How to Know You’re in a Dental Business, Not Just a Dental Practice


You’re running a dental practice, but did you know you’re really the owner of a dental business?

It’s a question being posed to more and more dentists.

And most of my readers will know why.

It’s no secret things have changed in the world of dentistry over the past five years.

A topic covered extensively in my book, Retention, and in previous blogs, if you’re reading this, chances are, you’re familiar with the changes – and associated challenges.

The bottom line for we dentists is: the concept we had of dental practice when we graduated has evolved.

Whether it’s through willing acceptance or a grudging denial, the reality is dental practice is really about being in the dental business.

Here’s how you know if you’re operating a dental business.

You accept your business (world/technology/everything) is changing

There’s a wonderful cliché that says you have only two guarantees in life – taxes and death.

I disagree, maybe because I’m more of an optimist.

To the list of guarantees I’d add one other thing. Change.

Ask any entrepreneur who’s ‘made it’ and they’ll tell you, managing change has been part of their road to success.

Change in business and life is inevitable. Fact.

While we might think change is a problem or challenge for us, usually it’s our perception of change that’s the issue.

Time for a reframe?

In the highly dynamic world in which we live, change seems faster and more frequent. Sometimes, even the most agile among us can feel things move too quickly.

Change is evident across our industry – in technology, patient expectations and business management practices.

So how do we manage and keep up with the pace of change?

Frank Papadopoulos from Dental4Windows captured it neatly in my recent podcast.

“The only thing that you can control is yourself….so coming to a point where accepting that change is going to be a constant is just a fact…of business life.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Accept change is part of life – and your business – and you’re already a big part of the way there.

But it’s not easy. After all, it’s human nature to seek the road most familiar and frequently travelled.

Acceptance comes when we let go of thinking we can control everything, and just focus on controlling ourselves.

Focus on mastering this, then watch your change management muscle strengthen.


You’re solving a problem

Yes, you trained to be a dentist, but did you know you’re also a business owner solving a problem?

If you’re in dental practice today, that’s what you’re doing for patients.

Whether it’s maintenance, a recall or something more complex, the problem our patients want solved is “how can they be healthier and feel good about themselves?”.

Not only is the unique way you solve this problem a wonderful form of marketing, technically, it is also your ticket to entrepreneurship.

Once considered a criticism in dental circles, the idea of the dental entrepreneur is gaining traction.

My opinion?

The true essence of an entrepreneur is someone who adds more value than they take.

They’re also able to adapt to change and be flexible.

By sheer virtue of the fact you’re operating in a competitive and dynamic market and solving problems means you’re in operating a dental business.

Keep listening to your patients (customers) and you’ll keep finding problems to solve.


You know marketing is a business function, not a luxury

One of the core functions of any business is being able to attract and retain customers – or patients. This is where marketing plays an important role.

But for a dental practice to scale and grow and evolve to a dental business, it’s no longer enough to simply hang your shingle on the door.

Somewhere between increased competition and a shift in market conditions, things changed for dentists.

We’ve had to become savvy about marketing and embrace it as a core function of being in a dental business.

More than just a one-off recall letter or reminder SMS, dental business marketing now involves multiple forms of communication.

Think many touchpoints via snail mail, email, telephone, in-chair, advertising, social media, and on it goes.

You know you’re in a dental business when you start taking the ‘marketing thing’ seriously.

Ever-changing, implementing a marketing plan that works takes a commitment to keep learning. It also requires a willingness to step outside our comfort zone.

Which brings me to another clear pointer you’re operating a dental business: growth and learning.


You’re hungry for growth – yours and your dental business’

Another sure sign you’re in a dental business is your innate desire to learn as much as you possibly can.

Not just about business, your learning could be in any area of life. It really doesn’t matter, just so long as it’s learning that leads to growth.

I recall reading somewhere that owning a business is the best personal development course around.

I’m inclined to agree.

It’s one of the toughest gigs going – hard work, long hours, and uphill battles on tough days – but the learning and growth that’s gained makes it totally worthwhile.

A final word

One of the great benefits I see for dentists embracing business ownership is their expanded awareness.

This is most apparent as they integrate strong technical knowledge and skills and patient care, with a growing repertoire of business, people and marketing management know-how.

A step change for most of us, I regard this as positive and necessary for our industry – and our dental businesses.

Helping dentists have more patients, more profits and less stress.