By Mercedes LoRusso,

As many practices struggle to find team members, we stress that the best way to avoid this challenge is to retain the team that you have and invest in their development.


Many dental practices have lost vital team members during the last two years due to the pandemic and the collateral damage of the pandemic. Finding reasonable, skilled, personable new team members has been difficult for some practices. This is due, in part, to a depleted applicant pool. It is also a representation of the importance of culture on team retention.


In the 1991 John Grisham best-seller (and 1993 Tom Cruise movie), “The Firm”, there is a premise that in the law firm, Bendini, Lambert and Locke, “no-one leaves the firm…alive anyway”, and this is a sufficient incentive for Mitch McDeere, the central character, to stay and engage in money laundering against his better judgment.

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This policy is not a viable option in inspiring team members to want to stay in our offices. Team members should not be expected to like every aspect of their job every day, but they should feel that they love their job and feel fortunate to be a member of your team. In a relationship, you don’t necessarily like your partner every day, but you should still love your partner every day.


We are often asked by doctors, “How do I get our team members to stay?”, and the question usually revolves about compensation. As long as team is paid fairly, the reason that team members either stay or leave a position is because of how they feel about their employment in the practice, not about the money. When team members leave because of pay, it is because they have not had much satisfaction in their job, or an attachment to the practice. When team members feel loyal to a practice, they turn down positions that offer them more money, or if their earning potential is so great, they approach you and explain that they received a very generous offer, but they really don’t want to leave, and they ask, “Is there anything that you can do to help me stay?”


As long as your team members are paid fairly, the most important factor in retaining good team members is to shower them with praise and appreciation. Catch them doing things right and find creative ways to show your appreciation. Sometimes little things like a gift card to Starbucks or a nail salon can go a long way in proving that you are appreciative.

Validation is also extremely important. Before I ever made decisions in my practice, I would ask my team their opinion. I found the it was less important that I go along with what they thought, but the fact that I listened to them before making my decisions let them know that I valued them and their views.


Incentive programs reinforce the hard work of your team. All tasks are worthy of measurement. All measured processes are worthy of acknowledgement. An incentive program which clearly defines the parameters necessary to earn a bonus will serve as a very strong motivator for performance beyond what is expected of your team. Smile Potential has an outstanding team-wide bonus system that clearly defines what is required, and it generously rewards exceptional performance without adversely affecting compensation percentages. If you would like a detailed explanation of the Smile Potential Incentive Bonus System, please send an email to


The last factor in retaining team is the creation of loyalty to the team, and not just to the doctor. Creative and regular activities designed around team-building and reinforcing the relationship of the team go a long way in keeping your team together for much longer periods of time. The longevity of a team, as a group, and not just individuals, goes a long way in practice consistency and patient confidence and loyalty.


After reading this E-newsletter, make your next interaction with the members of your team members a compliment or just say “Thank you” to them for something they’ve done…and make this a habit. Mastering appreciation and demonstrating “thanks” will make it that you do not have to become proficient in writing ads for Indeed or interviewing candidates on a regular basis.


