Home 2024 Sleep Dentistry Issue The Accidental Manager: How Dental Spouses Contribute to Practice Success

The Accidental Manager: How Dental Spouses Contribute to Practice Success

by Dana Watson

It’s rough, isn’t it?  Running your own dental practice and staying competitive…it’s like juggling with one hand tied behind your back, dealing with sky-high wages, through-the-roof supply costs, and lab fees that make you want to cry. And then there’s the hustle—making enough, collecting enough, and hopefully having something to show for all that stress and sweat.

And hey, if you’re playing the PPO insurance game, that’s a whole other ballgame. Kudos if you’ve managed to steer clear of it!

Then there’s the whole “dental spouse” scenario…

Many of us, me included, ended up being part of the practice almost by accident. Maybe it was out of necessity (hello, free labor!) or simply because having two sets of hands makes the load a bit lighter. After all, our beloved dentists should be focusing on transforming lives with their skills, not drowning in HR tasks or playing “interview the next candidate.”

And what about the dark topic we seldom chat about: embezzlement. It’s a real fear, and sometimes, trusting your spouse is your best bet. That’s certainly been my experience, and I know I’m not alone in this boat.

Despite the headaches and hurdles of ownership, there’s a silver lining. Who else would you want by your side, rooting for the practice’s success, if not your spouse? They’re your ultimate cheerleader, the perfect mediator between the team and you, and the most vigilant overseer of expenses and payroll.

But why does “dental spouse” sometimes feel like a taboo phrase around the office or among fellow dentists? It’s time to shed the “accidental manager” label and embrace our roles with intention. I’ve been there thrust into a management role without a clue, missing the days when I was teaching high school science and loving it.

Jumping into management without the right experience or desire can lead to chaos, stress, and what I like to call “anti-productivity.” But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are communities, online groups, and clubs out there for support, something I wish I had more of back in 2002.

Here are a few nuggets of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way:

  1. Earn your team’s respect. Don’t fake it till you make it—honesty is key. Dive into learning everything about the practice, from codes to customer service.

  2. Define roles and expectations. Clear communication between you and your dentist-partner is crucial to avoid frustration and confusion.

  3. Cultivate a culture and protect it fiercely. Your practice’s culture should reflect your core values, not just the need to keep the lights on.

  4. Respect and understanding go both ways. It’s natural for the team to be wary of the dentist’s spouse stepping in. Use every opportunity to show your worth.

  5. Leadership is a journey. Focus on becoming a leader who builds more leaders, celebrates victories, and understands the power of vulnerability.

Running a practice with your spouse is a unique adventure, filled with its own challenges and triumphs. Remember, you’re not alone. The dynamic you bring can either propel your practice to new heights or bring it down. Choose your battles wisely, support each other, and don’t forget to lean on the community around you.

So, here’s to changing the narrative around the “dental spouse” and making our practices stronger, one partnership at a time. We’ve got this!

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