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  03.03.05 Issue #156


Employees: Take Control of Your Income Potential

Sally Mckenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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I’ve been here a year, and I work really hard. I’m nice to everyone. I deserve to make more money.” If those were the only criteria for increasing employee salaries, we would all be making enough to retire by the age of 35. Unfortunately, employees in many, many dental practices are convinced that those are the most important if not the only determining factors for increasing compensation.

The reality is that if the dental practice isn’t bringing more money in, the doctor/CEO cannot afford to hand more money out – no matter how “hard working and loyal” you might be. But that doesn’t mean employees have no control over their income potential. In fact, just the opposite is true. Employees have a profound impact on the profitability of the practice and can directly improve their income potential provided they take one very important step: Focus on delivering measurable results daily. Here’s how:

First, you need clear, results-oriented job descriptions. Next you and your teammates should work with the doctor in establishing your own performance objectives/job expectations that are consistent with the doctor’s overall practice goals, such as scheduling to meet production goals, keeping the hygiene schedule full, eliminating the insurance backlog, improving the new patient process and materials, enhancing your assisting skills, etc. Showing up for work every day and being nice to the patients doesn’t cut it. That’s simply expected.

At the monthly business meeting you should be prepared to report to the entire team the status of your area of responsibility. If you are the scheduling coordinator and a concern has been raised regarding the prevalence of last minute cancellations and no-shows what strategies and procedures will you propose to control those problems. As the scheduling coordinator, you need to recognize that your performance affects the ability of the hygienist to meet production goals and the ability of the practice to achieve financial objectives and, consequently, your own ability to secure a raise.

Develop a list of specific steps you can take to be valuable assets to the business. Monitor your progress and your accomplishments using concrete numbers whenever possible. For example, if you developed a new patient welcoming procedure and materials that increased the number of patients coming into the practice and pursuing recommended treatment plans, document your strategy, measure the outcomes, and report the results to the doctor and team.

Consider a few other areas that have a direct impact on your income potential in the practice. How well do you follow instructions? Has the doctor attempted to teach you a specific procedure multiple times but you just don’t seem to get it? Are you cooperative or confrontational? What is the quality of your work product? Do others have to come in and fix or cleanup after you? Do you take the initiative to solve problems immediately or do you routinely hand them off because it’s “not your job”?

Are you frequently unable to get your work done because of interruptions from the phone, the Internet, too much time chatting with patients and colleagues. Do you communicate openly and respectfully with the doctor, your teammates, and the patients? Are you flexible? The dental practice is full of unexpected situations that throw the best laid plans and the most well-developed schedules into a tailspin. Do you panic and become difficult or are you able to adapt to the daily frustrations and unexpected interruptions with a cool head and finesse? What steps do you take daily to improve your specific area, the operation of the practice, the patient experience? What steps do you take daily to reduce practice expenses, save time, or increase revenues, improve treatment acceptance?

In addition, consider what’s happening outside the office. If the manufacturing plant down the street is preparing to layoff half its workforce and many of those employees are your patients, the practice is going to be facing some potentially difficult times. Above all else, avoid threats or demands. The last thing you want to do is put the doctor on the defensive. Requesting a raise with the attitude "if I don't get it, I'm leaving" will only tell the doctor and team that you are uncompromising and only out for yourself. Be professional and, if your job is worth keeping, be willing to listen and learn.

“Service is just a day-in, day-out, ongoing, never ending, unremitting, persevering, compassionate type of activity.” Leon Gorman of L.L. Bean

If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

If You Aren’t Doing Dentistry, It’s Not Because There Isn’t Any To Do

Belle M. DuCharme
RDA, CDPMA. Director
The Center for
Dental Career Development

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In a perfect world, we diagnose wonderful full mouth treatment plans; the patient appoints, keeps his appointment and pays in full at the time of service with a smile of appreciation on his face. For the most part, this scenario is true in many practices. The implied contract works both ways. You deliver the dentistry in a professional, ethical manner and the patient responds by being compliant with home care, appointments and payment for services rendered.

