Annual patient billings for a well-run general dental practice should average approximately $750 per year per active patient. This figure can vary somewhat based on practice demographics, but overall this will apply to most areas of the United States.

An average, well-run, solo general dental practice with two restorative rooms and two hygiene rooms should produce about $1,125,000 per year. Take that $1,125,000 and divide it by $750 per year average patient billings, and this comes to 1500 patients. This means you need one dentist for every 1500 active patients (Actually, you need 300 patients per doctor day per week - 1500 patients = 5 doctor treatment days, 1200 patients = 4 doctor treatment days, etc.)

A hygienist can see 12 patients per day working in two hygiene rooms with a hygiene assistant. A practice will average 48 weeks per year (two weeks vacation and two weeks off for eight holidays and two sick days combined). Active patients will average two hygiene visits per year (considering those that visit once, twice, three, four times a year, and those that only visit every other year). This means that, on average, all active patients will be seen every 24 weeks (and then recall begins again). If the hygienist works five days a week and sees 12 patients per day, that is sixty patients per week. Sixty patients per week times 24 weeks equals 1440 patients.

Therefore, one dentist with two treatment rooms, one hygienist and one hygiene assistant with two treatment rooms, and 1500 active patients are ideal combinations.

So what happens when you have one dentist who tries to treat more than 1500 active patients? The average annual billing per patient will begin to drop. When the doctor tries to see more patients in the same amount of time, something has to give, and it does. The comprehensive treatment gets put off in the quest to see more patients. The doctor begins to run out of time while running more to see all the patients.

The more patients on the doctor’s schedule, the less time he/she has for each patient. Then there are more hygiene patients to check, and that results in less time to see patients. As a rule, the higher the number of patients (over 1500) in a solo general practice, the lower the practice income. That’s right, a high number of patients equals lower income, which is the rule, not the exception.

So why do doctors do this? It’s because they have developed a perspective of scarcity over the years, that’s why. Dentists tend to think that every new patient is going to be their last one! Heaven forbid if they should turn one away; it could be their last. Try to fit them in the schedule if you can. Put off that six-unit bridge to see another new patient. You can catch that bridge on that patient’s next visit.

What should you do if you already have two or three thousand patients? First, get off this speeding treadmill. If you are trying to see this many patients on your own, then you are killing yourself. You are working harder and making less money than you could be making if you work smart instead of hard.

You have a unique talent if you have this many patients. I say it’s unique because many dentists have little or no communication skills or lousy personalities, and they can’t buy patients if they wanted to. If you have a huge patient base, it makes a statement about you. It says that your patients like you and trust you, and they refer to all their family and friends to you. I find it interesting that the dentists who worry the most about losing patients are usually the ones with the most patients.

If you are in this situation, then it’s probably time to add another doctor to your practice. I know the first thing you will say is, “Where are the patients going to come from?” Well, you have them already, and it is time for you to let go of some of them. You can’t handle all the patients you already have, so be prepared to share them with the new doctor. It’s time to let go of some of them.

Don’t worry. If your patients like the new doctor, it does not mean that they dislike you or like him/her better. They will, however, probably notice a more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in the office. They may even notice that you are not running around like a chicken with its head cut off. They may even get to like you more than they do now (of course, they will send more patients, and the problem will grow, but you will have it under control).

You’ve worked hard all these years, and it is time to relax and enjoy some of the benefits of your labor. Go to a three-day workweek. See half the patients you are currently trying to see. Expand your hygiene program and add another doctor to your practice. Work less, like it more, and make more money! Or you can continue like you are and let the Grim Reaper get a shot at you before your time. The choice is yours, but at least recognize that it is time for you to let go and let someone else share the load. It’s time to call AFTCO! Call AFTCO at 800-232-3826 or visit our website at www.AF

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