Trust Is Essential to Helping Our Patients 

April 3, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Paul H. Henny, DDS 

Trust is commonly thought of as a firm belief in the reliability, truthfulness, and capability of another. But trust is about vulnerability . 

The more a person trusts, the more they are willing to allow themselves to be potentially hurt. They make a risks-benefit analysis, and when they feel they are ready, they decide to throw the dice.  

Conversely, when a person isn’t willing to trust, they have strategically chosen to minimize their vulnerability.  

Think about the times when you were personally unwilling to let someone into your life—when you were feeling too vulnerable. 

It’s easy for us to project our values without sensitivity to others’ often hidden concerns. When a patient says no to x-rays, to allowing us to proceed with a proper restoration, or other appropriate procedures, they don’t trust us enough right now. And when that occurs, it’s easy for us to instinctively respond by projecting our values onto the situation.  

A better strategy is to empathetically explore why a person responded to the situation the way they did—try to understand the situation from their perspective, and then focus on finding common ground in shared goals and values. Hopefully, with the right questions and empathy, we can build a bridge of trust and help our patients cross over to a place of more information on which to make the appropriate decisions for themselves. 

“No” often means “not yet,” as in “You haven’t convinced me yet that I should allow myself to be that vulnerable around you.” 

Co-Discovery requires a leap of faith on our part—a belief that most people will eventually do the right things for themselves. If we are unable to trust our patients on that level, then we’re going to struggle emotionally, demonstrate frustration, and to some extent inadvertently manipulate patients into doing what we want them to, a behavior that drives emotionally sensitive patients away. 

We need to trust our patients will make the leap as well. We need to willingly take the time and energy to continue in and trust the Co-Discovery process during which the patient starts to believe that we are the best resource to help resolve their problems and achieve their goals. When we allow our patients the time to make decisions based on what they think is in their best interest, they usually make healthy choices and appreciate the services we provide. This is how we succeed in helping them (and us) have a healthier, happier life. 

For an in-depth look at Co-Discovery and multiple essays on patient-centered dentistry, you are invited to read my recently published book: CoDiscovery: Exploring the Legacy of Robert F. Barkley, DDS, available at The Pankey Institute and on Amazon. 

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Do You Know Your Team’s Threshold?

February 23, 2024 Robyn Reis

Do You Know Your Team’s Threshold? 

Robyn Reis, Dental Practice Coach 

While visiting a dental practice that had amazing hospitality and incredible relationships with its patients, I observed a doctor’s presentation to a patient who was in his forties and who had been saving for a smile makeover for a long time. The doctor did an amazing job with his presentation of what was possible and the phases of treatment. The patient was very excited, even teary-eyed.  

The patient wanted to get started and asked about the cost. The doctor said, “You know what? My team at the front are experts in figuring that out.” So, the patient was taken to the front and handed over beautifully. In a few minutes, he was presented with the treatment plan on paper with the approximate dollar amounts. In phases, they would do the full mouth. All seemed to be going well until it wasn’t. 

Intrinsically, everyone has a monetary threshold that up to a certain point, you have no problem with the amount. It’s something within your range of expectations and easy to say yes. When you cross that threshold, anxiety may creep in and for sure, you become uncomfortable.  This is what I witnessed in a matter of moments. 

I observed the front office team member look uncomfortable after glancing at the paperwork, despite being experienced with treatment presentations. The clinical assistant who had been part of the diagnosis and treatment planning process, would also help with scheduling and any questions. 

Together, they gave the patient the opportunity to ask questions after reviewing the plan again. The full mouth restoration was going to be in the neighborhood of $25,000. The first phase would be about $18,000. They offered CareCredit financing. The patient said, “It’s only $25,000 and I have $20,000 saved. This is wonderful! I don’t know how I will pay the other $5,000, but I know I have the means. It’s only $25,000.”  