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By Mercedes LoRusso,

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. If you do not routinely provide an Oral Cancer Exam at the highest level, please make this the month that you (Hygienists AND Doctors) begin doing so. In any visit to your office, this is “The MOST Important Thing That You Can Do” since it has the potential to save someone’s life.
In early November 2019, I was observing in a client office in Manhattan where we had recently emphasized the importance of doing a superior Oral Cancer Screening on ALL hygiene patients and supplementing it with an adjunctive device, the Bioscreen. The hygienist in that office called me into her room to ask if an abnormality that she had seen under the tongue of a patient was of concern. I agreed with her and she brought it to the attention of her doctor when he came in for his “hygiene check”. The dentist was also concerned with this area and sent the patient directly to an oral surgeon in his building for a consultation. The following week this dentist and hygienist received a report from the oral surgeon that described that the patient had a diagnosis of Stage 3 Oral Cancer and would be undergoing surgery and radiation treatment.
This was the best case scenario for this visit and the oral surgeon subsequently came to their office a month later to state, unequivocally, that this Hygienist had saved this patient’s life.  Happily, this patient had very successful treatment and has just celebrated his two year anniversary of being cancer-free.
What would have happened had this hygienist not detected this abnormality? Well, remember that this, and all other offices, were closed six months later due to COVID. And six months after that, there still may have been some reluctance to go back for “just a cleaning”. What would this patient’s outcome had been if their next visit to the dentist were not until the Spring of 2021? It’s a fearful thought.
Keep in mind that in 2020, there were over 65,000 people in the United States diagnosed with Oral Cancer. While 90% of oral cancer patients are still over the age of 40, the fastest growing segment of the population with this diagnosis is now young men and women due to the prevalence of the HPV virus. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we begin screening our patients when they are in their teens, with parents’ consent. As dental professionals, we are absolutely on the front line in this battle. We used to have some perfunctory help in this area from physicians, but most patients report that their physicians have been insisting that they keep their masks on, and they have not even looked in their mouth at all in over two years.
The MOST important thing that we can do in our practices is to potentially save someone’s life from the ravages of oral cancer. We can do this by incorporating the MOST thorough Oral Cancer Screeningpossible each and every time the patient sees our hygienists. It only takes a couple of minutes to be done properly, but it can preserve someone’s life for decades. Smile Potential’s Hygiene Coaches can help your hygienists develop a system for performing this level of a screening for oral cancer. We recommend the Bioscreen as a very valuable adjunctive device. While the digital and white light exam is still our first line of defense, a device that adds enhanced visualization of epithelial changes through the use of biofluorescence can be of tremendous value. We can direct you to Addent, for information about the Bioscreen, ( if you are interested. We also recommend that doctors and hygienists “brush up” on the quality of their Oral Cancer exam by watching any number of well-produced videos on YouTube.
Recently, I was introduced to Dr. Parul Makkar. Her brother was Dr Manu Dua, an incredibly accomplished and, still even more promising, young dentist who was diagnosed with Oral Cancer at the age of 33, and who passed away from this deadly disease at the age of 34. Dr. Dua, during the months between his diagnosis and passing, wrote a series of essays that gave his incredible perspectives on life, hope, suffering, mortality, and peace, that only someone facing their own mortality can offer. These essays were compiled in a book published by Dr Makkar, and authored by Dr. Dua, “Life Interrupted”. It is the most impactful and thought-provoking book that I have read in a very long time and I highly recommend that all dental professionals read this book to gain some of Dr Dua’s perspectives.
Most importantly, make this April the month that you make a commitment to providing the service of a most thorough Oral Cancer Screening for every one of your patients. You may also offer this service to the friends and family of your patients during the month of April as a way to make an introduction to potential new patients. This is a service that differentiates your practice from others in your area, as differentiation is one of the greatest keys to success in the current environment of competition.

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By Mercedes LoRusso,

We “Celebrate Dental Assistants” this month by recommending a great book, “Battling and Beating the Demons of Dental Assisting,” for all of you to give to your assistants. It is written by one of the most influential voices in Dentistry, Kevin Henry, who had been the editor of numerous dental publications and who now advocates for the empowerment of dental assistants. “Battling and Beating the Demons of Dental Assisting” is an encouraging self-help book to raise confidence and increase pride in the job your assistants do. We will be offering it to the dental assistants in the practices we coach as part of our coaching program. At a time when attracting clinical assistants is difficult, it makes good sense to celebrate and motivate these individuals, who work side by side with us, for the benefit of our patients.

