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What’s in store for your dental practice? While no one has an (accurate) crystal ball, there are several industry trends that will certainly pose challenges for smaller, unaffiliated practices.

Rather than “doom and gloom,” this article is about how you can anticipate and overcome the increasingly strong challenges to “dentistry as usual.”

Let’s start by looking at how the dental industry has evolved.

Money Talks

Historically, dentistry has been a fee-for-service practice. While there were certainly many dentists who would allow some patients to make payments, it was generally a cash-only business.

The first change to that model was in 1954 when California introduced the idea of dental insurance. Today, insurance is a driving force in dentists’ livelihoods. There are very few practices that don’t accept dental insurance; “Do you take my insurance?” is often the first question out of a prospect’s mouth.

But the dental insurance game isn’t what it used to be. More and more insurers are shifting payment responsibility to the patient while cutting reimbursement rates. Dentists are faced with a dilemma – they can either forego insurance altogether and risk losing new patients who rely on insurance to afford care, or they can get paid far less than what they’re worth.

It’s not surprising that many, many dental practices find themselves in price wars. When patients have to shoulder more of the payment responsibility, they’re attracted to offices that provide decent work at the lowest price. If that’s not you, you won’t see those patients. But again, you wind up being paid far less than you’re worth.

A Smaller Share of the Pie

A record number of dental schools are graduating record numbers of new dentists, and that trend shows no sign of slowing down.

Those new graduates are a two-pronged threat to your practice. Since new dentists are typically laden with dental school debt – the average is about $260 thousand – many are opting to join corporate dental practices. It’s hard to resist handsome sign-on bonuses, tuition repayment or forgiveness programs, and very decent salaries.

The growth in newly-minted dentists is fueling the growth of the dental chains. If one or more of those practices isn’t already in your market, you’re lucky. But you shouldn’t think that corporate dentistry isn’t coming for you. If there’s money to be made, the chains will be there.

Corporate practices have economies of scale that are almost impossible for smaller practices to match. You’ll run your practice into the ground participating in a race to the bottom on price.

Of course, many of those dentists who work with corporate practices will eventually open their own offices. If you’re in a large market, a few more dental practices may not be a problem. If you’re in a medium-size or smaller market, you’ll eventually be competing against more dentists for a finite pool of prospects.

Prepare Your Practice Now

The key to solving the two-part challenge of declining dental insurance reimbursements and increased competition is to attract patients for whom insurance and price aren’t important.

Better dental patients have the resources and the willingness to pay more for the right dentist. They’re not motivated by insurance or price. Better patients are looking for the trusted, relatable dentist who they regard as the expert to solve their dental issues.

SmartBox provides a steady stream of better patients for our dentists. We take care of every aspect of practice marketing so that our doctors can focus on doing the dentistry and making money.

Visit www.smartboxdental.com and click on the “Get Started” button. Schedule your free, no-obligation Practice Discovery Session™. Following the 25-minute phone call, SmartBox will send you your completely personalized, free, Patient Attraction Roadmap™.

You needn’t fear the industry trends . SmartBox is in the business of helping dentists thrive.


Written by Smartbox

SmartBox employs the best minds in dentistry to help you grow your practice. Our Practice Growth System™ is proven to help dentists in every market area across the country achieve predictable year-over-year growth.