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Maximizing success in your dental practice: A guide to bonus systems for dentists

Dec. 12, 2023
Bonus systems come in all forms. Finding one that motivates both dentists and team members is key. Here’s a look at several types of bonus systems to consider and tips to implement them.

In today’s competitive dental job market, attracting—and more important, retaining top-tier talent—is imperative for success and for the best care of your patients. A compensation structure that motivates and rewards performance is a key way to compel good candidates to join your practice.

I’ve seen various ways of doing this across many practice modalities; there’s not one right way. But there are some common bonus systems that work well, including production bonuses, quality-of-care bonuses, team-based bonuses, continuing-education bonuses, and patient-retention bonuses. These can also be used for your entire dental team.

Types of bonus systems

Production-based bonuses are tied to the revenue generated from the dentist’s clinical work. Dentists receive a percentage of the collections or billings they generate. This type of bonus system directly rewards dentists for their clinical productivity and can be a significant motivator.

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To ensure that dentists prioritize patient care and outcomes, quality-based bonuses can be incorporated into the system. These bonuses are linked to specific performance metrics, such as patient satisfaction scores or case acceptance rates.

Dental care is often a collaborative effort involving multiple team members, so including team-based bonuses can encourage cooperation and teamwork. For instance, a bonus could be awarded when the practice achieves certain financial goals or when specific team performance targets are met.

Encouraging dentists to continually upgrade their skills and knowledge benefits both the dentist and the practice. Bonuses can be offered for completing relevant continuing education courses, earning certifications, or attending conferences that contribute to professional growth.

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Last, maintaining a loyal patient base is essential for a thriving dental practice. Dentists can receive bonuses for retaining patients over the long term, promoting referrals, or achieving specific recall and reappointment goals.

Implementing these systems

Be as clear and transparent as possible. Make sure that the bonus system you implement is well defined and that all team members understand how it works. Review and adjust the systems as needed. Your practice changes over time, so your bonus systems shouldn’t be static. Set fair but realistic targets. Unrealistic expectations can be a demotivating factor for everyone; however, if goals are too easily attainable, they might not drive the performance improvements you’re looking for.

Always document metrics and review them with your team. This will also give you the chance to provide constructive feedback and improvement. And don’t forget to consult your legal counsel to make sure your systems align with all relevant laws and ethical guidelines where you practice. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the December 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

Amrita R. Patel, DDS, FICD, FPFA, graduated from NYU College of Dentistry in 2011 and completed her residency at the Nassau University Medical Center. She is a general dentist in private practice with her father, endodontist Dr. Rohit Z.Patel, in Westchester County, New York. She chaired the New York State Dental Association New Dentist Committee and served as the new dentist representative on the ADA’s Council on Dental Benefit Plans for 2020–2021. She is also among the recipients of the 2021 ADA 10 Under 10 Awards.

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