Each year, around this time, we are reminded by the American Dental Association to celebrate Dental Assistants Appreciation Week during the first week of March. How insulting!  If you are smart, you should be celebrating the contributions made by your clinical assistants to the success of your practices each and every day of the year.
In every successful practice that I’ve ever visited, at the core of their success is one or more assistants who have an incredible work ethic, and who are setting up rooms and turning equipment on long before the doctor arrives. They have command of sophisticated equipment and technology. They have incredible knowledge of a wide array of materials, instruments, procedures and policies, with little room for error. They perform their job within 18 inches of the person who oversees them and of the person for whom they are caring…if that’s not stressful, what is? They are expected to do all of this repetitively with speed, accuracy, a smile on their face and warmth in their heart. And they are expected to anticipate the doctors’ needs, often before the doctor even knows what they need…each and every day of the year. How do we wait until March to celebrate them?
I have been blessed to work with some incredible clinical assistants throughout my career. These assistants were the driving force of my success, and the success of my practice.
More important than the clinical aptitude of the great assistants, is the attitude of confidence that they demonstrate through their empowerment. These are the team members who are never satisfied by what they know, but who always seek additional knowledge and training. They love going to continuing education and take pride in applying what they learn. These are the team members who are not “pulled along” by their doctors, but instead, “push” their doctors to higher levels of achievement. They possess a mantra of “it’s never not my job” as they not only function at the highest level, but they make every other member of their team better.
This article would not be complete without recognizing two assistants who contributed so much to my success, and who continue to be leaders in the field of dentistry.  The first is Denise, who worked chairside with me for 20 years. Though she lived the furthest from our office, she was the first one in and the last to leave, day in and day out. Her clinical skills were unmatched, and she trained every subsequent clinical team member in my office to her high standards until I left practice. She loved clinical assisting so much, that she would not aspire to becoming an administrator, yet she was among the most talented team members I have ever known in phone and verbal skills. I was proud when she went on become the manager of another practice and contributed to that practice winning “Best of Long Island”, just as she had done for our practice several years before.
The second assistant I would like to recognize is Amanda, our incredible Smile Potential Clinical Assisting Coach. Though Amanda only worked with me in my practice for a few years, her contribution to my practice was immeasurable. Her skill with digital workflow helped advance my practice to the forefront in being a pioneer in the use of clinical technology. Now that we are reunited in Smile Potential, she has revolutionized our ability to help with the training of making clinical assistants productive in the practices we coach. She has developed our “Dental Assisting Done Right” program which includes modules on clinical proficiency, scanning and digital workflow, inventory management, infection control, verbal skill prowess, and clinical organization.
It has always frustrated me when dental assistants have introduced themselves to Kelly and I as “just the assistant” in the practice. I always correct team members by insisting that they are “especially the assistant” in their practice. Dental Assistants, and the rest of the team, need to realize that they (the assistants) are as important as any other member of the team, and in many ways, they are the most important interface to our patients. In the treatment room with talented clinical assistants, such as Denise and Amanda, I was “just” the dentist.
 Dental Assistants…thank you for all that you do!


