Stay obsessed with your team and never stop learning: What dental leaders told us in June

This month, several dentists and dental company leaders spoke with Becker's about the top priorities, challenges and opportunities in the dental industry.

What we heard in June:

Dental executive's advice to up-and-coming leaders: 'Invest in your team'

Paul Madsen. CEO of West Richland (Wash.) Family Dental Center and Prime Dental Partners (Pasco, Wash.): Invest in your team! We are obsessed with the idea of growing our team and investing in them. We do monthly training sessions, and each leader has an outside coach to help them stay accountable. We do a monthly book club and share insights from various leadership books. Compensate your team for achieving multiple objectives that help grow the organization and continue providing excellent care to our community. Create and maintain great organizational culture.

The power of disrupting yourself: Q&A with SmileDirectClub's Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer

Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD. Chief Clinical Officer at SmileDirectClub: First we innovated this model, which is to give access to care to people who don't have access to orthodontics today. Now we're even focusing on creating more of a future oral care by disrupting ourselves, and we're doing this in basically five major categories of just making it easier to get started with clear aligner therapy and also increasing the ability to accept more complex treatment plans. So we keep innovating and making our clinical abilities better. We're creating a next generational aligner that is much more comfortable to wear and has more capabilities in tooth movement. We're focused on keeping smiles healthy for life, which is kind of where we want to be. 

The dental industry's biggest uncertainties

Suzanne Ebert, DMD. Vice President of Dental Practice and Relationship Management at ADA Business Innovation Group: The biggest concerns facing dentists today appear to mirror the concerns facing the general population: the economy and staffing. Although dentists overall are holding steady at around 86 percent recovery of patient volumes to pre-COVID levels, they are experiencing a major shortage of hygienists and assistants around the country. Additionally, while the cost of dental supplies is increasing, and despite the vast majority of dentists reporting increasing compensation for staff over the past year, we are hearing that some are now requesting additional compensation increases or even gas stipends to offset the rising prices of basic necessities. Overall confidence in economic recovery is low and is causing anxiety for many dentists.

Leaders weigh in on the biggest challenges facing the dental industry

Jonathan Greene, DDS. Owner of Greene Dental Group (Norwich, Conn.): These are my biggest challenges from greatest to least: ease of finding qualified, caring employees, feeling the squeeze of third-party payer limitations, increased cost of providing care in supplies and payroll and availability of supplies for patient care because there are many delays.

9 dentists share their best advice

Randy Jones, DMD. Lowcountry Dental Associates (Johns Island, S.C.): Never stop learning. When you stop, you might as well retire, because you won't be doing a just service to your patients. Education is a rabbit hole that you never get to the end of. Products and procedures keep being developed and the race continues. Imagine if you still only knew today what you learned in dental school, how sad that would be. Our responsibility to the public is to give them expert advice as it pertains to our profession. We all should want the same when we are the patient, not the doctor. Keep learning — it certainly keeps the challenge going to be the best you can be.

3 roadblocks DSOs face, per dental execs

Kristi Crum. CEO of Rock Dental Brands: One of the biggest challenges that we face is the misinformation that is out in the market about DSOs. It's important for providers who are considering joining a dental group to understand that all DSOs are not the same. Many providers think that by joining, they will lose their autonomy or that it's only an option for retiring doctors. At Rock Dental Brands, we were founded based on the principles of clinical autonomy, and we partner with doctors throughout all stages of their careers. Our doctors can decide how much they want to be involved in the back-office and administrative functions. They are provided top-notch support from subject matter experts so they don't have to take on the burden themselves and they can focus on taking care of patients. DSOs are not just for retiring doctors; it is a great opportunity for less-tenured doctors to learn from like-minded peers, have geographical career options and tremendous wealth-building opportunities. It's critical that providers interested in joining a DSO ask the right questions to ensure that the organization is a good fit to meet their business and personal goals.

The biggest challenges DSOs are up against

Tom Marler. President and CEO of Sage Dental: One of the most challenging aspects of managing a successful DSO is ensuring consistency of brand and patient experience across all office locations. At Sage Dental, for example, we've worked hard to make sure that no matter which of our 82 offices a patient walks into, they will experience the same high-caliber care, cutting-edge technology, and streamlined scheduling and billing experience. This includes ensuring all our offices are outfitted with teledentistry and tele-orthodonture capabilities, online patient portals for appointment scheduling and bill pay, and other dental service innovations like intraoral scanning, digital X-rays and more. We also employ [artificial intelligence]-aided diagnostic technology from Pearl called Practice Intelligence, which helps ensure patients receive consistent diagnoses, no matter which Sage office or provider they receive care from. These offerings not only keep patients coming back, they also ensure patient trust in their provider and help our dentists and hygienists establish long-term, meaningful relationships.

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