Oral Health Group

Make no mistake… money matters

September 1, 2006
by John Marinovich, BSc, DDS

If someone says money isn’t important, or the amount of money you have doesn’t matter, I guarantee they don’t have very much of it. While it is true that money in and of itself won’t make a person happy, it can be vitally important, especially when you don’t have enough of it. I know many wealthy people who are miserable, however, the inability to pay bills, or escalating debt are not worries they have.

As I picked up The Professional Advisory Volume 24, April 2006, contained in Dental Practice Management, I was drawn to Dr. Ralph Crawford’s introduction titled, “Only One in Five Know Their Retirement Income”. Dr. Crawford goes on to explain that at a social event a couple of dentists practicing 30 plus years surprised him by revealing they couldn’t retire because they couldn’t afford it. I applaud these dentists for being honest about their finances and I congratulate Dr. Crawford for revealing this common problem and drawing attention to it. This is something that is rarely discussed and it needs to be. Why don’t we bring up our financial hardships? There’s an abundance of dentists out there in the exact situation but their circumstances are made worse because they feel they are all alone. There are so many dentists who are on the same pathway as these two dentists. It is almost as if our profession and the dental industry choose to keep this under wraps because it is somehow too embarrassing. Let’s face it, everyone thinks dentists make a truckload of money and are wealthy. Even the public’s perception is that we must all be rich– especially after they see the cost of their last dental visit. The unpleasant truth is that the vast majority of dentists are on very shaky ground financially.


Many dentists are perpetually several months away from financial disaster. Disability insurance is often not enough to bail them out and even the banks have their breaking points. This is a fact that we choose to ignore. Often we struggle and move forward because our pride won’t allow us to concede defeat. It is my prediction that this trend of financial crisis will continue and in fact, worsen. By not talking about it, we are only making the situation worse.

Unfortunately our training in dental school, gave us very little guidance on the business of dentistry. We were taught that the altruistic nature of our occupation should be enough and talk of financial gain somehow is unbecoming of such a noble profession.

Very few of us have any training in economics, accounting, human resource skills, marketing, negotiating or any other aspect that allows for a profitable, smooth-running business.

The good news is all these aspects of business are easily learned. We spend so much of our time focusing on clinical skills, or the next nano-fil composite on the market, or the latest piece of equipment that we neglect the business side of dentistry. Reading just one book on the above-mentioned business topics will greatly improve your knowledge and your success. Let’s just deal with one aspect as an example.

We’ll spend tens of thousands of dollars on consultants to train us on leadership, not to mention the lost production and staff wages necessary to facilitate this. Read one book on leadership and implement just several recommendations and observe the difference it makes. The cost is $29.95. E-mail me and I’ll give you the authors and titles of several such books.

I have some more good news. Dentistry is one of the simplest business models in existence. Your clients come to see you at set times, you control the hours you work, your facility and associated costs, as well as your fees.There are revenues, there are expenses and you keep the difference between them. It really is that simple! Now doesn’t it make sense to try to maximize the difference between your revenues and expenses?

You know by now that I believe your overhead should be 50% or less. Don’t judge your practice by the industry average. The average dentist is a long way from being debt free and financially independent.

If you’ve met me, heard me speak or have followed my writings, you know how strongly I espouse the benefits of controlling costs and increasing net income.( Notice the idea is to increase net income and not simply to increase production- there’s a big difference.) Here are just a few suggestions that can help you accomplish that:

– Know your practice numbers.

– Review them at least monthly if not daily.

– Understand that all decisions have financial consequences, know what these are. Do the math before making that next purchase! Ask your accountant for help if need be.

– Set financial goals that are specific and measurable in terms of time frame and dollar amount.

– In every decision, ask yourself, does this bring me closer or farther from my objective and will this increase or decrease my net worth?

Dentistry is a great profession, especially when you’re not doing it because you have to. Financial stresses can only be resolved by money. Your practice has the potential to generate income for you and your family. Money is not a dirty word — it is the reason business exists.

The dentist is not the only person to benefit by being financially independent. Your valued and trusted team members benefit also. When you are financially secure, their jobs are more secure and your ability to pay them well increases. A financially sound dentist has the potential to be a happier boss and can create a much more pleasant environment for his/her staff and patients. Without the burden of financial concerns, that dentist can concentrate on being a better spouse and parent or grandparent. A financially sound dentist is not so negatively affected by the pressure of time, mechanical breakdowns, cancelled appointments and the abundance of other demands placed on us daily. A dentist with more money has more money to give and is in a better position to give back to their community and charities alike.

It is extremely important to remember that we don’t always have complete control over what we earn but we do have complete control over what we spend. Spending less than you earn is a simple yet critically important philosophy!

While money in and of itself will not bring happiness, health or balance to one’s life, alleviating financial burdens often allows these other important aspects of dentist’s lives to prosper.


Dr. John Marinovich, BSc, DDS, graduated from the University Of Western Ontario School Of Dentistry in 1990. The Marinovich Group, through its efficiency expertise, enables its clients to maximize their personal and practice potential.

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