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By Mercedes LoRusso,

We know that the month of January was a difficult month for many of you in keeping schedules filled due to team members and many patients coming in contact with Omicron. We hope that you, your families, and your teams, and their families, are well.
We look forward to working this year on helping all of our doctors and teams become more efficient in the delivery of the highest standard of care. We use analytics, and rely heavily on using Dental Intelligence, for actionable data about systems. But we know there are also many things that can be done to improve care, raise production, decrease stress and make dentistry more fun by maintaining a keen awareness of time. This issue of our newsletter is going to focus on making you “Think Of The Time You Can Save.
I had the distinct pleasure during High School to participate in musical theatre. My favorite show that I participated in was Pajama Game. I played the part of Hines, an efficiency expert in the Sleep-Tite pajama factory. As the curtain opened for the show I was running around the production floor of the pajama factory and singing a song entitled “Think of the Time I save”:
“I’m a time study man, and a time study man can’t waste time.
For a time study man to waste time, is a crime.
So I’m ruled by the tick tick-tock.
And I live my life by the clock.
I live my life by the tick tick-tock of the clock.”
Each verse of the song offered a way to save time…not undressing when you go to sleep (“I will admit that the suit gets mussed and it gathers lint and it picks up dust, but think of the time I save.”), shaving in bed (“The lather drips and the bed gets wet and oh what a lousy shave I get, But think of the time I save.”), combining ingredients for breakfast in a single bowl (“I grab a bowl. And in the bowl I drop an egg, and add some juice. A poor excuse for what I crave. And then I add some oatmeal too and it comes out tasting just like glue, But think of the time I save.”).
The time saved by working more efficiently in the factory eventually was leveraged to substantiate giving each employee a 71/2 cent raise.
In coaching dental practices to be more efficient, I am still a time-study man. I teach practices that the second greatest cost to practices, aside from team compensation, is lost production time, so that raising perceived value is a way of keeping the schedule full and preventing the disappointment of broken appointments. We recommend tracking open schedule time and relating it to hourly production of each provider to determine lost opportunity each month.
We try to minimize team “down-time” by creating comprehensive lists of down-time tasks to do that help to fill the schedule and build improved organizational systems. These task lists prevent the time that often gets wasted by team not having clarity on what to do when they are not involved in patient care.
We try to streamline time-wasting processes. When we see a doctor taking much too long time performing a crown prep, temp and impression or scan, we ask the assistant to time procedures for the doctor, and, even, each component of the process ( prep, temp, scan or impression) to see where there is an inordinate amount of time be used or wasted. Just the act of timing often creates awareness and it speeds up the process. We’ve seen numerous doctors cut their time for various procedures in half without adding any stress or pressure. This results in a tremendous increase in production and patient satisfaction.
A major part of our program teaches how to streamline hygiene checks of recall patients. This is by far one of the greatest sources of inefficiency and falling behind in the schedule in most practices. It begins with doctors not responding to requests for a check from the hygienist in a timely manner. In order to prevent this, the hygienist should signal the doctor to come in for their check as soon as the diagnostics (exam, Oral Cancer screening, X-rays, intra-oral photos and perio charting) have been completed, and not wait until they are finished because that may not be a convenient time for the doctor. Enabling the doctor to come in when they are free will prevent having to wait long times for doctor checks.
The other area that seems to waste office time is not having a system for timely and efficient hygiene checks. We teach that the hygiene check should take no more than 3-5 minutes…tops. All too often we see these checks taking 15 or 20 minutes, or more. And if there are multiple hygienists to check, this creates a disaster in the schedule. This is why we teach block scheduling for multiple hygienists so that one hygienist is always doing perio or other non-exam requiring procedures.
When hygiene checks take 20 minutes or more, this inevitably puts the hygienist way behind in their schedule and the doctor’s patients get annoyed wondering “Where the hell in the doctor? I have to get back to my office.” We know it is because the doctor is trying to “sell” the patient some treatment. There is a far better system to accomplish this without adversely affecting the schedule.
The successful efficiency of the hygiene check is also one of the most sure ways to build a practice because in less time it is possible for a trained hygienist to recognize and promote opportunities for a doctor to ultimately recommend and gain acceptance of far more restorative dentistry. But this requires a system of consistent diagnostic criteria, strong verbal skills and a system for overcoming inevitable patient objections to treatment. I strongly recommend that doctors and their teams reach out to us to enable us to help them implement these systems. They are the basis of our client practices increasing $300,000 or more in their first year working with us.

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By Mercedes LoRusso,

Happy New Year. This month has begun with disappointment at the continued interference of COVID on our lives, and on our practices. Every challenge gives us the opportunity to make ourselves better, instead of bitter. When so many are faced with a similar challenge, it serves no benefit to let the challenge kick you down. There were practices in 2020 that still had great years in spite of missing three months. They proved that it is more important how you respond to knockdowns and proceed with a plan. The current slowdown is an opportunity to give you and your team “Time To Plan.”


