Recently, I’ve started to teach other dental professionals how to run a dental practice efficiently and profitably. It’s something I’m super passionate about, because I spent years struggling before I could reach that oh-so-wonderful level of efficiency I was always daydreaming about. 

I noticed that, during conversations with general dentists enrolled in my endo CE course, E-School, the discussion often ends up landing on money—and, more specifically, the very common issue of not charging enough (or at all, sometimes!) for the services you are providing to a patient. 

What do I mean by this? Here’s a super common example: I often see people not charging for the work they do with their cone beams because their patients complain about it. And that, my friends, just doesn’t fly in my practice. That’s why this week we’re diving into a few key business lessons.

How to run a dental practice like the boss you are! 

I was once in the boat that maybe you’re in right now. I would never charge—or at least not charge enough—for the work that I did.

I already mentioned the CBCT scans, but I was seriously the worst. Free consults? Sure! Free GentleWave upgrades? You bet! Free radiographs? Of course!

Nope, nope, nope.

I had to do a TON of personal work to change my mindset around this stuff, and I’m glad to say I’ve come a long way. Want to know what truly shifted things for me? It was the belief in the value that I was providing my patients..

In retrospect, I can’t believe how much money I left on the table.

I often see dentists getting paid less than what they are worth. Sometimes it seems like we are more afraid about the cost of treatment than the patient is! 

But, what does that do for us? When we don’t charge our worth, we can’t reinvest that cash into ourselves to become better providers. We most certainly can’t reinvest in technology that will take us to the next level. And we can’t give more to our team members, so they can show up engaged, day in and day out. 

Where you might be missing out… 

I get that when you are running a dental practice, you might not charge for services related to new technology as you get the hang of how it works. I definitely didn’t charge for my cone beams or my GentleWave handpieces until I felt totally competent with each machine. But once you have gotten closer to mastery of your tech, you should start charging for those services. 

And you need to raise your prices as the times change. The cost of living, rent, cost of supplies—it all keeps going up and up and up. Why is everyone else in the world allowed to raise their fees, but we as an industry are so reluctant to do so? Why do we feel bad? Why are we so fearful? I have trouble wrapping my head around it sometimes. I mean, I just went to Starbucks and paid close to $7.50 for one coffee. And as I looked around, I didn’t see one person complaining about the cost. 

If you want to know how to run a sustainable dental practice, one of the simplest tips I can give you is to be observant, and increase your prices to keep up with the world around you. A good rule of thumb is to increase fees by 3% every year to account for inflation and avoid shrinking your profit margins.

Free consultations? I think not. 

Why do dentists offer free consultations? 

I get it, sometimes it’s a form of marketing. But consultations take time, energy, and a whole lot of attention to detail. My consultations sometimes take 45 minutes of my undivided attention—especially when I have a very inquisitive patient.

And then there’s presenting a treatment plan, which is probably one of the most important things that I do for my patients during that consult. I need to make sure I speak in a language in which the patient can understand about their problem, its severity, and the potential outcomes. 

It’s not something I can rush, because if I do rush it, well, then I am going to run the patient out of my chair before they understand what’s necessary. And that is a recipe for a future headache.

When it comes to running my endo practice, I’m never trying to just reach a certain $$$ number. And when I’m a patient, I get a little worried about so-called “deals.” When you go about pricing your services—from consultations to more in-depth procedures—consider how you would feel if you were in the patient’s chair? What would you respond well to? 

Remember that pricing is perception. If something is cheap, people perceive it as cheap. And if something is expensive, they perceive it as quality. (If you were to hire a plumber, would you go for the guy charging $25/hr with no experience, or the one charging hundreds per hour with three decades of expertise?) If you’re doing quality work, then charge quality prices, my friends.

On a side note: When I go to my primary care provider for a wellness visit and then I bring up some separate ailment (for example, my right toe hurts), I am charged a whole other consultation fee and an additional code is submitted to my insurance. To top it all off, they don’t even inform me of this additional fee until after I get the EOB.

Given how other health practitioners operate, I have always wondered why, as dentists, we get our panties in a bunch about adding consultation fees. 

Charging for your technology

Radiographs and cone beams are SUCH an important piece of the diagnostic puzzle. After all, without them, we can only see half of what we need to.

So, why do you feel bad for charging for something that will allow you to see the patient completely and give you the ability to do better work? There is so, SO much value in that.

What you are offering to your patients is incredible and important. You have to believe that. If you don’t believe it, well then, perhaps you need to take a bit more CE around that topic until you truly do (there’s always E-School!). 

There are many times when a patient has just had a cone beam done in their general dentist’s office, but I have to take another one—one that is endodontically enhanced. I 100% believe—in fact, I KNOW—that the cone beam in my office, on my particular settings, is going to be of the highest resolution and allow me to treat my patients better than a cone beam sent to my office (which might even require learning a whole new software!). So I have no problem charging for my cone beam and the time it takes me to read the data I get from it.

A little bit of patient education can go a long way when it comes to adding an extra charge. When you share with your patients what a cone beam is, for example, they will be able to understand its value. And once you show them the CBCT? Well, usually they are super onboard (and they appreciate the insights you share! Instant trust!). 

A few more opportunities 

One of the biggest difficulties when it comes to how to run a dental practice is navigating insurance. It often happens that a treatment is required, but the code is not a covered benefit. I can’t tell you how many dentists simply don’t bill for things that aren’t covered by insurance. But seriously, why are you not charging the patient for work that was provided? It might suck for the patient, but you’re owed money—fair and square. 

I want to see my community of dentists thrive. And that means learning to charge what you’re worth (and ahem, STOP NOT charging people, too). If you charge appropriately for your work, people perceive it as valuable. If you don’t charge, that communicates that you don’t believe what you’re doing is important. 

But what’s more important than saving teeth?!

Endo tips, tricks, and a healthy amount of business advice are kinda my THING. And if you want more wisdom like this, why not give me a follow on Instagram (@soniachopradds).

– Sonia