The team appeared somewhat shocked because they were obviously uncomfortable with quoting that amount. This treatment plan crossed their personal thresholds. They suggested the patient go home and sleep on it “because this was a big investment.” The patient was so committed to moving forward that, despite their advice, he scheduled his first appointment. He would call them back once he figured out how to pay the remaining balance, knowing insurance would contribute very little. 

What I also found interesting was that neither team member asked for a deposit. No money was exchanged to reserve an extended appointment. The patient could back out and the doctor’s time spent on the case work-up would be uncompensated. In my experience, making a signed financial agreement would be the responsible step to take at this stage.  

This example illustrates the discomfort many dental teams feel about asking for a deposit if the treatment estimate crosses their personal threshold. Of course, dental teams will want to explain what can be done to make treatment more affordable and the financing options that are available. But it is beneficial for team members to understand their personal threshold and to become comfortable saying, “Grab your checkbook or pull out your credit card, Mr. Jones. Here’s what your investment is going to be to get started.”  

What’s your threshold? This is a great team exercise you can do at your next meeting because a patient might ask anyone they interact with about the cost of dentistry, and what options you offer for the dentistry they want.  Every team member will benefit from considering their personal threshold and discussing it — even role-playing — to become comfortable with the best ways to manage these questions. Depending on the situation, it could be referring the patient to the treatment coordinator or to the financial administrator to have a comfortable conversation. 

It is my belief that when patients are excited about what the treatment results will be and they want to move forward, it’s the right time to ask the patient to make a financial commitment to get the process started. 

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Culture Fit Versus Culture Add

February 16, 2024 Robyn Reis

Culture Fit Versus Culture Add 

Robyn Reis, Dental Practice Coach 

When you are hiring team members, you are likely thinking about how those you interview will fit into your practice culture. Do their values align with yours? Do you share similar backgrounds and philosophies? A business’s culture is a system of shared values, beliefs, and behaviors that influence how people dress, act, and perform their roles. Most practice owners work hard to have everyone get along, support one another, and work as a team to give every patient a wonderful experience. So, it’s only natural to want to find someone who fits into that culture when a position opens up. 

In the HR world, recruiters have a different approach – they are moving away from “culture fit” towards “culture add.” What does this mean exactly? A great mentor of mine, Sheri Kay, says it best, “People come together in their similarities, but they grow together in their differences.” 

On the pages of Harvard Business Review, Forbes Magazine, Fast Company, Inc., and Entrepreneur, you will read that more and more companies are moving away from the traditional culture fit that creates a monoculture where everybody has shared similarities and there is no growth. Instead, they are recreating a culture that is open to new ideas, open to conversations where people poke holes in traditional ideas and say, “Hey, what if we did this? This is what we think we want to do. Now let’s figure out why it will or will not work.” 

In recruiting a hygienist for a client, one of the candidates stood out to me. In addition to her clinical hygiene education, she also had a financial background which represented a “culture add” for this particular practice. She had a greater understanding of goal setting, the finances of the business, and how to create a profitable hygiene department. She ended up being a fantastic and productive member of their team. 

When you are in the hiring process, do you think about adding to your culture? Diverse backgrounds correlate with more diverse problem-solving and decision-making processes. In studied corporations, diversity leads to increased profitability.  

In dentistry, diverse backgrounds can lead to the attraction and retention of diverse patients. Diverse backgrounds can fill in operational holes in your business model. Does a candidate have a background in psychology, finance, education, customer service, computer IT, office administration in another industry, or marketing? Does a candidate speak a second language that will be an asset in your community? Is a candidate artistic, an exceptional writer, a community volunteer, or actively participating in other activities? 

During each interview, seek to learn what the candidate could add to your practice culture in addition to culture fit. After talking about a candidate’s resume and interests, talk about situations that occur in the practice and current needs. Ask if the candidate has ever been in similar situations and how they handled them. Do the answers indicate personality traits and strengths that will add to (complement) the team? Ask the open question, “Based on your personal experience, what insights could you add to this situation?” 