We have definitely been hearing from some of you that your schedules have been adversely affected by the resurgence of COVID among your patients, their families and your teams and their families. The bad news is that every practice has had the same challenge recently. The good news is that the open time in our schedules creates an opportunity to plan for the days when COVID is out of our lives, and this can and will make your offices more productive and less stressful for the rest of the year.
Once upon a time there was a very strong wood cutter. He asked for a job with a prominent timber merchant. The pay was very good and the conditions very favorable for this type of work. For this reason, the wood cutter was determined to do his very best. The timber merchant handed the wood cutter an axe and showed him where in the forest he would be working.
The first day the wood cutter cut down 18 trees. His boss was very impressed and called him the best wood cutter that had ever worked for him. Motivated by his boss’s words, he tried even harder the next day, but he only cut down 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder and only cut down 10 trees.
Day after day the wood cutter cut down fewer and fewer trees. His boss came to him and told him that if he couldn’t cut down more trees he would lose his job. The wood cutter needed the job very badly and tried harder and harder. He even worked during his lunch breaks, but still he could not cut down enough trees. “I must be losing my strength,” he thought to himself. He worked overtime but it was still not enough.
Eventually the boss came to him and told him he was fired. The wood cutter was devastated and handed back his axe to the timber merchant. The boss took one look at the axe and asked the wood cutter, “When was the last time you sharpened this axe?”
“Sharpen my axe? The wood cutter replied. “I have never sharpened my axe. I have been too busy trying to cut down enough trees.”
Obviously, the morale of this story is that you should never be too busy to sharpen your axe. Similarly, you should never become too busy to define your vision, sharpen your skills and hone your business systems and strategies in your dental practices. Last month in our newsletter we spoke about the need to properly set goals for the coming year. Here we will give you a strategy to make those goals become a reality.
Every sports team spends their off-season planning for the coming year. Every successful  corporation has meetings to plan for their coming year. Every successful businessman begins the year with meetings with their accountants and financial advisors to plan tax strategies for the coming year. We should do the same.
The lighter schedules from COVID give us an opportunity to try to consolidate the patient appointments to free up one day for a day-long practice planning day or “retreat”, similar to what many successful companies do. The “Retreat” Planning day can either be in the office or in the conference room in a local hotel (their bookings are down also, and the rates for this are quite reasonable.) During the lunch break, cater in a nice “Appreciation Lunch” for your team.
Here are a dozen things that can make this day a resounding success:
·     Review your accomplishments of the past year
·     Review and revise your vision
·     Identify things that you had wanted to achieve but didn’t get to and plan them better for the new year
·     Find out from each team member what it is that they would like to achieve personally within the practice in the coming year. You will find that many would welcome additional responsibilities and expanded skills.
·     Find out if team members have any obstacles to overcome in order to achieve these personal goals, and develop strategies to help them.
·     Set bold goals for the coming year and determine a really special reward if the goal is achieved. One of our client practices this past year set a bold goal of a 25% increase in order to award their team with a trip on a cruise. The goal was such an incentive that the team drove the practice to hit a 50% increase and, instead of the cruise, they are going to Turks & Caicos for two weeks, while their office space is increased with 3 additional treatment rooms.
·     Determine one thing that each team member can do to make the team stronger.
·     Allow each team member to identify one thing that the doctor can do to help them or, more importantly, one thing to stop doing that hinders them.
·     Establish a yearly calendar for fun marketing ideas
·     Establish a yearly calendar for fun team activities: Miniature golf, “Escape the Room”, attend a baseball game, attend a high school football game, have a potluck lunch at a lake or beach, bowling one afternoon or early evening, a painting night.
·     Include training on a new piece of technology OR the management system. Our team of coaches could help with advanced Dentrix training, or teaching your hygienists and clinical team to scan at a higher level to help generate more aligner ortho cases.
·     Smile Potential can be of help in creating this day for your practice, or we could help to facilitate a day to make it a resounding success.
Many of the practices we meet are under producing. Doctors are producing $300-$400 per hour. Hygienists are not producing much more than $100 per hour. This is your typical $600,000-$700,000 practice. More concerning is that we speak with practices producing significantly less than this. Ironically, these doctors are often too busy to come to the phone to receive a pearl or two that could help them generate an extra $30,000 or $40,000. The thought of scheduling an entire day for a team meeting, and take away from “productive time” would be inconceivable for these doctors. How could they ever fathom the thought of taking away “production time” working with Kelly and I, and our team, in a coaching engagement?
The fact of the matter is that practices cannot afford not to take the time. Let me make my case:
·     Every single-doctor practice that worked with the Smile Potential team last year achieved at least a $200,000-$300,000 increase in production and collections.
·     In the last 6 years we have worked with 116 practices and those practices have achieved over $90 million in increased revenue.
What do all of these practices have in common? They took the time to plan and to “sharpen their axe”. Their visions are sharp. Their teams have sharpened clarity of expectations. They have sharpened systems in place. Their engagement and focus is laser sharp. Their skills are the sharpest they have ever been. Their patients accept more of the treatment they recommend and have less concern for what insurance will pay. And most important, their sense of perspective…” that they work to live and not live to work” is razor sharp in the mind of every team member.
Doctors, use this temporary slowdown to take the time to plan and “sharpen your axe.”

