Why I Bought a Tweed Jacket in Ireland 

April 8, 2024 Clayton Davis, DMD

Clayton Davis, DMD 

Hint: It wasn’t because I was cold. 

A First Impression I Will Not Forget 

One of the activities my family enjoyed on our vacation to Ireland 25 years ago was visiting the famous McGee tweed factory in Donegal. They had a loom set up so visitors could pick out threads, weave with the shuttlecock, and make a pattern. My children were at an age when that was very entertaining. 

On our last day in Ireland, we walked the main street of Sligo and stopped in the Mullaney Brothers haberdashery. While my wife looked for a few things, I waited with no intention of buying. An elderly gentleman walked up behind me, and with a charming Irish brogue asked, “I say, sir, are those your children over there?” I said, “Yes.” And he said, “Oh, they’re fine looking  children. They are a credit to you, well behaved.”  

As the conversation proceeded, he introduced himself as Mr. Johnny Mullaney. He inquired about where I lived and what we had done while in Ireland. He mentioned how he enjoyed watching the Olympics in my hometown of Atlanta. He knew a lot about Markree Castle, our accommodation for the week, and Rosses Point, a golf course I played at. He enthusiastically shared his opinion of its famous 18th hole. He was immensely proud of the golf course. Then he mentioned the pride they had in their tweed jackets made from tweed from the McGee tweed factory.  

He pointed to the jackets and asked which of the tweeds I liked best. I pointed to one and he said I appeared to be size 41L (exactly right), and before I knew it, he had slipped the jacket over my shoulders. As he brushed his hands over my shoulders and down the sleeves and tugged at the cuffs and bottom of the jacket, it felt tailor-made for me. I told him I liked the way it fit, but our luggage would be tightly packed for our trip home. I expressed my concern the jacket would end up badly wrinkled. He said, “Oh, it’s tweed, sir. We can fold it very nicely and have it ready for you to pack and it will unfold without wrinkles when you get home.” 

I liked the look of the jacket, yes, and I appreciated the quality of McGee tweed. But ultimately, what I appreciated most, what made me want the jacket, was Johnny Mullaney, himself; the consummate haberdasher, a master at his craft, who won me over by becoming my friend in a mere five minutes.  

I thought, “I don’t have a memento of this trip. This jacket will always remind me of our wonderful trip, our day at McGee factory, and this endearing Irish businessman.” I said, “Mr. Mullaney, I will take the jacket.” 

What I Learned from that Lasting Impression 

There are four elements from meeting Johnny Mullaney that I apply to meeting every new patient in a preclinical interview: 

  1. Make a friend. (How can you trust each other if you don’t become friends?) 
  1. Make an invitation. (Accepting an offer to be examined makes co-discovery exams flow.) 
  1. Make it easy. (Find out their concerns, and address them.) 
  1. Connect the feeling to the choice. (People do business with people they like.) 

You see, we always make choices based on our feelings. The preclinical conversation allows the new patient to feel good about my desire to genuinely help them and understand their feelings and needs. This is how we can move forward toward optimal care.  

A Series of Invitations Lead to the Treatment “Yes” 

When dentists ask me how they can do more cosmetic and restorative cases, they are usually surprised when I tell them it begins with doing pre-clinical conversations at the first visit.  

  • You can’t do comprehensive cosmetic and restorative treatment until you’ve presented a treatment plan.  
  • You can’t produce a treatment plan until you’ve done a good diagnosis.  
  • You can’t produce a diagnosis until you’ve done a thorough exam. 
  • And that thorough exam is incomplete when it doesn’t start as a good preclinical conversation with the new patient. 

The preclinical conversation sets the tone for trust and healthy open communication. It is the essential first step in creating a lasting good impression that leads to the first “yes” in a series of invitations on the way to treatment.  

