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Not too long ago I wrote a series of articles titled: STOP THINKING LIKE A DENTIST. Just last week I was asked to be the keynote speaker to open the annual BEST for Dentistry meeting with the task of describing how to survive as an independent practice. I believe dentistry is one of the best careers anyone could have. It has and will continue to have unlimited earning potential and fulfillment. The challenge is going to be your ability to adapt to an ever-changing business in a consumer driven culture. We have long ago passed a favorable supply and demand graph. We keep graduating more doctors but the need for most of our services has been diminishing for years.

Let’s begin with a quick review and a restatement of how successful practices will need to “stop thinking like a dentist”. If you are uncertain as to what that looks like, allow me to give you the top 12 “thinking like a dentist” symptoms. Just one doesn’t spell catastrophe but if you check three or more, you are beginning an almost irreversible course that will lead to mediocrity and financial impotency in dentistry.

You may be “thinking like a dentist” if:

  1. You think a good solo practice is a destination. Solo practices have never been a destination. If you inspired your patients, excelled at clinical dentistry, and assembled a great team that consistently inspires your patients, you would just fly by any definition of a good solo practice. Consistent growth has to be one of your goals. If it is, and you succeed, you will need another hygienist and another doctor and then another facility. This is the problem of successful dental practices.
  2. You think or operate like you are “the one”: You know what I mean. You are the person that thinks they will hit the game winning home run against your arch rival, will never get cancer, never experience a divorce, or have nothing but perfect kids. Hallmark TV shows are built around just such a plot. Believe me, you are not “the one”. Nobody ever expected to be just OK or just average in dentistry, but that’s where the majority land.
  3. You believe clinical excellence will create unlimited growth and drive patients through the door. This is a tough one, because you should have a goal to improve your clinical excellence throughout your career. The problem is that it will not necessarily attract a bunch of patients. I would say I have seen more prosthodontists and boutique practices struggle with paying the bills and surviving than any other group of dentists we run into.
  4. You think your job is doing dentistry. You and each of your team members do things all day. The challenge is that so does every other office. You job is not just sucking spit and working on teeth. Your job is serving your patients in a way that inspires them to want the dentistry they need. Once you think your job is doing dentistry, you revert back to an 8-hour a day job instead of a passionate profession of serving.
  5. You have poor situational awareness. If you think that you can stick your head in the sand and do what you have always done and survive, you have poor situational awareness. Those that cling to the traditional dental practice model will be the last to change and most will wake up too late to change. When you are done with change, you are done. Learn about consumerism, commoditization, supply and demand, and the new dental economy we face today.
  6. Leadership is not your number one priority. Most doctors fail to see that all of their challenges stem from one source: lack of leadership. Take this test. If you think you’re a leader, and you look over your shoulder and there is no one there, you are just taking a walk.

We will pick up here in my next article to finish off the top 12 symptoms of “thinking like a dentist” as we explore what it takes to survive as an independent practice in the future. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
972.523.4660 cell
[email protected]
PS. By the way, on the home page of our website ( we have a search function to 400-500 articles we have written on just about every aspect of a Super General Dental Practice. Give it a try!