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By Mercedes LoRusso,

This year, while very successful for all of our coaching clients, has still been a source of stress for many. Rebuilding teams, welcoming back patients, and acclimating to a “new” normal has made successes the product of greater emotional toll. Our vision for 2022 will be to help offices continue to grow while making processes more predictable and less stressful through improved adherence to systems.
We want to wish all of you, our clients and friends, and all of your families, a wonderful holiday season. We hope that 2022 will be a year of consistently good health, unprecedented success, great prosperity, limitless happiness and new opportunities.
Howard Hill is considered the greatest archer of all time. He won 196 consecutive matches and he never lost in international competition. With that being said, I can boldly say that even with minimal training and practice, most of you could beat Howard Hill, on his very best day. The minor caveat here is that Howard Hill would need to be blindfolded and spun around a dozen times to destroy his sense of orientation. Many of you will laugh and say “That’s ridiculous! How can you hit a target you can’t see?” Exactly! Many of you are, day in and day out, trying to hit goals that you don’t have. You must have goals! Clearly constructed and defined goals!
For a goal to be effective it must effect change.  Here are the steps in establishing goals for you and your practice:
1.     Write your goals down.
2.     Set a date.
3.     Identify the obstacles.
4.     Identify what you need to know.
5.     Identify the people you need to work with
6.     Establish a plan
7.     Identify “What’s in it for me?”
Figuratively, set long range goals as far as you can see, and when you get there you will be able to see further. In 2007 when Peyton Manning won his first Super Bowl he was asked if it was the most thrilling achievement of his career. Without hesitating, he responded, “So far!” Do not let your accomplishments be limited by past achievement or by underestimating your capabilities. Use the steps outlined above and take aim on your target.
Frequently when we work with a doctor, the doctor will, within only a couple of months, ask, “Are we there yet?”. It is easy to understand the lack of patience in wanting to achieve one’s goals, but it is almost always the wrong question. It demonstrates a failure to recognize the process of change and not trusting the concept of a vision. Change doesn’t just happen. Change requires a dedication to the processes that create change. This means that introduced systems need to be understood and implemented. Skills need to be practiced and executed. Scripts need to be rehearsed, role-played and utilized. There needs to be consistency in repetition of the implementation and a degree of confidence that the repetition will create success in due time, if executed effectively. When this is understood, you should not need to ask if “you are there yet?”. The results become the automatic source of your answer.
As a passionate golfer, I am constantly pursuing the quest to improve my score. Each month I read the various golf magazines and I see that the ways that I can improve my score include hitting my drives in the fairway, hitting the greens in regulation and limiting myself to no more than 2 putts per hole. This is the formula for playing par golf. Executing it is an entirely different challenge, but asking if my game is better is unfair if I have not been coached on how to accomplish each of these building blocks for lowering my score.
Coaching is a process to implement skills and strategies to grow your practice, lower your stress, and profit from your efforts to a greater extent. Don’t lose sight of the process. Apply your attention to all of the lessons and their implementation. Recalculate your route as challenges arise. Appreciate incremental progress. Celebrate measurable improvements, and when you arrive, it will not happen by chance, but it will be because you never lost sight of your bull’s eye.  You’ll know when you “have arrived”.