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Clayton Davis, DMD

Dr. Clayton Davis received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina. Continuing his education at the Medical College of Georgia, he earned his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree in 1980. Having grown up in the Metro Atlanta area, Dr. Davis and his wife, Julia, returned to establish practice and residence in Gwinnett County. In addition to being a Visiting Faculty Member of The Pankey Institute, Dr. Davis is a leader in Georgia dentistry, both in terms of education and service. He is an active member of the Atlanta Dental Study Group, Hinman Dental Society, and the Georgia Academy of Dental Practice. He served terms as president of the Georgia Dental Education Foundation, Northern District Dental Society, Gwinnett Dental Society, and Atlanta Dental Study Group. He has been state coordinator for Children’s Dental Health Month, facilities chairman of Georgia Mission of Mercy, and served three terms in the Georgia Dental Association House of Delegates.

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Trust Is Essential to Helping Our Patients 

April 3, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Paul H. Henny, DDS 

Trust is commonly thought of as a firm belief in the reliability, truthfulness, and capability of another. But trust is about vulnerability . 

The more a person trusts, the more they are willing to allow themselves to be potentially hurt. They make a risks-benefit analysis, and when they feel they are ready, they decide to throw the dice.  

Conversely, when a person isn’t willing to trust, they have strategically chosen to minimize their vulnerability.  

Think about the times when you were personally unwilling to let someone into your life—when you were feeling too vulnerable. 

It’s easy for us to project our values without sensitivity to others’ often hidden concerns. When a patient says no to x-rays, to allowing us to proceed with a proper restoration, or other appropriate procedures, they don’t trust us enough right now. And when that occurs, it’s easy for us to instinctively respond by projecting our values onto the situation.  

A better strategy is to empathetically explore why a person responded to the situation the way they did—try to understand the situation from their perspective, and then focus on finding common ground in shared goals and values. Hopefully, with the right questions and empathy, we can build a bridge of trust and help our patients cross over to a place of more information on which to make the appropriate decisions for themselves. 

“No” often means “not yet,” as in “You haven’t convinced me yet that I should allow myself to be that vulnerable around you.” 

Co-Discovery requires a leap of faith on our part—a belief that most people will eventually do the right things for themselves. If we are unable to trust our patients on that level, then we’re going to struggle emotionally, demonstrate frustration, and to some extent inadvertently manipulate patients into doing what we want them to, a behavior that drives emotionally sensitive patients away. 

We need to trust our patients will make the leap as well. We need to willingly take the time and energy to continue in and trust the Co-Discovery process during which the patient starts to believe that we are the best resource to help resolve their problems and achieve their goals. When we allow our patients the time to make decisions based on what they think is in their best interest, they usually make healthy choices and appreciate the services we provide. This is how we succeed in helping them (and us) have a healthier, happier life. 

For an in-depth look at Co-Discovery and multiple essays on patient-centered dentistry, you are invited to read my recently published book: CoDiscovery: Exploring the Legacy of Robert F. Barkley, DDS, available at The Pankey Institute and on Amazon. 

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Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Lifelong Learning Part 1: Change & Process 

March 22, 2024 Gary DeWood, DDS

Gary M. DeWood, DDS, MS 

Learning begins from our first moment of awareness as our eyes open and we have a response to something external to us that is brand new. That experience and all the ones that follow until the moment awareness leaves us to shape our reactions to and our actions in the world. 

Experiential Learning 

The brain is a dynamic and ever-changing organ, constantly adapting to new experiences and knowledge. 

When our youngest daughter Katie was a child, I was cooking dinner one night–my turn–and Katie was sitting at the island where the stove was. I turned around to get something from the cupboard and heard a loud inhale followed by a whimper. Upon turning quickly, I saw her move her hand rapidly behind her back. No more sounds came forth, but I saw a tear and I asked her what was wrong. She said in a wavering voice, “Nothing,” and then looking at the stove burners, “Mom told me those were HOT and never to touch them.”  

I gently took her hand from behind her and saw the blisters rapidly forming on her fingers. She started crying and said to me, “Please don’t tell mom.” I’m certain she never felt the need to verify the information her mother had given her again. THAT is learning. 

