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What is this “super general dental practice”?  You already know, if you have attended one of our breakaway seminars that everyone is talking about called the “180 Degree Dental Journey”.  If not, please just email me and let me send you an article that lays out the four threats to dentistry as we know it, and what will insure your survival in the coming dental civil war.  This article will go further into the actual segments or systems that will be required to build this new dental strategy and actually implement the initial changes to your current circumstances.  This is the beginning of creating the practice of the future with unlimited growth and sustainable improvement despite any challenge that threatens dentistry.

  1. Become “lean and mean”  I loved the Rick Kushner seminars back in the early 80’s.  All meat and no vegetables.  A real black and white, get it done and do it profitability strategy.  Dr. Kushner, who owns hundreds of dental practices now, still maintains the same tight ship he did in his very first practice.  Around 2,000 square feet, six operatories, which epitomize an efficient, optimized space.  The practices of the future will expand their hours like corporate practices while maintaining the relational aspect of the traditional practice of yesterday.  We recommend about 325 sq. ft. /Op or about 1900-2100 sq. ft. for a 6 op office.  Operating “lean” is being cognizant of a benchmarked overhead.  We find that a well-run office can easily lower their overhead below 60% while still producing at about $20,000/employee/month and about $25-30,000/Op/month.  Results are the benchmark of a “lean and mean” strategy.
  2. Embrace Consumerism:  I have written volumes on what consumerism is but suffice it to say that we need to give patients what they want, at a time they would like it, and at a price that fits their budget.  It is not enough to understand that patients or consumers have a choice, but we need to become that choice.  Inspiring them, exceeding their expectations, becoming experts of budgeting the treatment they need, while being sensitive that time and trust will be the final deciders of whether or not they choose you.
  3. Marketing is everything you do.  Understanding that marketing is a necessity that requires a well thought out budget dedicated to a year-long consistent marketing plan that embraces both internal and external outreach.  It embraces consumerism through demographics and a myriad of forms of marketing.  It is no longer possible to reach the public through just one media or outlet.  Consistency means “dripping” on potential patients with print, audio, video, and digital marketing.  Layered with that is embracing the consumerism of convenient hours, location, and reliable systems.  Think like this: What would a corporate practice do?  Once you figure this out, then see what on that list you could do and do better.  Consider that you are competing against a well-funded practice with better hours, more marketing, better location, and systems to buy supplies cheaper and train the staff better.  What will you do to mitigate this advantage?  Buying another piece of technology will not do it.  Think of something else.
  4. Expand your Services  I have always had the goal of continuing to learn every year I practice.  In that are additional services that would expand the productivity and range of patients you could attract.  Corporate practices outreach is centered on one stop for every service possible.  You need to emulate this by vowing to add perhaps braces, implants, sedation, kid’s dentistry, and TMJ or sleep dentistry to your armamentarium.  Most times you will find that with these new areas of expertise, you will find new technology that compliments its application.  Technology that pays for itself is a great investment when you consider how it affects overhead and debt.
  5. Become an expert at helping patients afford what they need.  The Super General Practice must have staff that is expert in finding the correct financing solutions for various types of patients.  It is no longer good enough to just print the fact that you offer financing options, you have to make them work for each patient.  It is and will be a challenge, but the practices of the future will do well at this.
  6. Embrace your patient’s needs concerning their insurance.  With 57% of the population having some form of dental coverage, you can no longer afford to create barriers to treatment by assuming that they will continue to come to you as an out of network provider.  Insurance, like so many other things (not being open the right hours, not cleaning teeth on the first appointment, or not offering services patients’ desire) creates a barrier to entry into your practice.  Take the threshold test and determine how your current policies and systems are preventing patients from saying yes.  We need to begin studying in earnest every insurance plan and learn how to maximize the patient’s benefits while optimizing reimbursements through proper coding.  Our offices have found that Insurance Solutions Newsletter and Charles Blair’s coding manual are indispensable in maximizing and streamlining the insurance and financial areas of our practice.
  7. Delegate and utilize technology to become more efficient and effective in delivering our services. With certain areas of the country underserved and others overly competitive, the utilization of technology and delegation can lower you overhead while increasing productivity with more predictable clinical results.
  8. Embrace change and add providers so that you never plateau your growth.  One of the best wealth building strategies in dentistry has been and will continue to be central to unlimited growth and profitability in the fight against corporate practices and insurance companies.  Adding associates leading to partnership while continuing to have 100% control is the way to grow while expanding hours.  It allows you to remove the equity in your practice when you are able to invest it and allow it to compound.  In addition, your partner creates a buy-in/buy-out strategy that insures security for you and your family.  If you’re interested we have a book called The Roadmap that outlines in detail the strategy and contracts to make this happen.
  9. Stop the stress that causes high staff turnover and systems collapse.  Practices of the future will invest in coaching and mentors along with continuing education to streamline systems and insure great results.  Training regimes are foundational to maintaining the quality of staff and systems.  Paramount to this is embracing the fact that you have to elevate your game to become a great leader.  You need to clearly define and lay out your vision of what you want, and why you do what you do.
  10. The last but maybe the most important pillar of the Super General Dental practice is a dedication to being proactive about change.  We have to continue to stay ahead of the curve by embracing the changes we need to make in order to get the results that are necessary to grow a business.  This attitude signifies the type of doctor that will always be a survivor.  Without this trait you will always wake up each day knowing that you could do more and be more. 


The willingness to embrace the uncertainty of tomorrow while planning for the future insures that you, your staff, and your practice will be the benchmark that others measure their success against.  The Super General Dental practice is the answer to the challenges you face.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
[email protected]
PS — There is a video available of The 180 Degree Dental Journey.  The set of 7 DVD’s is available for $197.
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