In today’s competitive market for talented team members, consider what a new hire with additional skills could add to your culture and what these new contribution possibilities could be for an amazing patient and team experience. Happy hiring! 

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Upstream Thinking in the Dental Practice

February 5, 2024 Leigh Ann Faight

Upstream Thinking in the Dental Practice 

Leigh Ann Faight, RDH 

In my years of working with dentists and teams, I have noticed that leaders tend to address what is directly in front of them. They are simply too busy to notice that the issues of today will likely be back tomorrow, and the next day and so on if they don’t find the root cause and build systems from there.  

My favorite book on this subject is Upstream by Dan Heath. I was so impressed by it that I named my dental coaching company Upstream Dental Practice Coaching. The idea of the book is to help us stop reacting to problems and instead look for ways to prevent them in the first place. 

In the book, Dan Heath recalls a quote from Paul Batalden: “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” I love this quote; it is as exact as it is simple and begs the follow-up question: Are your systems working to get you the results you want? 

I’m not writing this with just dentists in mind. I recommend that all dental team members appraise together how well your systems are working and think about where the lack of systems is causing stress. As you meet as a team and pull back the layers of your processes, do you discover barriers that get in the way of moving upstream? As a team, you can intentionally rebuild your systems to remove the barriers and prevent them from rolling back into your stream. 

Fixed thinking gets in the way.  

As I coach, I see three behaviors that get in the way of improving the many systems operating in dental practices. 

Problem Blindness 

This is the belief that negative outcomes are natural and inevitable. We treat these problems like we treat the weather, as something out of our control. We normalize problems and even stop seeing them. Teams tell me, “That’s just how it is here.” This finite thinking is one of the first challenges we uncover when I work with teams on intentionally “going upstream.” 

Lack of Ownership 

If an issue arises and no one claims ownership for fixing it, the problem will persist. To really develop upstream thinking you need someone who will say, “Even though I did not create this problem, I will lead us to find a solution.” 

To create a culture where teams have ownership over decisions, leaders must trust the team to make decisions on behalf of the group. On the flip side, the team must choose to take charge of issues as they see them.  

Tunneling 

Tunneling is exactly like it sounds. You focus on short-sighted problems and have reactive thinking. You get stuck in a routine of short-term decision-making and are unable to move forward. You think, “I can’t deal with that right now.” 

The more problems you are juggling at once, the harder it is to solve them all. If you can’t solve problems systematically you will stay in an endless cycle of reaction, because tunneling begets more tunneling. Compound tunneling with stress and scarcity, and you get stuck. 

“Getting Unstuck” is the name of the game. 

You might want to take your team offsite for a day to talk about what isn’t working in your dental practice. What are the big problems they and you see? Talk about the common human responses of problem blindness, lack of ownership, and tunneling. Talk about upstream thinking and proclaim, “Today is the day we become unstuck.” 

In helping teams find ways to make their systems more successful, I have often found that small changes can make a big difference. If you add target metrics to your systems, “the team” will more likely see and remove barriers that have gotten in the way, redesign systems, and work as a united group to improve the outcomes.  

In the Pankey course held February 2024 — The Pankey Hygienist: Where Clinical & Behavioral Science Unite – The Pankey Institute, we focused on “the flow” of the hygiene-restorative partnership, leading patients toward higher comprehensive care, and getting clarity around the why and how of optimal behavioral and clinical methods. We took a critical look at the habits and assumptions we have developed. We applied upstream systems thinking with the goal of collaboratively achieving with our patients greater oral and systemic health.

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Leigh Ann Faight

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What I Brought Back from Napa (and it wasn’t wine!)

February 2, 2024 Robyn Reis

What I Brought Back from Napa (and it wasn’t wine!) 

Robyn Reis, Dental Practice Coach 

A while back, I made a business trip to Napa Valley. I was enjoying lunch on the patio of the Ottimo Café which is attached to a shop featuring wines, gourmet provisions, and culinary tools. It was a lovely day, and I was out in the beautiful California sun by choice. A nearby covered area provided shade, and there were multiple diners inside the shop waiting for those shaded tables. 

