Fire in the Trash Can: Dental Practice Management Issue

Quick! There’s a fire in the trash can in your dental office. What do you do?

You could move the trash can to another room even as it sprouts flames and then go back to business as usual. Out of sight, out of mind, you know.

But wait. Do I smell something burning? Of course! The fire is still in the trash can, and it’s spreading! Even though the trash can is in another room, the problem has not been solved, because the fire is not out. In fact, the situation poses a greater danger the longer it is ignored.

In many businesses, including dental practices, the short-term solution to many dental practice management problems is to, as it were, move the fire in the trash can to another room. Just pretend the problem doesn’t exist or hope it gets better without any intervention.

  • There is a problem brewing between two staff members in the office. Let’s change the subject and hope the problem goes away.
  • The number of new patients has been trending down. Let’s talk about that great case we had last week and put off grappling with the new patient issue.
  • One of the computers isn’t working properly. Let’s use the computer in the back while we hope miraculously that the main computer will get better with some rest.

One of the hallmarks of good dental practice management is to face problems squarely and solve them in a timely way while they are still controllable.

You may have gone to dental school and you may not see yourself as a firefighter, but one of your main jobs is putting out fires.   Follow all the rules: prevent dental practice management fires when possible, respond immediately when there is a problem, and put the fire out once and for all so that problems in the dental office do not smolder and reignite.

David Schwab, Ph.D.