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By Mercedes LoRusso,

November is the month that we express our thanks to those who deserve it.
Thank you to my amazing wife who encourages, supports and loves me day in and day out, even on the days when I don’t deserve it.
Thank you to my family for putting up with my sick sense of humor and compulsive idiosyncrasies.
Thank you to my friends for laughing at my jokes more than my family does, and for tolerating the fact that out of my enthusiasm, that I sometimes speak more than I listen.
Thank you to Kelly and the wonderful group of coaches who make up Smile Potential. I am so proud of how you help doctors and their teams fulfill their dreams for success on a daily basis.
Thank you to the doctors and their teams who put their trust in us and for the privilege of allowing us to help them grow their practices, lower their stress and deliver a higher standard of care.
And last, but not least, thank you to all of you who read this newsletter on a monthly basis. I hope that once or twice each year that I am able to write something that enables you to find a way to do something easier or better, and that it makes a positive contribution to the growth of your practice or to improving your life in some small way.
When we create a vision for our dental practice, we are essentially creating the treatment plan of what will become our legacy. Later on, because our visions change as we progress through our career, it can be assumed, then, that our legacies change as well.
Throughout my career, my mission has been to make a difference in people’s lives. For most of that time I always viewed that this mission could be applied to the ways that my dentistry changed the lives of my patients, removing pain, providing comfort, eliminating infection, restoring health, overcoming embarrassment, creating opportunities and changing the way they looked, felt and felt about themselves. For the most part I believe that I accomplished what I had set out to do.
Along the way, I enjoyed the ride. I found great meaning in the relationships that I made with my patients. I enjoyed asking them about their families and I found it gratifying when they would ask about mine. I enjoyed feeling that I was more than their dentist, that I was also a friend. Many of the patients confided in me, and that often times that made me feel that I was a therapist and crossing over into the role that my wife had always occupied for the patients in her therapy practice.
In order to accomplish this mission I developed an understanding, very early on, that the most important people in my practice were my team. I knew that if I treated my team like gold, they would play it forward to my patients. I was careful to absorb women into our team who displayed warmth and exhibited sincere caring. I never tried to motivate them, for I knew that trying to motivate anyone is merely trying to manipulate them. Instead, I strived to inspire in each of them to an internal phenomenon of becoming motivated. I did this by constantly being aware that they would become motivated if I reinforced the things that gave them satisfaction by working in our practice, and by removing things that would be considered dissatisfying. I knew that culture was something that occurred either by accident or purposefully and that anyone entering our office would feel it organically.
I believe my patients felt the positivity in my practice. I know my team felt it, because many of the women who worked for me, through the time I retired from practice, still tell me and write to me that they appreciated the respect and appreciation that they felt from everyone. No one felt more privileged than me to be able to enjoy the type of culture that existed in our practice, often times in spite of me.
Recently, I experienced an epiphany. During this past summer a family member of one of my previous team members passed away. I encountered some of the “old” team members at the memorial service on a Friday morning. One of the women invited me to a lunch get together the following afternoon to comfort our team member. When I arrived that sunny Saturday afternoon I was amazed to see that nearly all of the women who worked with me in my practice over a 15 year period, ending in 2015, were there. Furthermore, while I always knew that they were friendly, I had not realized that they were now the best of friends…all of them. We shared stories that afternoon that only dentists and dental team members can appreciate about their office experiences. And then it hit me…my legacy had nothing to do with the dentistry we performed. The legacy of our practice had become the relationships that were born out of an amazing culture. These relationships are lasting far longer than the shared work experience. Most of them will last a lifetime and will outlast me, and I find that so comforting and exhilarating.
What will be your legacy? Will it be that you helped people, or will it be that you made a lot of money? Will it be that you constantly strived for perfection in your care, or that you survived a stressful career? Hopefully your legacy will include some consideration of the effect your life had on others. Wouldn’t if be wonderful if those individuals included the men and women who shared the mission, and that in turn gave all of you a greater sense of shared and mutual fulfillment.
Thank you Mercedes, Denise, Francine, Lucrezia, Amanda, Ashley, Sherry, Jackie, Dorothy, Espy, Priscilla, Heather and Lesly, from Smiles On Broadway, and Kelly, Donna, Jamie, Judy and Yana, (in addition to Mercedes, Lucrezia, Denise and Amanda) from Smile Potential.

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By Mercedes LoRusso,

The last time that Kelly and I spoke to a live audience was the first week of March in 2020. We are so excited once again be speaking at the Greater NY Dental Meeting next month. We will be presenting for an entire day on Wednesday, December 1st. This is a great opportunity to reignite the enthusiasm for you and your team. Our morning program is “3 Definite Strategies to Grow Your Practice”. Kelly and I will be joined by our good friend, Kay Huff, who is one of the most dynamic speakers in the country. A fun fact is that when I won the “Speaker of the Year Award” from the Speaking and Consulting Network in 2014, Kelly then won it in 2015, and Kay won it the following year in 2016. This will be an opportunity to see three award winning speakers on one stage giving you and your team actionable strategies to grow your practice immediately.
In the afternoon on December 1st, Kelly and I will be presenting “7 Steps to Increase Treatment Acceptance”. This course in a blueprint to insure that the patients who you know could benefit from your care will want to have it done without objection.