The maître d’ had given me a choice of tables and made sure I was comfortable. The food, wine and service were excellent. 

A family of four wandered over and sat down at an empty table in the sun. One of the waiters approached them and must have told them there was a line inside because they got up and went into the building. A few minutes later, they came out escorted and sat with menus at the same table they had left. There was obviously a system in place and it was working. Not long after, the two children became unhappy sitting in the sun. 

Being a parent myself I empathized with the parents as they struggled to keep the kids entertained. The little boy put his shirt over his head to block the sun, and I watched the dad looking at the covered area to monitor those shaded tables. As people from the shaded area got up, the tables were cleared, and the maître d’ seated more people.  

There was a lag between one table being bussed and people being seated because in a flash, the family left their table and sat down at a shaded table. The maître d’ approached them again. The family was speaking a different language and the father was using hand gestures. Obviously, communication was difficult. Ultimately, the family remained seated at the shaded table. There was no doubt that “good” customer service for this family was out of balance with “good” customer service for the people inside waiting to be seated. 

It was fascinating to observe the maître d’ having a conversation with the waiter who had been serving the family. My guess is that he was saying something like, “Hey, stay alert to maintain the seating system.” The waiter only nodded. It reminded me of a dental practice where you may have a patient in the hygiene chair and think to yourself, “Oh, it’s a small filling. Let’s go ahead and take care of that today.” Unbeknownst to you, someone may have walked in the front door hoping to be seen, and the front office thinks the walk-in can be accommodated based on the schedule.  

In both situations, it’s best not to make assumptions and communicate, communicate, communicate! In the back, check with the front to see if that filling can be done now. In the front, check with the back to see if the walk-in can be accommodated now. And in the case of a scheduled patient waiting in reception, you don’t want to keep them waiting unless it is really unavoidable.  

Sometimes we’re going to disappoint someone, however, we want to plan our schedule so no one is left waiting. We’re not in the restaurant business where customers are willing to wait in line for a seat at our table. Despite a fine reputation, if you cannot see new patients within a reasonable timeframe, they are going to call elsewhere.  

Look at your own schedule and converse with your team. Do you have an adequate number of new patient appointments available? Are you allotting sufficient time for each type of procedure? How good is your back-to-front and front-to-back communication? Do you keep patients waiting? 

My meal and business trip were a success in Napa. And while I didn’t bring back any wine, I did bring back the importance of having systems in place to ensure a great experience for every patient at every visit. 

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Start the New Year with an Annual Fee Evaluation

January 15, 2024 Lee Ann Brady DMD

One of the things that I take the opportunity to do every year in January is evaluate my fees. I am disciplined about this because the cost of doing business goes up every year.  

Whether it is a low inflationary time when the cost of doing business has gone up 1-1.5%, or it is more like the recent period when the cost of doing business has gone up 7-10%, our profitability is going to decrease if we don’t adjust our fees. When profitability decreases, usually the dentist’s compensation decreases.  

The Fee-by-Fee Way 

We can go through our fee schedule, fee by fee, and raise them individually. Dentists who do this are concerned that they will lose patients if they raise certain fees, for example, their fees for regular recall exams and dental cleanings. Dentists who take the fee-by-fee approach tend to believe patients are less price sensitive to the cost of restorative dentistry and appliances. Some dentists cover the increasing costs of Hygiene by increasing the fees for their restorative procedures. 

The Global Way 

Alternatively, we can do a global fee increase that raises every fee by the same percentage. This is my preferred way. To select the rate, I will look at my 2023 end-of-year profit and loss statement (from my accountant) and compare it to my 2022 end-of-year profit and loss statement. Did I make a profit in 2023? Was it higher or lower than in 2022? I don’t want to make less profit year to year.  

I will also look hard at my practice’s operating expenses in 2023 compared to 2022. I expect 2023 will be significantly higher because we have gone through high inflation in 2023 that none of us could have reliably predicted at the end of 2022.  

