COVID 19’s Impact on Dentistry: What the Leaders Have to Say

I recently contacted 6 leaders in dentistry whom I greatly respect and view as some of the best. I wanted to hear what they had to say about how this virus has changed the face of dentistry in just a few short weeks. Their candor and insight gave me even more hope for the future of our profession.

This pandemic caught all of us off guard. In past economic downturns, dentistry as a whole has typically weathered the storm with some modifications, but this time, it’s been different. Every single dental office has been affected. Truly we are all in this together.
As you read what these leaders have to say, I hope you’ll be able to glean some nuggets to help you in your own situation. Open your mind, direct your thoughts, and take action on the things you can control.

And now, may I introduce to you…

Dr. Glenn Vo, a practicing dentist who created a following of over 22,000 dentists and dental professionals in his Facebook group, Nifty Thrifty Dentists.

In his own words…
Nifty Thrifty was born out of my mentality of going back to when I was a poor college student. I wanted to keep the ‘start up’ mindset of being lean and mean. It’s about remembering where I came from and the fact that we all love getting a good deal.
This crisis is really scary for dentists who haven’t planned ahead. It’s time to get their dental practice lean and mean and it’s also time to reach out and ask for help.
Everyone needs to be prepared for a new reality. I remember how 9-11 changed how we travel, and the recession of 2008 changed how we buy homes. We need to be prepared for changes in how we see patients. We’ll need to adapt to the times with a new reality and I think everyone will raise their heads and say, “Yes,” we will do it (regarding different PPE).

Dr. Mark Costas, a practicing dentist who owns 6 different practices, 2 in California and 4 in Arizona. He also owns and operates a coaching and consulting company serving about 200 dentists. The business has a team of 20 who travel out to the offices for training and coaching. His training is very attuned to Profit and Cash Flow. On top of these things he also manages his member community, Dental Success Network. This network includes over 40 faculty serving 600 members on the ins and outs of clinical dentistry, business management, leadership, and finances. Dr. Mark is a speaker and coach but his most prized role in life is being a dad to his 3 sons.

In his own words…
I don’t blame the dental schools. We had zero time to learn about business in dental school. As dentists, we get out of school and then have the ability to borrow large amounts of money.
The impact of COVID 19 to me personally meant overnight I laid off 45 team members – it was devastating to me. I have now chosen to close completely because of the concern of staff and their families. No amount of current PPE can protect us from the aerosols.
I’m coaching dentists to find any expenses not necessary to survival and eliminate them. I’m providing as much free accurate information as I can to help all.
Based on my experience from going through the 2008-09 crash in Phoenix, I would tell dentists this; Pre-COVID, Present-COVID, and Post- COVID are 3 distinctly different practices. As soon as we all realize that, the better. Necessary adjustments need to be made. The flaws you had pre-COVID will be much more visible post-COVID. Inefficiencies will be exposed now. Even the strong practices will have to make changes and understand what’s going on under the hood. They are smart and know they need to learn from others.
Once we are able to say the “M” word, marketing, again, understand that people need assurance. People may have lost insurance. This may be a great time for a membership plan. Go back to the basics. Speak to patients fears and work with them.

Dr. Gary DeWood, a dentist, teacher, and practice management consultant. Dr. DeWood along with Dr. Frank Spear founded the Spear Education Center in 2008. From 2002-08, he was the clinical director at The Pankey Institute and before that he practiced dentistry in a small town near Toledo, OH. Four years ago, they merged the Pride Institute with Spear Education. They have 400 dentists relying on them for help.

In his own words…
COVID 19 turned off dentistry – the switch was thrown and now we’re only doing emergency care. This was an immediate crisis for dentists. Our conversations with dentists have changed. I believe what we do in dentistry is safe in the operatory…other areas of the practice, not so.
(At Spear Education), We provide a place for students (dentists) to come together and talk. We have a virtual platform and most of the dentists come to us through our online presence. We are shifting and doing seminars online. We will still do in person seminars as soon as possible.
I believe dentists need to be on the frontlines checking antibody titers and offering this as a service. We can be part of the reporting with real data.
Financially, many dentists found themselves on the ledge in front of the abyss. They don’t know how to solve the problems, so they jump – they closed down and laid off employees. In a story about Sir Edmund Hillary after he climbed Mt. Everest, he said he kept his focus on his feet, his next step, and not the whole mountain. Dentists need to take a step back, stop focusing on the abyss, and look at their feet. Only do what’s needed for the next step. Look at your resources and use what you have. I recommend using your LOC if you have one and collect everything possible sitting in your Accounts Receivable.
We are now more aware than ever of the aerosols we create and how we manage them. I believe Isolite sales will rise. We are seeing the reports it (Isolite) is more effective (for controlling aerosols) than the high-speed suction. The protocols we already have are excellent – just follow them. The biggest risk for exposure is ourselves.
Stay in touch with your patients and control the conversation about why things have changed. Take charge and let patients know if you are available for emergencies. Have team members reach out and check in with patients, especially those at-risk patients. Let patients know they can expect to hear from you – make it all about the patients.
If you’ve laid off your team, bring them back the week prior to actually seeing patients again. Start calling all your patients. Let them know you are here for them.

Dr. Anissa Holmes, graduated dental school from the University of Alabama 20 years ago. After working with a coach in her practice for a few years and seeing the amazing changes that happened, her coach asked her, “What’s next for you?” and encouraged her to write a book to tell how she tripled her revenue during this time. This led her to start her own coaching business called Delivering WOW!

