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Dr. Mark Costes, founder of the Dental Success Institute and the co-founder and CEO of the Dental Success Network, was interviewed by Patient Prism’s CEO Amol Nirgudkar at Dykema DSO Conference 2021.

Mark Costes answers the question: Coming out of COVID, what are dental practices doing today to really achieve growth that sticks and sustains?

 

Dentists have learned to work with fewer human resources

“Dentists are experiencing top-line revenue and doing it with a skeleton crew because there is a huge vacuum in the labor force right now,” says Costes. “The good news is most dental offices and owners I speak to have figured out how to do it with fewer people. They’ve been able to increase their systemization and increase their efficiencies with fewer people.”

Costes believes a new wave of people will eventually be excited about working in dentistry. Either former dental workers will return to dental offices because they miss the role they played in improving people's lives, or a new generation of hospitality-minded people will see the benefits of working in dental offices. 

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Dentistry is a meaningful career

When the leaders in dentistry (and that comes down to every single practice owner) feel and commit to the meaningful work we do and broadcast that purpose and passion to the public, it will inspire others to join the profession and re-enter the dental workforce. “It's our responsibility to spread the word about the great things that we do as dental professionals,” says Costes. “I think the bottom line is that people will be attracted to dentistry in the long term because working in other industries isn't as rewarding as taking care of people and transforming the health and lives of people.”

 

New dentists are flocking to DSOs, becoming sophisticated about personal finance, and extending their clinical suite

“I'm very, very passionate about working with new doctors,” says Costes. “I've been doing this for 20 years and never have the stakes been higher for a generation of new dentists. Not only do they have the pandemic situation and those types of worries, but unprecedented debt loads. So, you have to become a more sophisticated dentist in a lot of different ways. You have to use and leverage that degree, unlike any generation has ever had to do. That means that you have to be financially very smart.”

New dentists are choosing to join dental service organizations because they cannot afford to make financial mistakes. The DSO industry has been tremendous in this regard “in putting new dentists on the path of financial independence,” says Costes.

Leveraging the doctorate degree means dentists also need to develop expertise in advanced dental procedures and niche services, so they can offer everything in their one location. “You have to constantly fine-tune your clinical expertise,” says Costes. For example, you can develop the skills to do implants, molar endo, and IV sedation. “It doesn’t matter what the economy looks like. You are going to be valuable to the marketplace, and you will do well. That student loan debt won’t mean anything as long as you can be valuable to the marketplace. So, constantly improve your clinical suite, and be sophisticated when it comes to personal finance.”

 

Dentists are turning to experts to help them

Dentists are also turning to experts to help them. Because the stakes have never been higher, more dentists are attending events like Dykema and networking. Even though they may feel uncomfortable putting themselves out there to network, “it’s necessary.” says Costes. “You have to seek mentors and you have to seek out the right types of practices to join.”

With so much advice out there, it is not only overwhelming, but you also need someone to tell you if the advice is accurate and appropriate for you. That’s why entering in a relationship with Dykema and the Dental Success Network is so valuable. You need to be discerning about the self-education you do. For example, “the Dental Success Network has 20+ faculty members who moderate different chat rooms inside our private community,” says Costes. The chat rooms are specific to the various aspects of dental practice today, for example, oral surgery, IV sedation, implantology, endo, pediatric dentistry, practice management, and taxation. The Dental Success Network also has hundreds of hours of continuing education videos and is one of the largest purchasing groups in the world. “The most valuable thing, though,” says Costes, “is the thousand positive, like-minded dentists…accountability partners…people who are very well connected.”

 

The most important marketing is customer care

“Customer service, patient experience, is the number one thing,” says Costes. Everyone must have five-star patient reviews. That’s free marketing. That’s internal marketing. You need a system by which you ask satisfied patients for reviews. “That’s just tickets to the dance. And then, if you are in a saturated market, you have to spend some money on external marketing.” High patient engagement will generate new patients calls. Make the most of those calls to grow. 

Here's where Patient Prism’s AI-integrated call tracking and constant call coaching come into play. Comparison chart of 4 call tracking companies used by dental practices

To grow our dental practices, we need to better empower our hygienists

In addition to optimized scheduling of patients, we also need a well-trained team that can communicate and run a smooth back office says Costes, who works with his own team to schedule two to three same-day treatment procedures for patients who trust him. You first must earn the trust of patients to schedule this kind of profitable efficiency. 

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Dentists need to lead their hygienists using a motivational strategy that loops them into supporting restorative case acceptance says Costes. Despite the shortage of hygienists, using the hygienists we’ve got, we need to shift our paradigm a little bit. Hygienists need more autonomy in their scheduling to spend the time needed with patients to move them forward with restorative treatment. 

“Hygiene can’t be a loss leader in the business,” says Costes. Hygienists need to know the why behind dentists’ treatment plans and encourage patients to do the treatment. Patients are going to be healthier. “It's a moral obligation, I believe, for the dentist to train and coach the hygienist” to the point of genuinely believing treatment is in the best interest of the patient and of great value to the patient’s life.  

When the dentist, the hygienist, and the entire team really believe they are helping people by prioritizing patient health and consistently providing a great patient experience, the finances will take care of themselves, and dental practices grow.

 

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