For example, if overhead was 65% in 2022 and jumped to 68% in 2023, I must increase my fees by at least 3%, plus a percentage I anticipate will cover overhead increases in 2024. If my profitability decreased in 2023, I also would want to compensate for that loss in the future. (Our “healthy business” goal each year is to maintain and hopefully increase profitability.) 

To arrive at the final percentage that I will raise my fees across the board, I will factor in the raises I want to give my team and myself in 2024, and the other expenses I know (or anticipate) will go up.  

The Global Way Is Easier 

If we do piecemeal fee increases, it becomes a complicated set of mathematics to determine if we will recapture last year’s decrease in profitability, cover next year’s increase in overhead, and hopefully increase our profitability over the next year. If you want to be cautious, you can blend the two approaches. Do a global increase and then go back and look at the price-sensitive fees you are concerned about and lower just those. This is the Modified Global approach. 

Evaluate Your Fees Early in 2024 

Annual evaluation of our fee is a must-do, and I don’t think there has ever been a better time to raise fees in all the years I have practiced. We live in a time when everything costs more. Patients understand that our overhead costs have increased. They know we are running a business and want us to stay in business to be there for them. 

I encourage you to use a system of thinking to figure out which fees you will raise and how much you will raise them. I advocate for the global approach or the modified global approach. Ask your accountant to give you profit and loss statements for 2022 and 2023. If you need help with your evaluation, ask your accountant or practice management consultant to assist you. 

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Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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Their Ideal Day 

September 22, 2023 Christine Shigaki

I’m sure there are many aspects of your work that are really fulfilling, and I’m sure there are aspects of your daily work that you wish could be easier, maybe even less stressful. What about your work brings you joy? What would it take for you to provide your best work? What would it look like? What would it feel like?

I took an informal survey of dentists and hygienists about what they would need to have an ideal day. When I examined the dentists’ answers, I realized the answers would resonate with every member of a dental team.

The top five answers from dentists were:

  1. Having the appropriate instruments to provide excellent care.
  2. Opportunity to gain knowledge and skills.
  3. Excellent performance/execution of their work.
  4. Opportunity to implement new learning.
  5. Working with patients who are grateful for their care.

All hygienists desired “time to provide appropriate care for each patient.” Specifically, they asked for:

  1. Time to select and sharpen instruments for each person and for the specific procedures they will be doing.
  2. Time to properly assess each person’s unique periodontal condition, including time to accurately measure gum pockets and recession, minimal attachment/thickness, and to assess bleeding (blood thickness, how much bleeding, and where it is coming from—is it systemic or localized?).
  3. Time to explore possibilities with patients regarding their current condition, past condition, and potential future.
  4. Time to debrief and collaborate with the doctor to explore the next steps for the patient.
  5. Supportive teamwork across the practice to provide the best care.

Speaking of collaborating with team members, I invite you to ask your team members what their ideal day would include. Discuss, as a team, your shared ideals, and expectations. Consider where expectations do not match and discuss why this is and what must change to meet shared agreements.

Understanding and affirming the needs of others will have a positive impact. The exercise of writing down what works, what could be better, possibilities, goals, and a pathway towards implementation of superior supportive teamwork is likely to increase your practice joy factor.

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Christine Shigaki

Dr. Shigaki has been in dentistry since 1989 where she started as a dental assistant while completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington. In 1994, she graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, San Francisco, CA. Dr. Shigaki, a native of Seattle, has built her practice since 1995 and opened Belltown Dental in 2003. She is a life-long student of dentistry and believes that it is her professional responsibility to provide optimal, comprehensive care in a modern facility with state of the art equipment and techniques. She has completed and continues her studies with extensive post graduate dental education, including several dental study clubs and coursework at the distinguished Pankey Institute, where she is also currently an advisor and faculty member. Christine also facilitates teams and mentors dentists. She enjoys the work/life balance that dentistry allows her and hopes that others can find their joy in dentistry. When not at the office, teaching/studying dentistry, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and extensive extended family. She enjoys being involved in her children’s activities, yoga, reading, various outdoor activities and cooking.