All of us have experiences like that every day. Some are memorable and become part of us, embedded in a manner as yet not fully understood inside our brains for almost instant access. Some “learning” seems to fade quickly or never even get recorded. I “touched” a lot of biochemistry information over the years without burning much of anything into my brain. Maybe I should have been touching the stove at the same time. Learning is not simply having an experience of something and then being able to view the recording later.  

The Definition of Learning 

In nearly all of the definitions I have located in my research I see that CHANGE and PROCESS are prominent parts of learning. For example: 

  • A change in disposition or capability that persists over time and is not simply ascribable to processes of natural growth. 
  • Relatively permanent change in a person’s knowledge or behavior due to experience. 
  • A transformative process of taking in information that, when internalized and mixed with what we’ve experienced previously, changes what we know and what we do. 

Choice & Focus 

My personal experiences have shown me that a big part of lifelong learning is what you believe about it and how you embrace it. It’s driven by some measure of choice and focus. 

Cheryl and I have sought out new ideas in dentistry wherever they took us. One of my friends in dental school, a wonderful man whom Cheryl and I still hold close, took a different path. Sometime around the 10th anniversary of our graduation we were visiting, and he told us that he had been able to get all the continuing education he needed without traveling.  

I discovered that his feelings around need and learning as it pertained to dentistry meant satisfying the requirements to stay current with licensure. He is NOT a bad dentist, but like many of the dentists I have come to know in the last 48 years, a hunger for dental learning changed once school was finished.  

A Drive for Learning 

I am reminded of one of the most original and influential thinkers on the creativity process, Robert Fritz, who believed you can create your life in the same way an artist develops a work of art. He said, “If you limit yourself only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want and all that is left is a compromise.” 

As a philosopher and scientist-physician, Dr. L. D. Pankey intentionally observed processes and their results (change) with the goal of becoming better at helping others. The embodiment of compassion, he was highly curious and actively sought ways to alleviate the sufferings and misfortunes of patients and colleagues. He traveled long distances to learn from others’ experiences. He inspired others to know themselves, their patients, and their work on a continuous road of mastery. As a lifelong “leisure” learner, he was interested in a wide range of subjects outside of dentistry as well. Through reflection, he often discovered he could apply this outside learning to his work. 

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Do You Know Your Team’s Threshold?

February 23, 2024 Robyn Reis

Do You Know Your Team’s Threshold? 

Robyn Reis, Dental Practice Coach 

While visiting a dental practice that had amazing hospitality and incredible relationships with its patients, I observed a doctor’s presentation to a patient who was in his forties and who had been saving for a smile makeover for a long time. The doctor did an amazing job with his presentation of what was possible and the phases of treatment. The patient was very excited, even teary-eyed.  

The patient wanted to get started and asked about the cost. The doctor said, “You know what? My team at the front are experts in figuring that out.” So, the patient was taken to the front and handed over beautifully. In a few minutes, he was presented with the treatment plan on paper with the approximate dollar amounts. In phases, they would do the full mouth. All seemed to be going well until it wasn’t. 

Intrinsically, everyone has a monetary threshold that up to a certain point, you have no problem with the amount. It’s something within your range of expectations and easy to say yes. When you cross that threshold, anxiety may creep in and for sure, you become uncomfortable.  This is what I witnessed in a matter of moments. 

I observed the front office team member look uncomfortable after glancing at the paperwork, despite being experienced with treatment presentations. The clinical assistant who had been part of the diagnosis and treatment planning process, would also help with scheduling and any questions. 

Together, they gave the patient the opportunity to ask questions after reviewing the plan again. The full mouth restoration was going to be in the neighborhood of $25,000. The first phase would be about $18,000. They offered CareCredit financing. The patient said, “It’s only $25,000 and I have $20,000 saved. This is wonderful! I don’t know how I will pay the other $5,000, but I know I have the means. It’s only $25,000.”  