What happens when you deliver but the patient does not? My answer is to be prepared and have systems in the beginning that set standards for behavior in your practice. Have firm financial options to offer your patients so that the patient understands his or her financial obligation before treatment is started. In presenting treatment options make sure that the patient understands that you cannot “bill” them for completed services. Insurance estimates are just that. Dental insurance has never been comprehensive in coverage. The patient needs to understand what the insurance is estimated to pay and that they are ultimately responsible should the insurance not pay. Some offices opt for going strictly fee for service, collecting in full and having the patient send in the claim. This is the ideal but it is not for every practice. If you are not ready to go this route then your patients need to understand how dental insurance is processed in your practice and you need to collect what is not covered at each appointment.

At THE CENTER FOR DENTAL CAREER DEVELOPMENT we have a new brochure to educate patients about dental insurance called "My Insurance Covers This...Right?" The brochure answers the most common questions patients have about dental insurance in simple language. It is an excellent product to include in your New Patient Packets to patients with dental insurance. It is also important to include this brochure in the financial part of the treatment presentation.

The patient needs to understand your policy for cancellations and failed appointments. Explaining early in the relationship what is expected of the patient in regards to keeping appointments and the consequences of failing appointments will help to prevent this behavior in the future.

With the right systems in place, perfect world dentistry is possible in your practice. Recent studies have shown that in some areas of the country there are shortages of dentists. The demand exceeds the supply to the point that some practices are busy in spite of themselves. If you are not busy it is because something is wrong with one or more of the systems in your practice. You could be convincing patients not to have dental care in your office by:

  • Having a restrictive appointment system making it difficult to schedule a time.
  • Being booked out for hygiene appointments more than 3 weeks
  • Shocking new patients with big dollar treatment plans
  • Making patients wait longer than ten minutes in the reception room
  • Not explaining ahead of time how insurance is handled in your office
  • Not presenting written treatment options
  • Not helping patients obtain financing such as with Care Credit.
  • Not giving the patient post op instructions or follow-up care
  • Not offering the patient an opportunity to freshen up after an appointment
  • Not giving the patient information or samples of new products and services that may help them achieve optimum dental health etc.
  • Not having an indirect or direct marketing plan to retain existing patients and attract new patients

If you show resistance to giving some extra effort to make your patients welcome and comfortable they may not find the need to drive an extra mile to see you, especially if the other dentist down the street is offering better customer service.

The Advanced Business Training at THE CENTER FOR DENTAL CAREER DEVELOPMENT is comprehensive in coverage of all systems that create the most productive and profitable dental practices. For more information, call 1-877-777-6151 or send an e-mail to

Dental Websites – You’ve Got One, Now What?

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Congratulations, you finally did it. In creating a practice website, you are responding to the needs and wants of your patients who routinely use the Internet to manage their busy lives. In fact, you may not realize it but 80% of your patients want to access you/your practice via the Internet. They are perfectly at ease buzzing down this information/e-commerce superhighway wherever it takes them for everything from scheduling dental appointments, to handling bank transactions, to slipping in some shopping, to taking an online course or two. The Internet is far more than an information tool; it is a way of modern life.

And now you too are cruising right along with them. You have the site, but where are the patients? Where are the “hits?" Where’s the gigabyte of revenue that’s supposed to accompany this oh, so important tool of the 21st Century?

Many practices don’t realize it but they are actually just sitting on the shoulder of the road. They haven’t truly merged onto information superhighway. You have the site, but chances are pretty good that you haven’t marketed it. Strap on your seatbelts doctors it’s time to zip into the fast lane. Consider these seven steps to website success.

