Colin Campbell explains how you can make sure your practice survives against changing patient expectations.
When I started out in implant dentistry 20 years ago there was almost nobody around me that was doing it and I didn’t appreciate that at the time.
In the whole area of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby there was possibly three or four people placing implants towards the late 1990s, now there are hundreds.
This has led to a change in expectations from patients about what they want from their regular dental practitioner, what they think is appropriate and what they will accept.
Many patients are happy to be referred on for procedures that are more complex, but many also expect that straightforward dentistry can be carried out by their own dentist; this is because that’s what happened to their friends elsewhere.
In the modern independent dental practices the provision of some aspects of implant dentistry will be almost essential for survival – to grow the practice, retain patients but also encourage the team and enthuse clinicians. Patients have a right to expect that their dental professional will invest in themselves and their team to provide treatment within their own capabilities to benefit their patients. This is the basis of professional dentistry.
To be able to offer a wide range of treatments within a practice with multiple clinicians is, I believe, the only way forwards for independent dental practices. This involves investment in time, emotion and money in many areas, not least dental technology and dental education. For the ambitious and the enthusiastic young practice owners, to master skills in surgical dentistry and to be able to provide straightforward implant dentistry, while understanding your limitations and capabilities, is essential for growth of a practice, in my opinion.
Many dentists are reluctant to refer patients out of their practice because they worry about retention of patients in the long term and the effect this can have on their business. Clearly the General Dental Council is clear that patients must receive the best treatment and the solution to this dilemma (and it is a terrible dilemma) is to train within your own practice so you can provide at least straightforward and sometimes advanced implant dentistry ‘in house’, using a well trained team.
Not only does this protect the business of the practice in question but it also enthuses the team, the clinicians and increases loyalties of patients when services are provided well and treatments are carried out effectively and efficiently. To offer a wider range as possible of dental treatments to patients in the highest possible quality is perhaps the best strategy for a dental business going forwards. To embrace a five-year learning pathway in dental implants gives a steady and sustained approach to grow in business that may be hard to resist.