Howard Speaks: Become Great At What Your Patients Need by Dr. Howard Farran

Howard Speaks: Become Great At What Your Patients Need 

by Howard Farran, DDS, MBA, publisher, Dentaltown magazine


Dr. L.D. Pankey said you can’t sell a product if it’s not sitting on your shelf. And there are so many dental students who graduate a half-million dollars in debt, thinking they’re going to be able to pay it off by doing just simple things like cleanings, exams, X-rays, fillings and single-unit crowns. You know what’s not on their shelves? Two of the most in-demand procedures you can do profitably: molar root canals and implants. Coming out of school, many young dentists won’t attempt a molar root canal, and 95% won’t place an implant—but if you’re not capable of doing single-tooth extractions and replacing them with an implant, or doing a root canal, buildup and crown, you’re putting your practice in financial trouble!

Become proficient, not just prolific

On a recent road trip, I stopped in to see Dr. Jake Wolf, who owns Organ Mountain Dental in Las Cruces, New Mexico. This Townie, who has placed more than 1,500 implants, says placing a single implant on a healed ridge is “maybe the easiest procedure in dentistry.” Sure, it can be complex, he says, but it doesn’t need to be, thanks to equipment like drill stops and surgical guides.

Dr. Wolf, who’s been giving other dentists hands-on instruction in how to place implants in their own practices, says he believes that most younger dentists get into trouble when they do attempt advanced work because they skip a lot of steps and training: They don’t know how to prep a crown yet, but are asking about which full-mouth recap courses they should take. Or they’ve never placed an implant before but are saying, “What do you think about all-on-four for this case?”

Something like all-on-four is not something a dentist should just be dabbling in, doing one every six months; it’s something you should save for people who are set up to do that type of work efficiently and productively. Instead, you should know that if a patient shows up in your practice with a toothache on Tooth #19, you can treat that tooth in one visit. Get your workflow down for the stuff you’re going to do every day— procedures that your patients need, that you can make a living doing. Unless you’re an exceptional dentist who has tons of experience and lives in the exact right demographic community, you’re not going to be able to treat just wealthy people and do only all-on-four-level cases.

Patients are customers— and you’ve got competition

I hear so many dentists of all ages who still have an attitude about what I just mentioned: “What, a patient’s just allowed to walk in and expect me to treat them, even if they don’t have an appointment?” Where is this judgment coming from? For one thing, you’re a doctor and they’re a patient. It’s literally your job to help them. And in an era when you’ve likely got two dentists right down the street from you, do you think anyone’s going to wait a week or two in pain until the time that’s most convenient for you? If you were suffering, would you wait a week or two to be treated?

Your attitude determines your altitude and your aptitude. It’s essential that you become comfortable performing this bread-and-butter dentistry—the procedures that keep your practice open and profitable, so you can keep your patients happy and healthy. And it’s essential that you remember that dentistry is a service business: If those patients aren’t happy at your practice, they’ll seek out another practice instead. So lose the bad attitude, and increase your aptitude!

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