The team appeared somewhat shocked because they were obviously uncomfortable with quoting that amount. This treatment plan crossed their personal thresholds. They suggested the patient go home and sleep on it “because this was a big investment.” The patient was so committed to moving forward that, despite their advice, he scheduled his first appointment. He would call them back once he figured out how to pay the remaining balance, knowing insurance would contribute very little. 

What I also found interesting was that neither team member asked for a deposit. No money was exchanged to reserve an extended appointment. The patient could back out and the doctor’s time spent on the case work-up would be uncompensated. In my experience, making a signed financial agreement would be the responsible step to take at this stage.  

This example illustrates the discomfort many dental teams feel about asking for a deposit if the treatment estimate crosses their personal threshold. Of course, dental teams will want to explain what can be done to make treatment more affordable and the financing options that are available. But it is beneficial for team members to understand their personal threshold and to become comfortable saying, “Grab your checkbook or pull out your credit card, Mr. Jones. Here’s what your investment is going to be to get started.”  

What’s your threshold? This is a great team exercise you can do at your next meeting because a patient might ask anyone they interact with about the cost of dentistry, and what options you offer for the dentistry they want.  Every team member will benefit from considering their personal threshold and discussing it — even role-playing — to become comfortable with the best ways to manage these questions. Depending on the situation, it could be referring the patient to the treatment coordinator or to the financial administrator to have a comfortable conversation. 

It is my belief that when patients are excited about what the treatment results will be and they want to move forward, it’s the right time to ask the patient to make a financial commitment to get the process started. 

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 MASTERING TREATMENT PLANNING Course Description In our discussions with participants in both the Essentials and Mastery level courses, we continue to hear the desire to help establish better systems for…

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Robyn Reis

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Culture Fit Versus Culture Add

February 16, 2024 Robyn Reis

Culture Fit Versus Culture Add 

Robyn Reis, Dental Practice Coach 

When you are hiring team members, you are likely thinking about how those you interview will fit into your practice culture. Do their values align with yours? Do you share similar backgrounds and philosophies? A business’s culture is a system of shared values, beliefs, and behaviors that influence how people dress, act, and perform their roles. Most practice owners work hard to have everyone get along, support one another, and work as a team to give every patient a wonderful experience. So, it’s only natural to want to find someone who fits into that culture when a position opens up. 

In the HR world, recruiters have a different approach – they are moving away from “culture fit” towards “culture add.” What does this mean exactly? A great mentor of mine, Sheri Kay, says it best, “People come together in their similarities, but they grow together in their differences.” 

On the pages of Harvard Business Review, Forbes Magazine, Fast Company, Inc., and Entrepreneur, you will read that more and more companies are moving away from the traditional culture fit that creates a monoculture where everybody has shared similarities and there is no growth. Instead, they are recreating a culture that is open to new ideas, open to conversations where people poke holes in traditional ideas and say, “Hey, what if we did this? This is what we think we want to do. Now let’s figure out why it will or will not work.” 

In recruiting a hygienist for a client, one of the candidates stood out to me. In addition to her clinical hygiene education, she also had a financial background which represented a “culture add” for this particular practice. She had a greater understanding of goal setting, the finances of the business, and how to create a profitable hygiene department. She ended up being a fantastic and productive member of their team. 

When you are in the hiring process, do you think about adding to your culture? Diverse backgrounds correlate with more diverse problem-solving and decision-making processes. In studied corporations, diversity leads to increased profitability.  

In dentistry, diverse backgrounds can lead to the attraction and retention of diverse patients. Diverse backgrounds can fill in operational holes in your business model. Does a candidate have a background in psychology, finance, education, customer service, computer IT, office administration in another industry, or marketing? Does a candidate speak a second language that will be an asset in your community? Is a candidate artistic, an exceptional writer, a community volunteer, or actively participating in other activities? 

