This is the second column of Practice Building 101, and I am excited to challenge you once again. The first challenge was creating a mission statement. If you have not done so yet, why not? Remember, if you cannot come up with one, use mine: “To provide the highest quality of care, for the greatest number of patients, while maintaining a balance: art, science, and business of dentistry.”
Now you need to go beyond your mission statement. You have to act and move forward. So how do you do that, and what is one of the first steps?
It is almost overwhelming to think back on all the skills you’ve learned. Your first alginate impression, your first injection, your first extraction, or even your first x ray. It all seemed impossible to do—and just think, it is now all second nature.
In finding balance, there is something that needs to be second nature for your dental practice to lead you to success: service. In fact, it is all about service. So what does the word service mean? As a noun, it is an act of helpful activity; help; aid to do someone a service. As an adjective it is of service; useful as in servicing people. As a verb, it is to make something fit for use; repair; restore to working condition.
How service applies to practice building
I grew up in a very small mill town called Old Town, Maine. The smell of “men working” was very familiar to me because a pulp mill has a very distinct smell. A shoe factory, woolen mill, pulp and paper mill, and of course Old Town Canoes … these factories supplied the life blood of our town.
Very few people had money for extras. We were not poor, but I knew many people who were. My mother was always giving away food and clothes to people in the neighborhood. She had a very nice way of doing it. She always made extra beans, tomato sauce, or meat, and after dinner, she dragged me along to someone’s house and said, “We had extra and it just won’t be as good tomorrow. I’ll come by in a couple of days to get the pot.” As a kid, I could not figure out what she was doing. Was she doing service?
One day I saw a kid at school who was wearing a sweater just like the one that I had, which I never wore because I didn’t like it. I went looking for the sweater and asked my mom, “Hey, where is my sweater that was in the bottom drawer?” She replied, “Clearly someone needed it more than you did, and they just love it, and it is keeping them warm.” Was that a form of service?
If I wanted something, I needed to figure out a way to get it, save for it, work for it or the answer was “Jeffrey NO Hoos.” In fact, for years, I thought my middle name was NO.
So how does all this relate to service in dentistry? Hopefully this last story will make it clear.
Most people don't know what a Garrard turntable is, but there was a time when building and owning a hi-fi set was a very big deal, and I wanted to do it. I wanted to play records and be in a rock and roll band.
I set about saving and figuring out how to get a kit and put a hi-fi set together. It took months and lots of effort. I earned 5 cents on each returned RC Cola bottle and 3 cents for regular bottles. I mowed lawns and shoveled snow. There was no way my parents were going to buy this for me, so I needed to figure out something.
At last I earned the money. I spent hours poring over catalogues, and a plan was made. I placed my orders and the first piece to arrive was a Garrard turntable. I put everything together and proudly and carefully placed the first part of my hi-fi system on a shelf I had made.
Also by Jeffrey C. Hoos, DMD:
Can the introverted dentist be successful?
In the morning, the mess was cleaned up and the damage assessed—no repairing either the vase or the turntable. We put all the pieces of the turntable in a box and I wrote a letter to the Garrard company, telling them the story, from start to finish—saving, working, putting together and mounting the shelf, and all for nothing.
Five months later a heavy box came from the Garrard company, along with a letter. The letter read: Dear Master Hoos, We are sending you an upgraded replacement turntable. It is with sincere thanks for your dedication to Garrard, because we know there are many other companies to choose from. Carry on your dedication to hi-fi, because stereo is coming. Most sincerely, The Garrard Engineering and Manufacturing Company
So, how this story relates to service is pretty simple. Extend yourself and provide more service than expected and do something that no one expects. I never charge for after-hour emergencies or for denture repairs, and I do many treatments at no charge. My patients and my staff appreciate it and understand the importance of service, and so should you.
The service you can extend to your patients
Let's talk about the extra service that you can provide in your dental office—what will make your patient understand that you are going the extra mile, what will make your patient speak about you and your staff in a glowing manner so other people want to be under your care.
Here are some specific examples that are an everyday thing in our office and can be in your office as well. Whenever a denture patient is having their remaining teeth cleaned, their denture is cleaned and polished while they are with the hygienist. They are shown how nice and clean their prosthetic device is when they leave.
If a patient requires antibiotics, we provide them in the office so that they don’t have to go to the pharmacy. We also provide a "pain packet" of Advil and Tylenol so patients don’t have to go shopping for these items.
Whenever I am doing upper anterior esthetics, I always clean the patient’s lower teeth while I am waiting for anesthetic to work. It takes only a couple of minutes to remove stain and calculus and we always show the patient, so they know what we did.
Do you charge for denture repairs? This is a big mistake. Do the repairs in the office so the patient does not have to be without their teeth. If you don’t know how or don’t have time, train someone on your staff to do it. I never charge for a denture repair but always say, "There is no charge for your repair. When it comes time for new teeth, think of us."
While the repair of a lower is done, discuss why is broke and what you can do that will "keep the denture from moving around." Use your service time to an advantage to have a conversation with your patient.
Make service a top priority in your practice. Have a productive and successful month while maintaining that balance: art, science, and business of dentistry.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the February 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.