Oral Health Group

Dentists’ Daily Business Challenges: Broken Down

August 7, 2018
by Oral Health

There are endless day-to-day challenges to face as a dentist. Not only are you performing procedures, developing treatment plans and trying to stay on top of the latest techniques and products, but you’re also running a business. While every practice owner goes through similar daily struggles, the size of a practice has a large effect on which struggles outrank others.

After reviewing the data from our recent survey*, we found some stark differences in daily challenges depending on the practice size. The three largest contrasts from a business standpoint were ‘dealing with insurance companies,’ ‘finding and hiring administrative staff’ and ‘marketing my business.’ Here’s a breakdown:


  • Dealing with insurance companies
    • Practices earning less then $500,000/year = 34.9%
    • Practices earning $500,000-$1.5 million/year = 35.3%
    • Practices earning more than $1.5 million/year = 50.0%
  • Finding and hiring administrative staff
    • Practices earning less then $500,000/year = 16.3%
    • Practices earning $500,000-$1.5 million/year = 30.0%
    • Practices earning more than $1.5 million/year = 35.0%
  • Marketing my business
    • Practices earning less then $500,000/year = 30.2%
    • Practices earning $500,000-$1.5 million/year = 22.7%
    • Practices earning more than $1.5 million/year = 22.5%

Dealing with Insurance Companies

Unlike the other contrasts in data, the highest earning bracket stands “alone” in their challenge of dealing with insurance companies. The notable difference has an obvious, although by no means definite or certain, cause: active patient count. Looking from smallest to largest practice size, the active patient count nearly doubles. This factor alone can greatly impact how much time is spent handling insurance every day. With an average of 67.5 per cent of patients having their visits partly or fully covered by an insurance company, the workload can become cumbersome as the patient count increases.

Finding and Hiring Administrative Staff

Administrative staff are a crucial part of any practice. They are the ones who lessen the burden of these daily struggles for dentists and keep a practice running smoothly. There is a significantly lower stress in finding and hiring those aids from smaller practices. While there can be no assumption that taking an interest in finding these staff members leads to a more profitable practice, it should be noted that higher earning practices rank ‘having competent administrative staff’ extremely higher than the lowest bracket. The reason could be budget, time spent hiring or something circumstantial to the practice, but it’s worth considering the importance of finding and hiring administrative staff, and the impact it could have on your day-to-day workload.

Marketing My Business

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise; more earnings = bigger budget = more money to invest in marketing. This contrast is worth noting due to the proven impact marketing has on a business. While it isn’t safe to assume the smaller practices are looking to grow in size, investing in marketing is an important element of running a business, allowing a practice to develop a trusted and recognized brand for new and returning patients. Despite that, it doesn’t seem dentists put much weight into marketing. Only 24.5 per cent of Canadian dentists would like to see more continuing education courses on the topic and it’s ranked seventh of essential elements for a successful practice. Perhaps this is because dentists put majority of their faith in their patients to spread the word about their practice, but as we’ve looked at in a previous article this shouldn’t be a practice’s only source of marketing. Needless to say, whether the gap exists between practice sizes or not, dentists may find marketing a challenging aspect of running a business, but it doesn’t top their list of priorities.

None of these challenges are a bad thing to deal with. They all lead to the same result: your practice is serving patients and earning money. However, when dealing with these issues day-to-day it can quickly become a dreaded element of running a business. Ensuring you have competent staff and a faithful patient base will help to eventually ease the burden of these challenges and allow you to spend more time on your clinical work. It’s normal to struggle in your day-to-day, but even more important to remember the bigger picture and why it’s worth struggling for.


Let us know: What administrative duties are your biggest challenges?


*Between February and March 2018, RKI, a third party independent research house, conducted a 10-minute online survey of active, practicing non-hospital affiliated dentists and dental specialists on behalf of Oral Health. Using Oral Health’s subscription list, a total of 398 dentists participated in the study (with 219 completing the survey to the end). Assuming a total of 20,000 dentists in Canada (and 398 total completes) the margin of error for the survey is +/- 4.86, 95% CI.

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