During each interview, seek to learn what the candidate could add to your practice culture in addition to culture fit. After talking about a candidate’s resume and interests, talk about situations that occur in the practice and current needs. Ask if the candidate has ever been in similar situations and how they handled them. Do the answers indicate personality traits and strengths that will add to (complement) the team? Ask the open question, “Based on your personal experience, what insights could you add to this situation?” 

In today’s competitive market for talented team members, consider what a new hire with additional skills could add to your culture and what these new contribution possibilities could be for an amazing patient and team experience. Happy hiring! 

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Upstream Thinking in the Dental Practice

February 5, 2024 Leigh Ann Faight

Upstream Thinking in the Dental Practice 

Leigh Ann Faight, RDH 

In my years of working with dentists and teams, I have noticed that leaders tend to address what is directly in front of them. They are simply too busy to notice that the issues of today will likely be back tomorrow, and the next day and so on if they don’t find the root cause and build systems from there.  

My favorite book on this subject is Upstream by Dan Heath. I was so impressed by it that I named my dental coaching company Upstream Dental Practice Coaching. The idea of the book is to help us stop reacting to problems and instead look for ways to prevent them in the first place. 

In the book, Dan Heath recalls a quote from Paul Batalden: “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” I love this quote; it is as exact as it is simple and begs the follow-up question: Are your systems working to get you the results you want? 

I’m not writing this with just dentists in mind. I recommend that all dental team members appraise together how well your systems are working and think about where the lack of systems is causing stress. As you meet as a team and pull back the layers of your processes, do you discover barriers that get in the way of moving upstream? As a team, you can intentionally rebuild your systems to remove the barriers and prevent them from rolling back into your stream. 

Fixed thinking gets in the way.  

As I coach, I see three behaviors that get in the way of improving the many systems operating in dental practices. 

Problem Blindness 

This is the belief that negative outcomes are natural and inevitable. We treat these problems like we treat the weather, as something out of our control. We normalize problems and even stop seeing them. Teams tell me, “That’s just how it is here.” This finite thinking is one of the first challenges we uncover when I work with teams on intentionally “going upstream.” 

Lack of Ownership 

If an issue arises and no one claims ownership for fixing it, the problem will persist. To really develop upstream thinking you need someone who will say, “Even though I did not create this problem, I will lead us to find a solution.” 

To create a culture where teams have ownership over decisions, leaders must trust the team to make decisions on behalf of the group. On the flip side, the team must choose to take charge of issues as they see them.  

Tunneling 

Tunneling is exactly like it sounds. You focus on short-sighted problems and have reactive thinking. You get stuck in a routine of short-term decision-making and are unable to move forward. You think, “I can’t deal with that right now.” 

The more problems you are juggling at once, the harder it is to solve them all. If you can’t solve problems systematically you will stay in an endless cycle of reaction, because tunneling begets more tunneling. Compound tunneling with stress and scarcity, and you get stuck. 

“Getting Unstuck” is the name of the game. 

You might want to take your team offsite for a day to talk about what isn’t working in your dental practice. What are the big problems they and you see? Talk about the common human responses of problem blindness, lack of ownership, and tunneling. Talk about upstream thinking and proclaim, “Today is the day we become unstuck.” 

In helping teams find ways to make their systems more successful, I have often found that small changes can make a big difference. If you add target metrics to your systems, “the team” will more likely see and remove barriers that have gotten in the way, redesign systems, and work as a united group to improve the outcomes.  

In the Pankey course held February 2024 — The Pankey Hygienist: Where Clinical & Behavioral Science Unite – The Pankey Institute, we focused on “the flow” of the hygiene-restorative partnership, leading patients toward higher comprehensive care, and getting clarity around the why and how of optimal behavioral and clinical methods. We took a critical look at the habits and assumptions we have developed. We applied upstream systems thinking with the goal of collaboratively achieving with our patients greater oral and systemic health.

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Leigh Ann Faight

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What I Brought Back from Napa (and it wasn’t wine!)

