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Ten Tips for Starting a New Prosthodontic Practice

The ACP Private Practice Committee is pleased to introduce a new series of articles for members in practice -- written by prosthodontists, for prosthodontists.

These articles are intended to share tips and wisdom that members have picked up from their experience in practice -- with useful ideas for prosthodontists new in practice and those who are further into their careers.

Contributed by: Dr. Derrick L. Williamson

  1. Do your demographic research and pick a community that can support the type of practice you want to establish. Some practitioners choose to accept insurance as a part of their practice and some choose to have a fee-for-service-based practice. Whichever one you decide, it is best to establish your practice philosophy at the beginning because it will be difficult to change once it is established.
  2. Choosing the right location for your practice is one of the most important decisions you can make. Choose a location that has a high traffic volume and invest in a sign to advertise your practice. If you can display a sign, the initial cost of the sign is expensive but the return on investment is great for a one-time investment.
  3. Determine if you want to rent or buy the physical space. Whichever you decide, make sure you hire a lawyer who specializes in real estate. You may have a friend or family member that’s a lawyer, but does not specialize in real estate, and it may be cheaper to let them review your contract, but could end up costing you more in the long run. Get a lawyer that specializes in real estate and let them negotiate on your behalf. Try to find a space that will allow you to expand in the future.
  4. The design of your practice should be done by an architect who understands dentistry. A dental office is totally different than a physician’s or a lawyer’s office. The plumbing, electrical, structural, and the mechanical systems have to be precise. For example, if the contractor used the incorrect diameter pipes for the suction, this could be a very expensive problem to correct in terms of loss revenues and construction costs to correct the problem. If your budget will allow all the plumbing and electrical to be completed in the beginning, it would be less costly than having the contractors come back. After the mechanics have been finalized, an interior designer could help with choosing colors for paint, wallpaper, and flooring. A good interior designer can really transform your practice – and as a prosthodontist, you want to wow the patients.
  5. When purchasing dental equipment, I suggest purchasing the minimal equipment to function. Never allow the equipment company to sell you enough equipment for six operatories to start off without the patient volume. It’s best to start off with two fully functional operatories and add as needed.
  6. A robust computer network system is one area that it is important to invest in. The computer network will control many aspects of your practice from electronic records, Wi-Fi for patients, credit card system, office music streaming, cloud services, digital radiographs, digital impression scanners, CAD/CAM systems, 3D printers, and even voice over internet phone systems. The network infrastructure should be completed by a contractor who is familiar with dentistry and should work with a network administrator who also understands dentistry and HIPAA regulations.
  7. When planning your practice, there are certain technologies you want to include in your budget. Electronic records, practice management software, and digital radiographs are the must-have technologies. All three of these technologies have been proven to help with efficiency and productivity. Electronic records and digital radiographs make it easier to file and manage insurance claims for patients.
  8. Marketing your practice is very important and it starts when you sign your new lease. There are several ways to market your practice, such as web-based marketing, blogging, joining the Chamber of Commerce, giving lectures at prosthodontic residency programs, joining an existing study club, or starting your own study club. My approach was to introduce myself to all the specialists and the general dentists in town. Once my practice opened, I hired a Practice Relations Coordinator (PRC) whose task was to visit offices and do direct marketing while I did direct marketing to my patients.
  9. Your staff is a reflection of you and it is important to hire the most capable staff as possible. You want to do a background check and drug test on all potential employees. They should provide a resume with a list of previous references that can verify that the information on the application is accurate.
  10. Make room in your budget to have a grand opening. Invite all the dentists you know and if you join the local Chamber of Commerce, you can request a ribbon cutting ceremony and in some towns, this event could even find its way into the local newspaper.


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