In her own words…
People started asking me to teach my strategies. I’m now helping practice owners get the practice of their dreams. I help them have financial and time freedom. I do this through empowering the team to run the practice for them. I help team members step up into leadership. They then can afford the CE for the team and begin to give back to their community. I help them with marketing on Facebook, how to build funnels, email marketing and how to become a known practice.
I retired from active practice a year ago so I could help dentists more. I’m still very involved in my own practice and have 2 associates working there.
I believe profitability equals freedom – it is not doctor pay. This is freedom to do many things, purchase things, or take a vacation. Going forward, team members need to understand profitability and this pandemic will help them to understand.
Dentists are very busy and never have time to do a lot of the things they want to. Now they have some time on their hands and can begin to document systems, learn Facebook marketing, work on their processes.
I see government help as a blessing – a gift. You can bank the hours working now and pay later when the PPP loan comes through. Use these low interest loans and pay off credit cards. Take the opportunity in front of you.
This a super scary time for dentists and right now we’re dealing with moving targets for re-opening. People want certainty and we don’t have that now. What we do have is the ability to be frozen in time with expenses (deferment of payments), the team taken care of with unemployment benefits, the ability to apply for government loans, and this brings peace of mind to see they’ll be okay. They can then shift their mindset to begin to work on their business and see this as a gift.
I see doctors loving dentistry again and having gratitude for going to work. I see team members being grateful to have a job. I see dental teams getting real with their numbers. I see people returning to spirituality and church. Spring comes after Winter – we’re in Winter now and Spring is coming.

Dan O’Rourke, a highly trained and accomplished dental lab technician and founder / owner of Dentistry’s Optimal Model, a training program designed for online delivery teaching dentists to restore patients to the optimal model of health.

In his own words…
I think it’s pretty hard to escape COVID 19 no matter what profession you’re in, but it’s especially hit dentistry. Our students doing the work are better positioned to hit the ground running when they go back to work. Our students have large cases going on and they will have this financial windfall when they get back to their practice.
They have patients who have experienced being taken out of pain and now have this comprehensive work ready to go. I see our students having cash flow when this pandemic ends.
Having our program online means we haven’t skipped a beat. Our training goes on. No one could have predicted this. We teach dentists to serve people whose lives are miserable and in pain. When people get out of pain, it’s incredible what they’ll do.
We host weekly Q&A calls for our clients. We’ve dedicated the last few weeks to just this, allowing them to talk about it and how it’s affecting them. We just want them to know we are there for them. We talk about the financial part of it. Students are talking openly about how they are handling things. Most truly want to help their staff. We are letting them we are here to support them.
I have a feeling it will be a bit of a slow recovery. Dentists are gonna need to be able to weather the initial storm with staff coming back on board. Everyone needs to be ready to financially play it out. It’s just such an uncertain time yet I remain optimistic and I do believe we’re all going to recover from this.
It will help dentists to learn to prepare for what’s next. We better be prepared financially for this kind of a hit. We have an opportunity to learn from this. I hope that all dentists have someone, and they’re not alone in all their decisions.

Dr. Steven Schluentz, a practicing dentist in Philadelphia, PA and founder / owner of Mountain Sky Coaching where his signature program is Dental Sales Solutions. He helps other dentists move to a wellness based and fee for service practice.

In his own words…

I help dentists with their New Patient Process. I help them identify who are their key patients. I typically work with dentists who are doing or want to do more comprehensive care. They are the more technically trained dentists and most likely have been through a continuum.
As a dentist who has been shut down because of COVID 19, it’s impacted me personally and professionally with a lack of income. It’s also affected me as a coach to dentists while I strive to help them not just react but take necessary steps in conserving cash.
A lot of my clients have smaller practices, or are looking to move to this type of practice. These clients (dentists) are in a better position to weather the storm than a big practice with high overhead. Wellness based providers are already set to serve patients in a bigger and better way once this is over. They have a great opportunity.
My role is to help them shift their mindset to grow. I’m currently here and available for them. I’ve opened up coaching calls to be available when they need it. I’m working with them on being aware of money management and doing more training on this. My focus is on prevention for the future…even if they just put away 1% in a savings account. Money is an energy. Cash reserves give energy and power. If possible, take this time to move the business forward but the reality is most are in a survival mode.
Recovery from this depends on the practice type you have. Some will be quicker and easier to respond than others. Take stock of how you have responded so far. The team you have is essential. They are probably fear based as well so the first step in recovery is to share with the team how to prevent this again and they will now understand the numbers more than ever. Put a plan in place for the flow of money. Then start to focus on the patients now and double down on what you really want to be doing. This is the time to create what you want. Then stay committed to your vision.
We really are all in this together. Appreciate this is a bump along the journey. Look at the opportunity for growth.

I am deeply grateful and appreciate the time each of these professionals took to speak with me. I enjoyed more than anything seeing the passion and heart they have for dentists and dentistry. For some, I’ve known them for years and for others it was our first meeting. I am humbled by their response of yes to someone they had never met before. This alone speaks volumes about their willingness to help.
I believe people are good. I believe people want to help others. I am privileged to serve some of the finest dentists ever and I do not take that lightly. They have chosen me to help them and that is a prestigious honor!
My hope is you have found some inspiration or a bit of hope by reading this. I hope you know there are professionals throughout the dental industry who stand ready to serve. We are all here to help you. Please reach out! Don’t go it alone.

I believe dentists should never again have to fear a crisis.