  1. Have Something to Say. Some practices will mistake their Internet billboard for a website. It includes basic information about the practice such as doctor’s name, the address, hours of operation, and phone number. Perhaps it promotes a couple of services. But when it comes to the Internet, information is KING. Treat the website as your most valuable patient education tool. In addition to basic practice information, provide post operative instructions, before and after photos, frequently asked questions, financial and other office policies, doctor and staff bios, patient forms, links to oral health information/articles through other websites such as the American Dental Association. Also consider including a few, brief patient testimonials. These can be highly effective and long-term patients are often more than happy to provide them.
  2. Tell ‘Em Where to Go. Promote, promote, promote your website. Include the web address on all office materials from appointment cards, to letters, to reminder notices, to brochures, to business cards, to yellow page ads, to hand mirrors, to toothbrushes. If it mentions the practice it better list the website address – no exceptions.
  3. Look Within. Current patients are the single most important, yet most overlooked tool for promoting your website. Many doctors don’t realize they have to tell their existing patients about their website. How do you get the majority of your new patients now? Through patient referrals. Send a mailing to all of your patients and invite them to visit your new website. Ask them to email you with feedback and suggestions. Encourage them to forward the website address to their friends and family.
  4. Start Your Engine – Search Engine that is. Register the site with major search engines, including and so that the site can be accessed through these. It is important to be listed under both the word dentist and your location, such as Dentist San Diego.
  5. Build your Address Book. Collect email addresses from patients. Remind patients of upcoming appointments and alert them to new services via email.
  6. Keep in Touch. Send an email newsletter to patients on a regular basis. This enables the office to maintain contact with patients in between their scheduled visits. The practice can cover a topic or two and it does not carry the printing and mailing costs associated with hardcopy newsletters. Give visitors to the site the opportunity to sign up online to receive the newsletter as well.
  7. Increased Chatter. Consider hosting an email chat room periodically to answer various questions from patients online, particularly if you are launching a new service. This is a great way to educate your patients about it.

The quality of the website represents the quality of the doctor and staff. Just as you are committed to providing the very best dental care, provide quality dental information and education. You’ll soon discover that those cruising by on the cyber-superhighway will regularly cruise your site.

"My Insurance Covers This...

Do your patients understand their dental insurance? Most don't. How does your staff handle patient questions and complaints? This new brochure can help. Great for sending with statements and displaying at the front desk. Presented in easy-to-understand terms, this high quality 6-panel brochure covers:

  • Why insurance doesn't pay 100% (even though it says it will)
  • Why many procedures are not covered
  • What "UCR" really means
  • Why carriers use negative EOB language
  • Much, much more

Sold in packages of 50


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Sally's Mail Bag

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Dear Sally,
I work at the front desk in our office and we have a lot of insurance patients. I struggle daily on what to say to a patient who tells me they don't want any of the work done unless their insurance will pay for it. They generally ask me what their insurance will cover and I am just at a loss of what would be the best thing to say. Can you help?

Dear Struggling,
My suggestion would be to say the following or some version of this

"Dental insurance is not like medical insurance. It was never designed to be comprehensive coverage for your dental health. In other words, the insurance does not give you enough benefits to take you from disease to health; it was designed to give you help in getting dental care only. 99% of dental policies have per calendar year maximums of any where from $1000 to $2000. Your plan gives you $1,000 each year to use or lose. Once you use up the $1,000 you still have dental procedures that need to be done to save your teeth. As you can see your insurance plan is not sufficient to pay for all the costs. For this reason, we now have available an affordable financing program that will give you the comfort level of getting your dentistry done and... make low monthly payments.

Hope this helps,

Want to Know More About The McKenzie Company?

This issue is sponsored
in part by:

The McKenzie Company Upcoming Events
Date Location Sponsor Speaker
Mar. 10 La Jolla, CA Southern CA Orthodontic Symposium Sally McKenzie & Exhibit
Mar. 14 Santa Rosa, CA Redwood Empire Dental Society Sally McKenzie
Mar. 17-19 Atlanta, GA Hinman Dental Society Sally McKenzie & Exhibit
Mar. 31-Apr. 2 Las Vegas, NV Dental Town Gathering Sally McKenzie & Exhibit
Apr. 1 Walnut Creek, CA Contra Costa Dental Society Sally McKenzie
Apr. 9 Portland, OR Oregon Dental Association Sally McKenzie & Exhibit

For more information, email
or call 1-877-777-6151

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