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Learning the Essentials 

January 27, 2023 North Shetter DDS

In his recent book Subtract–The Untapped Science of Less, University of Virginia professor of design Dr. Leidy Klotz points out many instances where we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with information and complexity. He argues and demonstrates that subtracting the extraneous often leads to greater clarity and efficiency.

Reading Klotz’s book, brought to my mind the Pankey Institute’s Essentials continuum that begins with Essentials 1 (E1). Dentists arrive at E1 overloaded with information taught in their dental schools and other CE programs. All that information may have some value but the role of the Essentials courses is to subtract the extraneous and focus on what is essential.

We arrive at E1 thinking everything is important, and we discover that there are essential elements of dentistry that are key to effectively working with patients, performing a complete exam, diagnosis, and technically excellent, predictable care. From these key elements, we can build practice systems that are clear and efficient.

What Is Essential?

We aren’t born with complete wisdom like Athena born from the forehead of Zeus. We learn wisdom (what is essential) faster by being in the company of others who have traveled the same road, asking, “What is essential? What do I NEED to know?”

The Pankey Essentials continuum exposes dentists to the clinical, behavioral, and financial aspects of practice. And goes beyond exposure to exercises and exploration. The courses invite dentists to understand themselves, their patients, and their work exceptionally well. The courses invite dentists to focus on and develop essential skills.

Our profession has undergone a technological explosion over the past few years. Some of this is wonderful. But how much of what we invest in are we fully utilizing? What is the best technology to invest in? What is the best way to implement it? The Institute’s faculty help us cut through the clutter and determine what works best…what we can implement with our teams and patients that will improve our dentistry and the patient experience. But first, the Essentials courses peel away the layers of hype and technology to help us grasp the core skills we must attain.

The core skills are behavioral as well as technical. And because the behavioral aspects of dentistry are not discussed to great extent in dental school curriculums, one of the roles of the Essentials continuum is to fill in this gap. In the Essentials courses, we learn the importance and skills of behavioral science. We learn how to most effectively lead and affectively influence. We dig deeper into understanding ourselves and our patients…our emotions, our motives. We discuss the behavioral concepts that were taught by Dr. L. D. Pankey because they remain valid today. These concepts are straightforward and help us develop lifelong patient relationships and personal skills.

The business aspects of dental practice are overwhelming. Dental schools do not have time to teach business essentials. In the Essentials, dentists learn essential financial skills such as how to understand their financial statements. If we are not making a profit in our practice we can’t stay in business.

Self-Examination

When I first attended an Essentials course (then called C-1), I worried that I might not know enough. I discovered that I knew a great deal but I had not clearly defined what was essential. I learned I needed to be more assertive about asking myself why questions. For example, I found myself asking:

  • Why am I doing this? Does this step add value to the final result?
  • Why is my final result not stress free and predictable? What step did I miss?
  • Why am I “telling” my patients rather than “asking” for their input and values?

An Intentional, Essential Community of Support

The Essentials faculty and my fellow students helped me understand that getting rid of what is not needed is not simple. Determining what is essential and building my practice systems around the essentials takes time, thought, and effort but was made easier for me because I had the help and constant encouragement of the Pankey faculty and community in shaping my approach to dentistry and my career.

My friend and colleague Dr. Richard A. Green has always said, “Intentionally becoming both more affective and more effective is essential to excellent patient care.” So often we intend to do something but don’t have the encouragement we need to remain intentional. As my friend and colleague Dr. Barry Polansky says, “We humans tend to slip, slide away. It is by developing habits intentionally and self-checking our assumptions that we stay alert to the possibilities of how we can become more.”

