4 leaders on advice for dental workers over the next 5 years

Four dental leaders participated in the panel discussion, "What to expect in the dental industry over the next 5 years" for Becker's Dental + DSO Practices — Best Ideas for Business Growth and Management virtual event Jan. 13.

The panel, moderated by Assistant Editor Gabrielle Masson, comprised:

  • Manu Chaudhry, DDS, president and dental director at Salem, Ore.-based Capitol Dental Care
  • Grace Lai, COO at Australia-based Coastal Dental Care
  • Greg Wappett, senior director of corporate development at Waltham, Mass.-based 42 North Dental
  • Ern Blackwelder, CEO of Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Onsite Dental

All panelists shared their thoughts on the question, "What's one key piece of advice you have for dental professionals and dental management moving forward?"

Note: Responses were edited for style and length.

Grace Lai: According to the 2020 KPMG Health Care and Life Sciences Investment Outlook survey, DSOs are actually in a better situation for every possible scenario than an individual business operation because of time. The reality is, that ability to have a partnership with somebody that is able to make management decisions for your business and also combine that with purchasing power and processes and resources is more powerful than having to be distributed across different tasks at the same time.

Ern Blackwelder: I would say that the team is the thing. Providing great dental practice support requires a pretty wide variety of technical skills and emotional skills. A practice is really only as good as the talent and the commitment of the team, so we need to create the best place to work to attract the best talent and earn their commitment. To that end, I think pay and benefits are a baseline, but building a great culture is more important and harder to get right: combining clinical integrity, the opportunity for all team members to grow and thrive and just build something special; demonstrating a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, but only if it's real and not just window dressing; providing doctors an opportunity to participate in ownership; and doing all this in a way that makes it fun so that people want to come to work every day and provide the best possible care.

Dr. Manu Chaudhry: I would add on to that, a real focus on integrated health, on bridging the gap between medical care and dental care and oral health care and what that means for real prevention. All oral health professionals can build a system of care that drives toward making people healthier, from patients to the team. When I say making people healthier, I don't just mean dental health, but also mental health and physical health and other health components as well.

Greg Wappett: That is the thing that we always think about in our organization is we need to never lose track of the fact that we need to be a value-add organization. We're not just an organization that's large. We need to always strive to be the preferred provider of employment for dental professionals and the preferred home for care for patients in need for dental care. Neither of those things are ever going to be perfected, and you need to spend each day trying to increase your ability to strive toward those goals.

We want to make sure that we have a compelling argument to make that we are a good home for dentists. So the only way that that works well is to have the right investments throughout the organization, which results in having people that are really committed to their goals, which is to take care of the patients.

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