The invisible dentist

Feb. 1, 2009
No one can see the dentist in “camouflage clothing” enter the back door of the dental office under the cover of darkness ...

by Bill Blatchford, DDS

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: new patients, invisible dentist, vision, Bill Blatchford, change behavior.

No one can see the dentist in “camouflage clothing” enter the back door of the dental office under the cover of darkness, have lunch in the staff lounge, and then leave in darkness so no one will notice. The dentist exhibits this behavior so he/she doesn't have to mix with anyone new or be uncomfortable. Seldom seen or heard in the community, “invisible dentists” go to great lengths to be alone. If you are one of these dentists, you must realize that your choice of behavior can actually hurt your practice.

A dentist may use the all-consuming practice as an excuse to avoid meeting new people. Does this describe you? You may not be cognizant of this detrimental choice, but we see it frequently in dental circles.

New patients are the lifeblood of a practice. You may boast about your triple hygiene, but the real production comes from new patients. With 20% of America moving every year, you need to exceed your current numbers. Being invisible may be comfortable for you, but successful businesspeople make a real effort to be known.

Other situations showing you may be an invisible dentist could be:

  • Working out in your home gym
  • Choosing to eat breakfast at a drive-through
  • Spending your downtime in your big, cluttered office working on what?
  • Spending every free moment on your computer alone, either in dental chat rooms or thinking you are a day trader in stocks
  • Working on charts, billing, and shuffling papers during nonpatient days
  • Looking at your calendar and realizing weeks have gone by without a lunch appointment with a specialist, friend, or community organization
  • Living in a different community than your practice, a distance of more than half an hour
  • Not knowing or pretending you don't know about community events like farmers' markets, art strolls, community theater, fund drives, school events, and more.
  • Having no intention of meeting others, so you don't carry business cards
  • Not seeing yourself as a businessperson providing a service; rather, your vision of yourself is one of a technical person
  • Choosing the empty table for lunch and not introducing yourself when others join you at social gatherings and continuing-education courses

The remedy? You have to hurt bad enough and want new patients in a significant way before you will really change your solitary behavior. Moving from the invisible dentist to visible will be a bold step, one that will result in a more interesting and profitable life.

Here is what I suggest:

  • Shed your invisible outfits and burn them. Never again can you retreat to camouflage.
  • Join a Toastmasters Club to relearn some social skills and participate in the challenges and joys of being with other people.
  • Make an assessment of your hobbies and activities. Turn that solo activity into participation with others. For example, if you like to swim laps, consider the Masters Swim Program in your community. If you like to bike, find a group that schedules longer rides.
  • Work out in an athletic club with people. If you participate in a class, you will become part of the group and meet people.
  • Eat out at least three times a week. Meet a friend for breakfast, a dental colleague for lunch, and take your team to lunch once a month in a busy restaurant.
  • Announce to your team that you want to change your invisible behavior. They will encourage you to be visible.
  • Join a networking group like a chamber of commerce, Rotary, or a service group and attend at least two of their events a month.
  • Be active in your church or synagogue. Go beyond being an independent lump of “do little.”
  • In addition to spending marketing dollars, do your part by hosting lunch-and-learns with specialists, physicians, and other dentists. Yes, you can!

Being visible is a behavior choice. Make that choice. You will be a happier person for reaching out, and your marketing efforts will multiply. Help your marketing campaign be successful by making an effort yourself.

Dr. Bill Blatchford is a leading dental business coach who has worked with more than 2,000 offices to help dentists achieve more time off, more net, and more enjoyment. Become a member of Blatchford FILES, Dr. Blatchford's monthly CD on winning at dental business. The first two months are free. Call (541) 389-9088 or visit for more information.

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