The dental hygienist is no longer a novelty, but the latest person to be integrated into the team around the dentist. Like the clinical assistant, dental technician and receptionist, the dental hygienist's job is to shift tasks from the dentist that the dental hygienist can take care of. This is in an effort to make the dentist, and therefore the clinic, as efficient as possible and thereby maximise the use of the dentist's unique skills.
Financial patient counselling
In the US, many clinics have been working with financial advisors for several years. These are people who specialise in presenting patients with different ways of paying for their services at the dentist. They typically take over the conversation with patients once the dentist has presented the treatment plan to the patient and help patients find an appropriate way to finance their dental treatment.
I am not sure that a financial advisor is a good idea in Denmark (or the US for that matter), but it is interesting to see how more and more specialized areas are emerging that relieve and remove tasks from the dentist to make the dentist more efficient and profitable.
Remember to follow my facebook page if you want more weekly advice, tips and tricks related to clinic optimization, sales, service & marketing.
TPS (Treatment planning support) is one of the newer specialists around the dentist. This is not an employed employee. But rather an external specialist like the dental laboratory, the accountant or the lawyer.
Aligner support is added as needed, as a freelance online assistant specializing in clear aligners. These are dentists who specialise in more complicated treatments with clear aligners.
The treatment support ensures that suitable candidates for orthodontic treatment are selected, so that the dentist does not have to embark on unnecessarily complex treatments. Depending on the provider, TPS can help create the orthodontic record, perform cephalometric analysis from digital lateral ceph recordings, communicate with aligner technicians on your behalf, design and optimize treatment plans, train and support dental hygienists, dental assistants, and help provide support for any problems that may arise during patient treatment.
Comprehensive support for Clear Aligner treatments has been available from alignerservice.com since 2020. It is easy, saves the practice enormous amounts of time and money, and increases the quality and safety of a relatively complex treatment. It provides clinical confidence and improves the profitability of the practice.
CBCT remote diagnostics
Another example of a specialised online service is the diagnosis of 3D CBCT images. In Denmark, remote diagnostics have been available from Hanne Hinze for several years. Just as India has several service providers offering high quality diagnostics in English. Again, this is a task that will take the ordinary dentist enormous amounts of time to perform. Not only does it take an inordinate amount of time. Compared to specialist diagnostics, the individual dentist performing all sorts of other tasks is usually not nearly as good.
The purchase of remote diagnostics improves the diagnosis and thus the treatment of the patient. Just as it saves the dentist a lot of time. Time that translated into chair hours would cost the clinic a small fortune, compared to the cost of remote diagnostics.