February 2, 2024 Robyn Reis

What I Brought Back from Napa (and it wasn’t wine!) 

Robyn Reis, Dental Practice Coach 

A while back, I made a business trip to Napa Valley. I was enjoying lunch on the patio of the Ottimo Café which is attached to a shop featuring wines, gourmet provisions, and culinary tools. It was a lovely day, and I was out in the beautiful California sun by choice. A nearby covered area provided shade, and there were multiple diners inside the shop waiting for those shaded tables. 

The maître d’ had given me a choice of tables and made sure I was comfortable. The food, wine and service were excellent. 

A family of four wandered over and sat down at an empty table in the sun. One of the waiters approached them and must have told them there was a line inside because they got up and went into the building. A few minutes later, they came out escorted and sat with menus at the same table they had left. There was obviously a system in place and it was working. Not long after, the two children became unhappy sitting in the sun. 

Being a parent myself I empathized with the parents as they struggled to keep the kids entertained. The little boy put his shirt over his head to block the sun, and I watched the dad looking at the covered area to monitor those shaded tables. As people from the shaded area got up, the tables were cleared, and the maître d’ seated more people.  

There was a lag between one table being bussed and people being seated because in a flash, the family left their table and sat down at a shaded table. The maître d’ approached them again. The family was speaking a different language and the father was using hand gestures. Obviously, communication was difficult. Ultimately, the family remained seated at the shaded table. There was no doubt that “good” customer service for this family was out of balance with “good” customer service for the people inside waiting to be seated. 

It was fascinating to observe the maître d’ having a conversation with the waiter who had been serving the family. My guess is that he was saying something like, “Hey, stay alert to maintain the seating system.” The waiter only nodded. It reminded me of a dental practice where you may have a patient in the hygiene chair and think to yourself, “Oh, it’s a small filling. Let’s go ahead and take care of that today.” Unbeknownst to you, someone may have walked in the front door hoping to be seen, and the front office thinks the walk-in can be accommodated based on the schedule.  

In both situations, it’s best not to make assumptions and communicate, communicate, communicate! In the back, check with the front to see if that filling can be done now. In the front, check with the back to see if the walk-in can be accommodated now. And in the case of a scheduled patient waiting in reception, you don’t want to keep them waiting unless it is really unavoidable.  

Sometimes we’re going to disappoint someone, however, we want to plan our schedule so no one is left waiting. We’re not in the restaurant business where customers are willing to wait in line for a seat at our table. Despite a fine reputation, if you cannot see new patients within a reasonable timeframe, they are going to call elsewhere.  

Look at your own schedule and converse with your team. Do you have an adequate number of new patient appointments available? Are you allotting sufficient time for each type of procedure? How good is your back-to-front and front-to-back communication? Do you keep patients waiting? 

My meal and business trip were a success in Napa. And while I didn’t bring back any wine, I did bring back the importance of having systems in place to ensure a great experience for every patient at every visit. 

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This “can’t miss” course will empower Dental Assistants to bring their skills to excellence! During this dynamic hands-on course, led by Pankey clinical team member, Sandra Caicedo, participants will learn…

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Are You Prepared for Your Next Hiring Challenge?

January 25, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Are You Prepared for Your Next Hiring Challenge?

Most dentists hire during a crisis because a vacancy created for various reasons drives a need to fill a position immediately. This high-stress, time-sensitive situation often undermines the dentist’s ability to hire more strategically and therefore move their practice up to the next level. In other words, dentists tend to re-create the status quo out of desperation, rather than strategically evolve their practice over time based on how they hire and develop team members.  

Understanding what you need and want to create ahead of time (skills and values that are non-negotiable in a person) is key. Hopefully, this article will prompt you to think about this truth as well as prepare for the next hiring challenge. 

