3 Keys to Managing a Dental Practice During Economic Uncertainty

graph of economic uncertainty

Can your dental practice weather economic uncertainty? Running a profitable dental practice can feel like an enormous challenge even in the best economic circumstances. When times get hard, the stress and worry that comes with running a dental office can feel as if they’ve been magnified tenfold.

At NextLevel Practice, we coach dentists who are concerned about both managing a dental practice and planning for retirement. There are actionable steps that dentists can take to shore up their practices and help them remain strong and viable no matter what is going on beyond the office walls. Here are three keys for managing a financially successful dental practice when economic times are shaky.

1. Staffing: Train and Retain an All-Star Team


Your staff plays a significant role in successfully managing your dental practice. From the reception desk to the hygienist, to the janitorial team, each position matters. Your revenue is centered on attracting new patients and keeping your existing patients engaged. That means that during uncertain economic times, you need to provide a patient experience that is second to none. Every member of your staff should be trained in providing exceptional customer service such as:

  • Greeting patients the moment they walk in the door.
  • Seeing patients in a timely manner.
  • Treating patients with kindness and empathy while they’re in treatment.
  • Ensuring patient comfort during all procedures.
  • Explaining procedures clearly.
  • Ensuring billing is timely and accurate.
  • Resolving conflict calmly and professionally.
  • Making call-backs and reminders.
  • Keeping proper records/charting accurately.

Many patients already struggle with maintaining consistent care or committing to special procedures. Your staff and office policies should not give them another reason not to return.


The second half of this staffing equation is retaining quality people. Remember that in today’s economy, you are not just competing for customers, you’re competing for staff, too. Labor shortages are at an all-time high and dentistry is right there in the thick of the hiring struggle. Once you create a stellar team that puts the patient first and aligns with your practice goals, make sure they have a reason to stay loyal.

If you have retention issues, you have revenue issues. Take an honest look at how you engage with your team and the compensation you offer to find gaps that could threaten the financial health of your practice. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Is my benefits package competitive?
  • can every member of my team maintain a work/life balance?
  • Is my team united behind the practice’s mission and vision?
  • Am I managing effectively?

2. Case Acceptance: Close More High-Value Cases

Increasing case acceptance (and high-value case closure) seems like such an obvious answer to economic uncertainty. Yet so many dentists struggle to make the close when the time comes to bring the patient on board with a treatment plan. That is primarily because dentists should not be the ones making the close.

Even the word “close” makes most dentists uncomfortable, as they (rightfully) think of their practice as necessary healthcare, not a business. But dentistry is absolutely a business — one that needs to make money to continue providing that critical healthcare to patients no matter what the economy is doing.

Closing higher value cases is an important key to maintaining and increasing the financial health of your practice. It requires the participation of your entire team and the efforts of a sales-minded professional who is capable of relating to a patient’s concerns about money, time, pain, and necessity. They should also have a keen understanding of the value of the services offered and be able to convey them to the patient, so the patient understands that the care plan is critical to their complete health.

Create Support Roles for Managing a Dental Practice

In our coaching, we recommend that dentists create an entire treatment coordinator role for case closure. That’s how important it is to have a skilled, compassionate professional in charge of case acceptance. If this business-minded approach to closing cases makes you feel uncomfortable, keep this in mind: You created the care plan in the best interest of the patient, not your wallet. While closing the case will benefit your practice, it will benefit the patient more because they will get care they truly need and improve their health. It’s okay to make money while doing good things!

Learn more about how a treatment coordinator can increase case acceptance in our book Million Dollar Dentistry. Download it for free here.

3. Get Paid: Close Outstanding Balances

The third key I will share for managing a dental practice during economic upheaval is to get paid by your patients. If you have a roster of unpaid balances, you are leaving money on the table month after month. Managing patient debt is a tricky problem for all dentists. It is also quite common; the ADA website even has a section dedicated to navigating the process.

The most common concern I hear is that dentists are scared that confronting a patient will make them leave the practice and never return. The question I ask is, why would you want them to? Why would you want a patient who does not pay?

If you want to create a solid financial future for your practice, you have to begin by resolving the mistakes of the past. That means collecting money you’ve allowed to languish as an interest-free loan.

  • Make a comprehensive list of outstanding debts.
  • Have a member of your staff call patients to zero out their account balances.
  • Offer a repayment plan (with a signed agreement), request payment over the phone immediately, or direct them to third-party finance options.

Once you have resolved as many overdue accounts as possible, you should also consider shifting to a zero-balance mindset in your practice. Patients pay in advance or once the treatment is completed, leaving no balance behind when they exit the office. This includes projected insurance co-pays. With no accounts receivable department holding you back, you will have a reliable picture of your overall financial health — and cash in the bank.

I hope these tips will help you create stability in your practice so you can thrive through all economic circumstances. If you would like to learn even more about supercharging your practice to maximize revenue and efficiency, schedule a free consultation!