By DR SIMON HOCKEN
Having started out in practice in 1981, and having coached dentists since 2003, I thought that, by now, little would surprise me as to how dentists can sometimes behave.
One of my least favourite behaviours is the coin operated dentist. It’s always a heart sink for me when I realise that the dentist I’m sharing a conversation with is evidently more interested in money than being a great dentist for their patients.
Paradoxically, I have found that dentists who chase money often find that it’s hard to get hold of, where as those who are more interested in doing the right thing for their patients find that their practices are thriving.
Some of you may remember the practice that made page three of the Times when their reporter discovered they were offering lip fillers to 13 year olds… However, in my experience, most coin operated behaviour isn’t immoral (despite the Daily Mail repeatedly accusing dentists of bad behaviour). Most coin operated behaviours are more penny pinching. (OK, some are downright mean and unpleasant.) But here’s a few I’ve come across recently:
- Associates who won’t sell the practice membership plan to their patients because it means the patients will get a discount on their restorative work
- Associates (and hygienists) who won’t go to meetings because they’re not being paid
- The dentist who half way through the sale of his ortho practice decides he wants an additional £200k and thinks the buyer unreasonable for not agreeing to pay it
- The dentist who half way through buying a city centre practice asks about the city centre car parking charges and, when he realises how much this provincial city charges, withdraws from the purchase
- The orthodontist whose NHS waiting room is so crowded that patients sit all the way up the stairs (they run late as well). Meanwhile, the private patients have a spacious waiting room clearly visible to the stair-sitters which, most of the time, is empty
- The dentist who put his kids into three different schools so he can have conversations some mornings at three different school gates in order to network his private practice
- The practice that still buys large tins of powdered Nescafe for its staff and patients
- The dentist who had a record month recently, promised his staff a bonus and then somehow forgot to pay it
- The orthodontist who re-uses his brackets…
Surprisingly, some dentists worry about money a lot, often I suppose because they are over-committed at home, despite being relatively well paid. (Many dentists earn more than David Cameron.) The problem for them is that, eventually, their patients work out what’s really going on. It’s as if they can smell it and some of them drift away.
I suppose that in some ways if, as a principal, you are surrounded by coin operated dentists (and hygienists) then it can make life easier! Knowing that they are motivated by money means you can use it to pay them to behave in certain ways that suit you (sliding scales for associates depend on this).
Me, I prefer abundance to scarcity, there is plenty of work and money for everybody if you care to go and find it…
If your practice is being held back by coin operated dentists contact me for a chat on how best to deal with it:
- 07770 430576