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North Shetter DDS

Dr Shetter attended the University of Detroit Mercy where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1972. He then entered the U. S. Army and provided dental care at Ft Bragg, NC for the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces. In late 1975 he and his wife Jan moved to Menominee, MI and began private practice. He now is the senior doctor in a three doctor small group practice. Dr. Shetter has studied extensively at the Pankey Institute, been co-director of a Seattle Study Club branch in Green Bay WI where he has been a mentor to several dental offices. He has been a speaker for the Seattle Study Club. He has postgraduate training in orthodontics, implant restorative procedures, sedation and sleep disordered breathing. His practice is focused on fee for service, outcomes based dentistry. Marina Cove Consulting LLC is his effort to help other dentists discover emotional and economic success and deliver the highest standard of care they are capable of.

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Dear New Associate

August 29, 2022 North Shetter DDS

A great doctor-patient relationship is the key to delivering quality care. The ideal model to help people move toward optimal oral health is based on a behavioral approach that we can use every day. This approach is allowing the patient to drive outcomes.

An illustrative example:

There is a stark difference in a patient’s emotional response between being told, “You need a filling,” and saying, “You have decay in your tooth. How would you like us to address that?”

The principles of this approach are not difficult.

  1. You need to honestly commit to always placing the best interest of the patient first. You cannot fake this. All of us know when others are not sincere.
  2. Letting the patient drive the outcomes is a habit developed from committing to this approach and intentionally choosing your words to put the ball in your patient’s hands, then waiting for their response and listening well to clearly understand the outcome desired by the patient.
  3. Is the outcome congruent with your philosophy and standard of care? Does the patient need more information and time to come to an understanding of what is in their best health interest? How might you lead them there? Most folks really do want the best for themselves and their family. They will make good decisions if we provide the proper environment and education.
  4. You, the patient, and your team must be comfortable with the means necessary to get to the outcome desired. Both you and the patient must be comfortable with the time, energy and dollars involved in reaching a mutually agreed upon goal. A key element in eliminating stress and dependence on insurance, is painting the picture for your patient that they are in control of the outcome–not their insurance company. You and the patient have the patient’s best interest at heart, not a third party. I say this again. You are working on behalf of your patient, and with this approach, they are in control, not an insurance company.

Does this approach take more time and effort up front? Yes. However, once you adopt this approach you will be forever glad you did. Patients who enter your practice through this system will value you, your staff, and your care. They will commit to more and better dentistry and pay with gratitude. You and your staff will have lower stress and more fun because you are dealing with people you understand at a deeper level. Long-term, these people will refer new clients just like them.

I didn’t invent this model. I learned it from great mentors like L. D. Pankey and half a century of folks participating in The Pankey Institute and passing forward the priceless and timeless value of this approach.

Mentorship from the Institute will help you on your way to long-term success as a thriving dentist. As my colleague Dr. Barry F. Polansky often writes, “Mastery in dentistry is a continuous journey.” It’s a lifetime of learning, practicing, and reflection that enables us to more easily and fully transform the health of others who present themselves for our care. The journey, itself, propels us forward into greater and greater connection with our patients and our true selves.

Pankey Institute mentoring and encouragement made all the difference in my life and the lives of countless others. When I try to sum up the dental professionals and patients this “approach” has positively impacted, I get lost in counting the millions we have touched as a community dedicated to putting the dental patient’s best interest first.

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About Author

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North Shetter DDS

Dr Shetter attended the University of Detroit Mercy where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1972. He then entered the U. S. Army and provided dental care at Ft Bragg, NC for the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces. In late 1975 he and his wife Jan moved to Menominee, MI and began private practice. He now is the senior doctor in a three doctor small group practice. Dr. Shetter has studied extensively at the Pankey Institute, been co-director of a Seattle Study Club branch in Green Bay WI where he has been a mentor to several dental offices. He has been a speaker for the Seattle Study Club. He has postgraduate training in orthodontics, implant restorative procedures, sedation and sleep disordered breathing. His practice is focused on fee for service, outcomes based dentistry. Marina Cove Consulting LLC is his effort to help other dentists discover emotional and economic success and deliver the highest standard of care they are capable of.

