The last days of the ordinary dental practice?

Two or three times a month I visit a dental practice which I haven’t been to before and help the principal understand how they’re doing and see what opportunities they have to grow their business.

As well as this the principal will usually want to know where their practice ranks in the hundreds of dental practices I have delivered this service to during the past 15 years.

Occasionally I go into a drop dead gorgeous private practice and occasionally I visit a fabulous, fit for purpose NHS practice but I have to say these occasions are very rare!

Mostly, I visit rather ordinary dental practices and often the immediate problem is that the principal thinks the practice is a lot better than it really is. The world of dentistry is moving on, driven by patient expectations and the more forward thinking dental principals.

Patients expect more than a practice that looks and feels like a community clinic and they expect a better service than a late-running, crowded outpatient department.

What was good enough at the turn of the century is no longer enough — or even good! So, from my perspective, here are some things which are well past their sell-by date:


  • Anything with “spa” or “studio” in the name
  • Practices named after the street they are located in (with notable exceptions)
  • Poor signage that’s hard to see from across the street
  • Lurid colours (red, purple, black)

Entrance hall/reception/patient lounge

  • Weeds on the way to the front door. Dead plants. Poorly attended gardens. Broken paving slabs
  • Intimidating, closed, tatty front doors with cobwebs
  • Tatty entrance halls with cobwebs
  • Big, tall reception desks which receptionists hide behind
  • Worn floor coverings
  • Phones answered on the front desk
  • A radio playing at reception
  • Promotional leaflets
  • Blu-tacked notices
  • School-style chairs against the walls
  • A box of well used kids’ toys
  • A pile of well-thumbed magazines
  • No flatscreen
  • Clipboards with biros on strings
  • Grubby/faded/scuffed paintwork
  • Basic loo facilities
  • Rows of filing cabinets
  • Dirty windows/blinds


  • Cluttered with kit and leads and piles of paper
  • Tatty/grubby chair upholstery
  • Nowhere for the patients to rest their eyes, eg a screen or some artwork
  • Dental chairs that face the door (bad feng shui!)
  • Nowhere for the patient and the dentist to sit and talk that doesn’t involve the dental chair
  • Tinny music system or radio
  • Grubby/scuffed decoration
  • Dirty windows/blinds
  • Bad lighting

Fee earners

  • Running late
  • Low grossing associates
  • Low grossing hygienists
  • Not picking patients up from the patient lounge or taking them back
  • Using their mobile phones in-surgery
  • Short check-up appointments
  • Discourteous attitude
  • Not giving patients choices

Support staff

  • Not trained in the patient journey
  • Tatty/faded/inappropriate uniforms
  • Gossiping with each other and with patients
  • Using mobile phones
  • Discourteous
  • Breaking patient confidentiality


  • Low profits
  • Little in the way of financial monitoring or KPIs


  • No convenient car parking
  • No street presence/visibility

I believe that practices with some or all of these characteristics will be shrinking, both in patient numbers and in profits, and like an old decaying property will have to be redeveloped in order to be future-proofed. If you recognise any of them in your practice don’t leave it too long — or you may find your patients have already left for somewhere nicer…

If you need some help assessing or redeveloping your practice, contact me for a chat:

m. 07770 430576


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