Help! Zombies Are Attacking Dentistry!

Earlier this week, The Times featured an opinion piece on how ‘Zombie Businesses’ are attacking the recovery.  Between recession and recovery, the economy is left with what is known as ‘Zombie Companies’ – businesses that are unlikely to grow but are not going to go bankrupt until recovery begins. Factors such as historically low interest rates, banks not foreclosing on loans and Government support initiatives means that very few businesses are going bankrupt.  This creates businesses that generate very little in terms of profitability or cashflow – i.e. companies that should be bankrupt/dead but aren’t.  The metaphor that comes to mind with the economy is that of pruning – bad businesses need to be ‘pruned’ in order to channel money into good ones.

It’s still unusual for Dental Practices to go bust (although in the last couple of years there have been some high profile dental bankruptcies), however, I see a lot of practices that are, to all intents and purposes, the living dead!  They stagger on, buoyed up by low interest rates and undiscerning patients who, amazingly, are still grateful to be one of many squeezed in by the dentists, before they suffer some more mediocre treatment.

I’m sure that in the maelstrom of change that has already hit Dentistry (with lots more to come), together with the inevitable, cyclical economic recovery, a lot of bad dental practices will simply cease trading or go bankrupt.  For all of our sakes, hooray for that!  However, in the meantime, our patients struggle to discern between good and bad practices and when they get tripped up by a bad practice, the reputation of all dentists and their practices will suffer again.

So, instead of hiding behind a wall of professional silence, I think it’s time to stand up and clearly separate yourself from the Zombie Practices that might surround you.  Here are 10 tactics to help you build clear blue water between you and The Zombies:

  1. Clear pricing of services. No more ‘from…’ no more hedging, no more ‘my receptionist will explain the fees’. Tell them how much it’s going to cost!
  2. Give patients all their treatment options, not just the ones you can offer or the ones you think they can afford.
  3. Have sympathetic receptionists who help clients have what they want.
  4. Make a clear distinction between what you offer on the NHS and the treatment you charge for privately and tell your clients why.
  5. Open your practice at hours to suit your clients, not at hours to suit your associates and hygienists. Have your phones manned between 0800 and 1800 every day.
  6. Treat your own out of hours emergency patients rather than sending them off to NHS Access clinics.
  7. Don’t rush your patients and don’t hurt them.
  8. Use a hygienist, it’s no longer enough to do ‘Exam scale and Polishes.’ Patients need to get rid of their perio disease and a quick flick around with a scaler is not going to make a difference.
  9. Make your Hygiene appointments great value. Patients don’t want to hear about the Hygienist’s most recent holiday, they want to understand their perio disease and be helped to get rid of it.
  10. Increase your patients expectations. Set a high standard for treatment and patient care and tell them that you care.

All of these tactics will clearly set you and your practice apart from the walking undead!  Build your reputation on integrity (for example, don’t charge your Denplan patients inflated lab fees so as to make you feel better about providing them with a crown!). Always look at how you can add value for a patient by going the extra mile.

If you would like some help with clearly distinguishing your practice from Zombie Practices, call me on 07770 430576
Or email:

Best Wishes


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