Seek These 8 Personality Attributes 

According to Avrom King (and my own experience), there are eight personality attributes that must be predominant within a care team for it to prosper over time: 

  1. Optimism: Despite all the craziness in today’s world, team members routinely demonstrate a hopeful and positive attitude toward adversity and others.
  2. Involvement: Team members actively pursue problem identification and resolution. They are caring and committed to seeing the practice function at an optimal level.
  3. High Self-Regard (not to be confused with high self-esteem): Team members feel competent, capable, and worthy of success. They believe that their lives make a positive difference in this world, and they demonstrate it every day.
  4. Missionality: Team members are committed to living clarified personal values. This commitment goes far beyond themselves. They see their life as an integral part of a greater whole and congruent with the mission of the practice.
  5. Energetic Curiosity: Team members are stimulated by their curiosity about people, things, and challenges. Consequently, their positive energy is contagious, and their problem-solving ability is high.
  6. Resilience: Team members are flexible and able to adapt in a healthy and functional way to routine day-to-day stressors. Consequently, they don’t avoid conflict. Instead, they approach conflict maturely and with the intention of positive resolution.
  7. Self-Control: Team members know who they are, where they are, and where they want to go. They also know what they are doing – or are in the process of finding out. In other words, they are effective self-leaders with the ability to delay gratification.
  8. Relationship-Oriented: Team members prosper via long-term open, honest, and hidden-agenda-free relationships. Consequently, they’re able to seek out and effectively propagate opportunities for commitment in others through those relationships.

Conduct Behavioral Interviews and Assess Emotional Intelligence 

The bottom line is that our hiring process must be behaviorally sophisticated to predictably assemble a highly symbiotic team of emotionally intelligent individuals. Conduct behavioral interviews and make use of emotional intelligence and personality assessment tests. Behavioral hiring interviews ask candidates questions about how they handled specific situations in the past and the candidates are urged to provide somewhat detailed answers about their role, actions, and results. You may ask how they feel about the experiences and what they learned from them. Knowing what they know now, what would they do differently? Don’t shy away from asking them about their life goals and what appeals to them about working in a dental office. Are they enthusiastic about teamwork and making a difference in the lives of patients? 

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DATE: June 12 2025 @ 12:00 pm - June 14 2025 @ 7:00 pm

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This “can’t miss” course will empower Dental Assistants to bring their skills to excellence! During this dynamic hands-on course, led by Pankey clinical team member, Sandra Caicedo, participants will learn…

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Start the New Year with an Annual Fee Evaluation

January 15, 2024 Lee Ann Brady DMD

One of the things that I take the opportunity to do every year in January is evaluate my fees. I am disciplined about this because the cost of doing business goes up every year.  

Whether it is a low inflationary time when the cost of doing business has gone up 1-1.5%, or it is more like the recent period when the cost of doing business has gone up 7-10%, our profitability is going to decrease if we don’t adjust our fees. When profitability decreases, usually the dentist’s compensation decreases.  

The Fee-by-Fee Way 

We can go through our fee schedule, fee by fee, and raise them individually. Dentists who do this are concerned that they will lose patients if they raise certain fees, for example, their fees for regular recall exams and dental cleanings. Dentists who take the fee-by-fee approach tend to believe patients are less price sensitive to the cost of restorative dentistry and appliances. Some dentists cover the increasing costs of Hygiene by increasing the fees for their restorative procedures. 

The Global Way 

Alternatively, we can do a global fee increase that raises every fee by the same percentage. This is my preferred way. To select the rate, I will look at my 2023 end-of-year profit and loss statement (from my accountant) and compare it to my 2022 end-of-year profit and loss statement. Did I make a profit in 2023? Was it higher or lower than in 2022? I don’t want to make less profit year to year.  

I will also look hard at my practice’s operating expenses in 2023 compared to 2022. I expect 2023 will be significantly higher because we have gone through high inflation in 2023 that none of us could have reliably predicted at the end of 2022.  

