3 Things Dental School Didn’t Teach You (but You Should Know)

I was recently asked what a dentist needs to know to own a business that they aren’t taught in dental school. Frankly, the list is long! And that’s okay, because dental school isn’t business school—it was about teaching you how to do dentistry, not run a business.

Still, there are gaps that you’ll need to fill to make the most out of owning your own practice. I’ve listed three of them below, with some resources you can use to get started.

1. How to talk like a person

What’s the difference between anterior and posterior? Pretty obvious, right? I mean, that’s been drilled (sorry) into you since your earliest days of dental school. Maybe before.

But the person sitting in your chair? They have no idea. So if you come at them with talk about caries and cuspids and calculus, you might sound impressive, but you’re not making a connection with the patient, and you’re not helping them understand their oral health better.

Talking like a person just means explaining things so that your patient can understand. If your patients feel knowledgeable and empowered, it will go a long toward making them loyal, returning patients. That, and your excellent clinical skills, of course.

Resources: Dental Nachos and Dental A Team are two of my favorites for this kind of thing.

2. How to manage money

If dental school isn’t business school, then it definitely isn’t accounting school. I’d be surprised if any of your classes even mentioned a Profit and Loss statement.

The good news is that you don’t need to become an expert in this area, you only need to be somewhat proficient at reading a few numbers. The goal here is to understand where your money is coming from, and where it’s going when it leaves. Let your accountant handle the details, but you should have a broad picture of your cash flow.

Resources: Being a dental accountant, this is where my own stuff shines brightest. Check out my newly updated book and the free podcast to learn more.

3. How to manage people

Owning a business means being the boss. That means employees. And the boss-employee relationship is unlike any other you’ve had. You may be a good “people person,” you may be a good communicator, and so on. But none of that means you’ll be a good manager.

Your clinical skills may be your big moneymaker, but it won’t mean as much if your staff is poorly managed and dissatisfied. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you.

Resources: The best resource I know of for this is Manager Tools. It’s a vast, sprawling empire of amazing advice on many business topics, but I’d start you with the Manager Tools podcast. It’s been running for over 17 years and they’ve covered just about any topic you can think of.