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12 Things DSOs Strive to Do that Private Practices Can Do to Flourish

July 29, 2022 Deborah Bush, MA

For support organizations and dental service organizations (DSOs) to scale, they focus on developing a branding patient experience and a predictably profitable business model. They seek to maximize:

  • efficiency while serving the needs of consumers,
  • provide a wonderful patient experience, and
  • increase both their top and bottom financial lines.

Dentists who have chosen the private practice way of life may want to reflect on the following 12 things DSOs strive to do in 2022, and then apply these tactics to their own business model. These tactics have been among the top topics of conversation at DSO meetings in 2021 and 2022 and will sound familiar to those who follow The Pankey Institute. Why familiar? Because they are top topics also discussed among private practitioners and many are addressed within the Pankey Institute curriculum.

1.Monitor more aspects of your clinical and business operations to determine what is working well and what problems need solving. Then solve the problems as rapidly as you can. As the practice leader, open your eyes and ears, and lead.

2. Track key performance indicators and seek growth in those KPIs.

3. Cultivate a positive practice culture and work environment in which employees want to work and patients want to visit. Team members should constantly check in with each other to communicate what is happening “now” and intentionally tune their senses to know how they can help one another. The goal is both a wonderful patient experience and a wonderful team experience.

4. Design systems and protocols with intention, follow them, and assess them for improvement. Make sure team members understand the Whys.

5. Invest in training your clinical and business teams. Especially important in the last two years are to:

    • Realize the potential of each team member and affirm they are valuable to the practice.
    • Educate clinical and front office teams in how to best engage and support patients with special attention to facilitating the treatments patients need. DSOs have targeted implant treatment and doctor-supervised, clear aligner orthodontics as two niches to focus their education efforts on with staff and patients.
    • Educate front office team members in how to appropriately maximize lead conversion, so the cost of expensive digital marketing can be contained. With increased new patient acquisition, reserve more time on the schedule for new patient appointments. In 2022, if new patients must wait, they tend to go elsewhere.

6. Maximize clinical technology to improve the patient experience and increase the efficiency and accuracy of clinical records, diagnosis, treatment planning, dental lab communication, and manufacturing.

7. Maximize practice management technology to improve the patient experience and increase the efficiency and accuracy of business operations, for example, AI enhanced software that automates billing and online collections or reviews insurance claims for accuracy prior to submission.

8. Migrate to a Cloud-based PMS system to ensure the security of your data.

9. Block schedule to do more procedures in a single visit. Patients and clinicians benefit from this efficiency. Maximize spaces in the visit—as you transition from one procedure to another, to enhance relationships with conversation.

10. Deploy a dental assistant to assist in hygiene, for example, to help clean and turnaround hygiene operatories between hygiene patients. This way, the hygienist’s relationship time with patients is not shortened or eliminated in the race to meet clinical demand.

11. Ensure adequate front desk coverage, so there is always time for those personable conversations that ideally occur when each patient arrives and leaves their appointment. Manage your human resources so almost all phone calls are answered live during business hours by a receptionist well versed in optimal conversation with dental patients.

12. Frequently ask, “What is our branding patient experience? What can we do better to meet the desires and needs of our existing patients and the prospective patients we target?”

Looking at this list, I can’t help but think that Dr. L.D. Pankey would smile. Just because you don’t have a corporate support organization helping you run your business doesn’t mean you can’t do these things on a smaller scale and possibly do them better.

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About Author

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Deborah Bush, MA

Deb Bush is a freelance writer specializing in dentistry and a subject matter expert on the behavioral and technological changes occurring in dentistry. Before becoming a dental-focused freelance writer and analyst, she served as the Communications Manager for The Pankey Institute, the Communications Director and a grant writer for the national Preeclampsia Foundation, and the Content Manager for Patient Prism. She has co-authored and ghost-written books for dental authorities, and she currently writes for multiple dental brands which keeps her thumb on the pulse of trends in the industry.

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