For example, if overhead was 65% in 2022 and jumped to 68% in 2023, I must increase my fees by at least 3%, plus a percentage I anticipate will cover overhead increases in 2024. If my profitability decreased in 2023, I also would want to compensate for that loss in the future. (Our “healthy business” goal each year is to maintain and hopefully increase profitability.) 

To arrive at the final percentage that I will raise my fees across the board, I will factor in the raises I want to give my team and myself in 2024, and the other expenses I know (or anticipate) will go up.  

The Global Way Is Easier 

If we do piecemeal fee increases, it becomes a complicated set of mathematics to determine if we will recapture last year’s decrease in profitability, cover next year’s increase in overhead, and hopefully increase our profitability over the next year. If you want to be cautious, you can blend the two approaches. Do a global increase and then go back and look at the price-sensitive fees you are concerned about and lower just those. This is the Modified Global approach. 

Evaluate Your Fees Early in 2024 

Annual evaluation of our fee is a must-do, and I don’t think there has ever been a better time to raise fees in all the years I have practiced. We live in a time when everything costs more. Patients understand that our overhead costs have increased. They know we are running a business and want us to stay in business to be there for them. 

I encourage you to use a system of thinking to figure out which fees you will raise and how much you will raise them. I advocate for the global approach or the modified global approach. Ask your accountant to give you profit and loss statements for 2022 and 2023. If you need help with your evaluation, ask your accountant or practice management consultant to assist you. 

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Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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Their Ideal Day 

September 22, 2023 Christine Shigaki

I’m sure there are many aspects of your work that are really fulfilling, and I’m sure there are aspects of your daily work that you wish could be easier, maybe even less stressful. What about your work brings you joy? What would it take for you to provide your best work? What would it look like? What would it feel like?

I took an informal survey of dentists and hygienists about what they would need to have an ideal day. When I examined the dentists’ answers, I realized the answers would resonate with every member of a dental team.

The top five answers from dentists were:

  1. Having the appropriate instruments to provide excellent care.
  2. Opportunity to gain knowledge and skills.
  3. Excellent performance/execution of their work.
  4. Opportunity to implement new learning.
  5. Working with patients who are grateful for their care.

All hygienists desired “time to provide appropriate care for each patient.” Specifically, they asked for:

  1. Time to select and sharpen instruments for each person and for the specific procedures they will be doing.
  2. Time to properly assess each person’s unique periodontal condition, including time to accurately measure gum pockets and recession, minimal attachment/thickness, and to assess bleeding (blood thickness, how much bleeding, and where it is coming from—is it systemic or localized?).
  3. Time to explore possibilities with patients regarding their current condition, past condition, and potential future.
  4. Time to debrief and collaborate with the doctor to explore the next steps for the patient.
  5. Supportive teamwork across the practice to provide the best care.

Speaking of collaborating with team members, I invite you to ask your team members what their ideal day would include. Discuss, as a team, your shared ideals, and expectations. Consider where expectations do not match and discuss why this is and what must change to meet shared agreements.

Understanding and affirming the needs of others will have a positive impact. The exercise of writing down what works, what could be better, possibilities, goals, and a pathway towards implementation of superior supportive teamwork is likely to increase your practice joy factor.

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Christine Shigaki

Dr. Shigaki has been in dentistry since 1989 where she started as a dental assistant while completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington. In 1994, she graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, San Francisco, CA. Dr. Shigaki, a native of Seattle, has built her practice since 1995 and opened Belltown Dental in 2003. She is a life-long student of dentistry and believes that it is her professional responsibility to provide optimal, comprehensive care in a modern facility with state of the art equipment and techniques. She has completed and continues her studies with extensive post graduate dental education, including several dental study clubs and coursework at the distinguished Pankey Institute, where she is also currently an advisor and faculty member. Christine also facilitates teams and mentors dentists. She enjoys the work/life balance that dentistry allows her and hopes that others can find their joy in dentistry. When not at the office, teaching/studying dentistry, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and extensive extended family. She enjoys being involved in her children’s activities, yoga, reading, various outdoor activities and cooking.

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