Will you ever retire?

In 2000, the Levin Group observed a significant decrease in the net worth of dentists across the United States. These losses can be attributed partially to the decline in the stock market.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA

In 2000, the Levin Group observed a significant decrease in the net worth of dentists across the United States. These losses can be attributed partially to the decline in the stock market. However, they also are the result of poor financial planning and vision.

Unfortunately, most dentists go into practice unconcerned about their financial futures. Because of this, most dentists work six to eight years longer than necessary just to accumulate enough wealth to retire. The perpetual question: "Will I ever retire?"

Bad investments

Real estate, stocks, and investments all represent a way to make money; however, they also can be a swift path to personal bankruptcy. Expensive houses, vacation homes, and sports cars are luxuries many view as rewards for hard work, but paying for these items can mean a lifetime of debt.

Dentists seldom are trained to recognize bad investment opportunities. We are trained to fix broken teeth, repair damaged crowns, and reconstruct crooked smiles. Add to this the fact that dentists have virtually no time to focus on outside business ventures, and we begin to realize why so many dentists' net worth is declining.

A better investment

Good news: the money is already in your practice — you just have to find it! Approximately 85 percent of dental practices in the United States are generating annual revenue below their potential. You can increase your annual practice revenue — and your annual income — simply by searching for synergistic opportunities within your practice.

"Synergy" is a business term that means taking advantage of one opportunity to increase another. For example, many dentists spend countless hours trying to attract new patients. This certainly is important, but dentists should make an equal or greater effort to maximize the average production per patient with their existing client base.

When exploring ways to increase practice production and income, applying synergy to your marketing efforts is essential. Taking advantage of synergistic opportunities can help most dental practices increase their annual revenue by at least $200,000.

What exactly are synergistic opportunities? For example, ABC and ESPN are both owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company. Disney promotes Disney World through commercials on ABC and ESPN, while ABC and ESPN promote their programs on the Disney Channel.

Here is an ideal example of a synergistic opportunity in the dental practice. Dentists often shrug off hygiene patients as dental "cleanings." Stop viewing this service as simply "cleaning," and start thinking in terms of periodontal maintenance and oral cancer screening. In fact, there are a number of related services that you can offer your hygiene patients. Dentists can set specific goals for the hygiene area to help increase production. For example, dentists should persuade two patients each day to accept some type of oral-health enhancing product. A Crest Professional Whitestrips® kit, a tray whitening case, or a Sonicare® brush are good choices that can increase practice income. Best of all, your patients will love these products.

An excellent choice for oral cancer screening is OralCDx® from CDx Laboratories. Patients with oral lesions and sores should be tested for oral cancer during their routine exams. In fact, in a recent screening at the American Dental Association's annual meeting, one in 10 dentists had lesions and sores that required some level of biopsy.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, president and CEO of The Levin Group and the Levin Advanced Learning Institute, provides worldwide leadership in dental management for general dentists and specialists. Contact The Levin Group at (410) 654-1234.

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