Dental Success Checklist

Dental Success Checklist

Ryan M. Henrichsen, D.D.S.*:

Now more than ever before, there is a growing separation between dental practices that are successful, and those practices that are struggling. In dentistry, this is mostly due to the recession. However, now is the time to look at other factors that will help us to not just survive, but to thrive through these tough times and beyond. During the good times it is easy to be mediocre. Warren Buffet once said, “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” Are you and your dental team fighting the tide of this recession? Now is the time to take a few minutes and look at your practice in the proverbial mirror, and start today on making the right changes that will ensure happiness and success in dentistry. No matter how good we think we are, there is always room for improvement. Here are five things common to the most successful dental practices. These are the best place to start turning things around.

This quality is not simply an internal decision to look on the bright side of things, but rather an infectiously positive mental attitude. It is having the belief that you can do something positive each and every day. This doesn’t just happen on its own. This “winning” attitude is cultivated every day by the dentist. The dental team is encouraged, empowered, and appreciated. Their patients are grateful for the positive energy and enthusiasm that is shared in each and every transaction, from the way the receptionist answers the phone to the way the whole team is polite and professional. This cultural trait is first on the list because it is the most important indicator of dental practice success.

A successful practices has a clear focus on what all involved want the practice to be. They have a vision. They imagine what it will look like. They are intimately familiar with their mission, so they have defined exactly what kind of dentistry it is that they want to provide, and they set a course of action to meet this goal and to maintain it. This vision is a leadership-driven focus on where the dentist wants the practice to go. It in effect defines why the practice exists. This purpose should be shared with the team, and even refined with the team.

Successful dentists and their dental team have an undeniable passion for dentistry. They look forward to going to work. They view every day as an opportunity to advance their practice’s reputation by serving others with excellence. The dental business is about much more than making money. It is about making a living. It is about being the best. It is about helping others. If you lack this passion, you need to reinvent yourself. Consider taking some new, cutting edge continuing education. Consider investing in the dental education of your team. Make the practice about others...and watch good things happen.

It has been said that you can learn a lot about a person by what he or she does when no one is watching. Treat every patient as if that individual is a family member. The acronym “WIDIOM” comes to mind - i.e., Would I Do It On Me? The most successful dentists have this code as part of their DNA, and they attract people who have the same value system. They cultivate a “culture of honor” through their words, deeds, and expectations. They prune those that are dishonest, egocentric, or self-serving from their practices.

And That Ain’t Peanuts
Finally, they are not afraid of elephants! Find out what the importantly obvious and uncomfortable elephant is in your practice, and put it out of its misery! It could be a sloppy, unprofessional member of the team. It could be poor employee morale. It could be a pervasive tolerance of “average.” The latter is probably the most common problem that is out there. Few would ever admit it, but many dental practices believe that what they do for their patients is “good enough.” Not “great”, but “good enough”. They believe that the extra effort required to achieve excellence just isn’t worth it. They don’t feel that there is much to be gained by seeking excellence, other than longer hours. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Real Bottom Line
In this philosophy, the real “bottom line” is this: We have a God-given obligation to help others be the best they can be. We should work to create meaning and significance in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Don’t fail your patients or you team in this area. They are counting on you to give them direction, set clear expectations for excellence, and to back it up with training, correction, and encouragement. Do this well, and you will ensure that your future will always be brighter than the past, and regardless of the shifting of the tides, your practice will be swimming with confidence.


*Dr. Henrichsen is a general dentist in private practice in Rochester, Minnesota. Email is