In mid-2013, I published the first edition of The State of Dentistry® Since then, I’ve released two more editions. In mid-2018, I started to receive requests from dentists my dental marketing and coaching company Jerry Jones Direct (JJD) serves, to update my original work.
Given the rapid evolution of our industry and its nearly 200,000 dentists, a market of $125 billion dollars (and growing), and the various pressures currently affecting the average independent or solo dentist, it’s smart to ask questions about the state of dentistry to understand what it all means and how it affects YOU.
Whatever stage of your dental career – new dentist to near-retirement – understanding the state of dentistry is crucial; thinking about the future of your industry and how you’ll react, intelligent.
Hopefully you’re beginning to consider important questions like:
What’s changed? What will dentistry look like in 5 years? What should I, an independent dentist, be doing to adapt and grow instead of capitulating or struggling? How will the changes affect my practice model? What can I do to get in front of these trends and take advantage of them? Will there be a place for my (or any) private practice in 2030? Will new grads survive the debt pressure to be able to buy my practice? Has consumer behavior really changed? Will insurance companies ever “modernize” their reimbursements? Will dental support organizations (DSOs) take over the industry?
Answers to any one of these questions will likely greatly impact you in some way – whether you are aware of it or not. “Invisible” market forces are at work. And, like it or not, they will have an affect on you.
After hearing from my members, I decided to revisit my original work from 2013 to see what’s changed, and more important, how one might leverage those changes.
During the latter part of 2018, I set out to find answers. I interviewed over a dozen experts – thought leaders, authors, speakers, independent dentists (still donning wet gloves and growing their practices), and consultants from a variety of backgrounds, viewpoints and experience sets who are knee-deep in dentistry every day.
The majority of those I interviewed agreed – the industry is in massive flux and how it looks today or in the past, is nothing like how it will appear in the future. (Anyone claiming they have a crystal ball ought to be called out on it.)
Here are but a few important, highlevel ACTIVE changes we discussed which you must begin to consider now. At least a half-dozen more specific and additional critical issues are covered in my updated The State of Dentistry® 2019:
1. Commoditization is in place.
Downward pressure on your fees are only going to increase. How do you counter that pressure and actually increase your fees?
2. Dentistry is on TV every day.
The average consumer already believes a dentist is a dentist is a dentist. How do you differentiate your practice?
3. Participate with PPOs?
If not now, it’s likely only a matter of time. How do you make money on a $650 crown? (See #1)
4. Consumerism demands convenience.
How do you serve your market and not lose patients to the 12-hour-aday, 6-day or 7-day-a-week group practice?
5. Grow Your Practice?
Going from solo/independent dentist to a small group or even larger regional ML/MD (multilocation/multi-doctor) practice requires an entirely new and crucial set of skills developed at lightning speed. How will you achieve that?
The evidence of massive sea change is in front of us. It’s undeniable. Inarguable.
I don’t write this, isolated, from on high in some castle in the hills, but as someone who owned and operated a small group dental practice (with exception to clinical dentistry) for 15 years, until May 2018, and, as someone who has consulted and worked closely with well over a thousand dentists for the last two-plus decades.
The five issues I mentioned are first-hand observations, corroborated with those I interviewed. The impact DSOs are having, both direct and indirect, on a private practice, are a significant factor.
Now, you might think patient market share should be your biggest concern – but for me, it was the least. For you, it might be something else. For me, based on the stage of growth of my office at that time, it was the competition for high-quality dentist candidates (associates) to continue to fuel my organization’s growth. I won and win the new patient marketing game every time. To win here, I turned my new patient marketing strategies into new dentist marketing strategies, and quickly became successful, eventually attracting the right candidates from local DSOs, eventually selling my office to one of them.
Don’t get me wrong; I share some of the frustration dentists have with for example, insurance companies, lack of qualified employees (I even opened my own dental assisting school) and the cost of new technology.
Worse, I’ve seen the same bad movie play out over and over and over again – it’s what happens to a practice owner that realizes too late, he or she must adapt to the changing market. I’ve taken hundreds of calls from distressed doctors, wondering what happened to their thriving practice of 1,500 patients, that’s now down to less than 500 active patients.
Sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the changes is simply not an option. Wishful thinking, worthless. Hope as a strategy, we know, doesn’t work.
So, then, one must conclude that paying attention to questions posed above (and others) and the possible answers is the right (and only) course of action. What action you ultimately decide to take is all on you. Just know that positioning your practice properly could mean the difference between retiring in style, or, relying on social security.
No doubt, what you decide could mean your next 5 years are predictably successful or they are a tough slog.
How well you do in dentistry from here on out, quite frankly, all depends on your personal view and your modus operandi. Meaning, you’ll need to answer this question: Are you a dental “reactionary” or an opportunist?
A “reactionary” will do just that – instead of taking action, they’ll wait and wonder what happened and then react, leading from behind. And, they’ll be among the hundred-plus calls I’ll get over the next year or two from dentists supposedly “blindsided” by the changes.
An opportunist will not only read this article, but he or she will also: 1.) Request the next edition of The State of Dentistry® 2019, (it’s 100% free), 2.) Devour its contents, 3.) Carefully consider each change, and finally, 4.) Intentionally layer on additional changes over what they already had planned for their practice.
Please, for your own sake and that of your family’s, don’t be a dental reactionary.