How to leave Delta Dental and thrive

Aug. 14, 2014
Yesterday one of my coaching members asked me an interesting question. "Tom, can you tell me the benefit of remaining with Delta?"

By Tom Orent, DMD

Yesterday one of my coaching members asked me an interesting question. "Tom, can you tell me the benefit of remaining with Delta?" I thought this was a novel approach. Doctors usually ask me, "How can I DUMP Delta and still survive?"

How to leave Delta Dental and thrive

Take emotion out of the equation. Entirely. Whether or not you should continue your participation with Delta Dental should be a carefully thought-out business decision. First, let's look at a common way of thinking about this decision – common, but badly flawed.

You've asked the wrong question if you ask, "After I leave Delta, how would I replace the patients and the income?" This thought process is backwards. Instead of asking how you can replace them after you leave Delta, you must ask, "How can I replace the patients and the income before I leave Delta?"

Before I dropped Blue Cross Blue Shield and Delta Dental (the only two plans I ever signed on), I increased my new patient flow, improved my patient retention, and dramatically improved dollars per patient visit with my existing patients. In short, I worked on ramping up revenue and patient flow long before I pulled the plug on either plan.

You must be in a position such that if 100% of your Delta patients made a mass exodus when you dropped out of network, you'd still thrive financially. Until you are in such a position, making the decision to leave any network that makes up a significant portion of your patient base and income is like playing with fire. There are many pieces to this puzzle that will help you get it just right. But for now, the area we'll cover is "How to decide whether or not you should leave."

  1. What percentage of your revenue is from Delta patients? I'll use the case of my coaching member mentioned at the beginning of the article. She collected about $900,000 annually, and 17% of that was from Delta, which was $153,000. That's not quite one fifth of her practice.
  2. How many people live within five miles of your office? If you have a rural office, that may extend to as many as 15 to 20 miles or more. In her case, there were about 70,000 people in her town and a couple of surrounding towns, all within the five-mile radius. There were no major highways, rivers, or other barriers across which few people might travel to visit a dentist.
  3. What percentage of that population has Delta Dental? This one is a best guesstimate, but she guessed it was likely about one third, or roughly 23,000. Thus, 47,000 were not with Delta. It's important to note that this dentist took other plans, and said that Delta's fee schedule was by far the worst of those she dealt with.
  4. How many dentists are there within that five-mile radius? She guesstimated about 20 to 25 general practitioners were within five miles. So she'd be in a relatively strong position if she were able to get a prorated share of those 47,000 non-Delta people, or roughly 2,000. (Sure, some people never go to the dentist, but let's not get nuts here.)
  5. Of those 20 to 25 other dentists, how many of them market aggressively? If she were in a town with several corporate doc-in-the-box offices and a few solo practices, all of who were heavily marketing, then it might be a bit more difficult for her to gain a good share of those non-Delta patients. (Not by any means impossible, just a bit more effort and money.) Fortunately, she couldn't say there were really any who deployed consistent and massive marketing in her area. There were just a few who advertised in the paper or a magazine here or there.

How to make replacing these patients a moot point

The above exercise is critical if a high percentage of your revenue comes from Delta Dental. But in this coaching member's case, she needs only to replace $150,000 to make the same amount of money and have more free time. (Do you understand why, if she dropped Delta and made up the other $150,000 elsewhere, she would have more free time?)

You may be only one procedure, system, or strategy away from successfully being able to dump Delta Dental. There are many systems and strategies, any one of which could bump practice revenues by six figures. For the purpose of this discussion, we'll look at quadrant dentistry. The majority of dentists don't routinely perform complete, lifetime, best option care, a quadrant at a time. It's usually one tooth here, two teeth there. Patients wonder what their insurance will cover this year. Well, your average patient family has three cell phones, cable or satellite TV, Netflix, iTunes, and much more, and is spending $350 to $450 per month on those elective luxuries, while they tell you they can’t afford the best possible dental care. Did you know that a quadrant that costs roughly $4,000 comes to only about $70 per month financed for five years through third-party financing? The fact is, people can afford it. They simply don’t believe they need it, and they certainly don’t want it.

Let’s say you present a quadrant of best option care to each of two patients, four days per week. (Let’s assume there is a need, and in most practices, that number is slightly low.) If only one more person said yes, you’d increase your annual revenue by over $200,000 per year. So, you only need to increase by roughly three quadrants per month in order to make up for the lost $150,000, and end up with more free time on your hands! You can either spend that time with your family, or by serving other patients. If you are one of my Gems coaching members, watch the video How to Sell Quadrant Best-Option Dentistry with your whole team. You will be doing more of whatever you believe to be the very best dentistry for your patients!

Take control of your practice and your family's financial future

Elizabeth and I have watched an ever-widening gap between financially successful practices and those struggling to keep their heads above water. Though it wasn't necessarily easy before the recession hit, it's been much harder for some to break free of the chains holding them back. We want to help. Whether you're already doing great and just want to kick it up a few hundred thousand dollars, or you’re having a tough go of it and want a helping hand, visit

Wishing you the very best in health, happiness, and prosperity.

To experience the joy of patients accepting better care, and to free yourself from the chains of "Do you accept my insurance?" and "Just do whatever my insurance covers," visit Dr. Tom Orent's

TOM "THE GEMS GUY" ORENT, DMD, has lectured in 48 states and five countries. His products have sold in 47 countries. Accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry in 1990, he served as an examiner, and as editor of the AACD Journal. Dr. Orent authored four books and hundreds of articles. He is the master of how to make more money while working less! For a complimentary 90-minute “Make More Money While Spending Less Time” strategy session with Dr. Orent, go to

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