Increasing Your Bottom Line

by John Marinovich

Now how would you feel if you discovered that the answer is actually “none”? Believe it or not, you don’t really have to work more to make more money. But you do have to work differently.

How it all starts

It’s a simple reality that dentists fall into three categories: those who are financially independent, those who are getting by and those who are broke. So what is it that determines which one you will fall into? After all, you got to where you are the same way your colleagues did. Enthusiastically and optimistically, you probably spent as much as seven years of post-secondary education or more to be designated a DDS. Yet, some seem to get so much more out of their dental practice. How do they do it?

According to the University of Western Ontario, the cost of a four-year dental degree and three years of undergraduate studies for a Canadian citizen is $210,000 (based on 2003-2004 figures). This is a significant investment, and international students carry an even heavier financial burden.

The good news is that this sacrifice pretty much guarantees you an annual salary well above the average Canadian, leading to a potentially comfortable lifestyle for the typical dentist.

But what if you want to earn more than the typical dentist?

There are several strategies that can catapult you into the top ranks in your profession. One strategy in particular, however, will have by far the most dramatic result on your bottom line. While your income is dependent on your hours of work per year, the most important factor to increasing your net income, next to controlling your overhead, is to increase your office’s hourly production. The ODA’s 2003 Annual Economic Survey Report states: “Efficient and inefficient dentists work almost exactly the same total hours per year over the same number of days” yet “the most efficient practices can generate a net income up to 145 percent more than the most inefficient practices.” In reality, this number can actually be 500 percent. Even 1,000 percent!

Cleaning house

So how do you become efficient?

Several factors can contribute to an increase in hourly production. For instance, the faster you work, the more you can get done. Of course, this comes through experience as you learn to perform procedures in less time. Other practice-management techniques to reduce the amount of unproductive downtime include:

minimizing no shows/ cancellations;

working out of multiple operatories;

utilizing multiple assistants;

utilizing an expanded duty hygienist;

streamlining clinical procedures.

These are all proven ways of immediately increasing efficiency. However, if you want to substantially increase your hourly production you must be able to perform procedures that warrant a higher fee. These include: wisdom teeth extractions, implants (surgery and prosthetics), root canals, periodontal surgeries (crown lengthening and hard and soft tissue grafting), cosmetics (veneers), and crown and bridge (especially full-mouth rehabilitation).

While these procedures can result in a significant increase in hourly production and therefore an increase in gross and net incomes, they come at a price: increased responsibility as well as the time and financial costs associated with the necessary continuing education.

A hands-on approach

There are a number of short-term and one-day courses offered to help you increase your expertise in all areas of dentistry. However, these procedures should be performed only when you’ve achieved a certain skill and experience level. You can make this possible by taking a comprehensive hands-on course followed by one-on-one or over-the-shoulder supervision with an experienced and conscientious clinician.

Many comprehensive courses feature faculty who are happy to have you observe them in practice or allow you to bring your patients to their office for treatment. Some courses even offer a list of graduates who have formed study groups in your area and would be happy to help you out. Usually, all you have to do is ask.

You are most likely familiar with comprehensive courses offered by the Pankey Institute, LVI, Pac-Live, Dawson, Spears, and Kois. In Ontario, we also have several excellent comprehensive and hands-on courses right in our own backyard.

Dr. Anthony Mancuso, President of the AGD Ontario chapter runs the Millennium Aesthetics course. If you are interested in cosmetics, the course is packed with information, is well organized and leaves you feeling confident with your new set of skills.

We are also fortunate to have the Misch International Implant Institute offered here. Dr. Carl Misch, the founder of the Institute is also the author of Contemporary Implant Dentistry, so you might say he literally wrote the book on the field. This is an excellent course, designed by someone who is quite obviously passionate about his work and the profession.

So no matter in which category you find yourself–financially independent, getting by or broke–there is always a way to enrich your skills and turn your practice into a much more efficiently run operation. You’ll find that your patients benefit, your staff will appreciate your skills, and you will feel challenged and rejuvenated.

Plus, of course, your bottom line will thrive.

After more than 12 years of dentistry, Dr. Marinovich founded Marinovich Consultants. The company specializes in maximizing personal and practice potential, leading to financial independence for clients in as short a time as possible.

Dr Marinovich has no financial interests associated with the courses or the principals quoted in this article. They have been included only because of his first-hand knowledge of the courses, the curriculums and the lecturers.