The loss of my dental practice to a series of life tragedies 20 years ago has served as my stimulus to now be dedicating my energies to helping doctors overcome struggles and challenges. The great success that my team and I had after we returned from two years of my disability and recovery has also laid the groundwork that enabled Kelly and I, and our amazing team of Smile Potential coaches, to help doctors, who have been underachieving, set the wheels in motion to discover incredible new success in their practices. It has been very fulfilling helping practices achieve routine first year growth of $300,000 – $500,000. Since January 2016 Smile Potential has now worked with 115 practices and the gain in revenue for those practices now exceeds $85 million.
I can still remember when I was disabled and unable to practice, how alone I felt. Sure, I had friends checking in on me, especially my good friend, my Schein dental supply rep, Mitch Cutler, who spoke with me daily, giving me encouragement and hope for a better future. But dentistry can be very isolating, and that was certainly made more evident over the last year and a half for almost everyone in our profession. The pandemic worsened the isolation that most dentists felt even prior to COVID.
In a suburban town outside of New York City there is a very modest dental practice. There had been reports that the dentist was not paying proper wages to members of his team, so the State Labor Department decided to send an agent to the practice to investigate. When the inspector entered the office he met the dentist and asked for a list of the employees and how much each of them were paid. The dentist responded by saying, “I have a Dental Hygienist who is paid $2,000 per week, an Administrative team member who is paid $1,500 per week and a Clinical Assistant who is paid $1,000 per week.” The inspector asked if there was anyone else, as he scribbled in a notepad. The Dentist responded by saying, “Yeah, I have one person who gets about $20 per week and enough cash to pay the car lease and gas money.”
“Aha!” the agent roared. “I want to talk to that man!”
“Speaking,” said the dentist.
Of course, this story is made up, but the situation is, unfortunately, not a gross exaggeration of what is sadly happening in too many dental practices today.  Many, who have found a path to profitability, will hear this and say, “No Way.” Believe what you want, but Kelly and I have encountered far too many practices in this situation to dismiss it. We have seen busy practices generating hundreds of thousands of dollars and the dentists are deeply buried in debt and taking home less money than their dental assistants. These dentists have no path out of this devastating spiral.
Craig Presti, a dental marketing guru, in 2018 published an article naming that year as “the year of Dentists declaring bankruptcy”. In 2019 he published a book titled “The Dental Apocolypse Survival Guide”. This was certainly not very encouraging.
Recently I had the opportunity to see the new movie revival of the hit Broadway musical, “Dear Evan Hansen.” It is about a socially anxious adolescent and the difficulties he encounters with teenage life, including the suicide of a classmate. In the worst of these situations, teenagers may suffer in their loneliness and make devastating mistakes without receiving the help of others. There is a song in that show called “You Will Be Found.” As I hear that song, I listen to the lyrics that keep repeating “You are not alone, You are not alone, You are not alone”… and I immediately thought of so many dentists that we’ve met needing help.
Dentistry attracts many individuals who are task-oriented and introverted. In today’s world, running a dental practice requires considerable business acumen. “They Didn’t Teach Us THAT In Dental School”…someone should write a book with that title. Many socially anxious dentists used to attend study clubs where they heard the other members bragging about how well they were doing, whether they were or they weren’t, and they became too ashamed to ask for help, out of embarrassment. They received no help and they continued to spiral downward. They suffered in their loneliness and they committed “practice suicide”. The pandemic even eliminated the outlet of live study groups. Virtual study groups did not allow for robust two-way conversation, but rather featured one-way lectures or presentations. This certainly did not allow the type of discussions that could serve as support for those suffering. And mental health is taking a toll throughout our society. It has been brought to the forefront by athletes like Naomi Osaka., Michael Phelps and Simone Biles. Mental health is also a problem in our dental community from all of the stresses we encounter on a daily basis
Dentists are not alone. “You Are Not Alone” We are a community. We are not in competition with each other. There are more than enough mouths with teeth that should guarantee that everyone of us can achieve great success. Smile Potential is dedicated to helping dentists find a way out of their challenges, whether they be team attraction or retention, patient satisfaction and retention, practice growth, team development, systems implementation, stress reduction, life/work balance and profitability.
Dentists, team members, sales representatives, vendors and accountants should help identify practices that are not reaching their potential and offer to help them, even if it is just referring them to someone who CAN help them. If you are a dentist, you have some sense about your nearby colleagues who may be suffering. You may be even getting patients from their practices. Acquiring these patients is not a win. Don’t celebrate these gains. Find out what is behind them.
If you are a vendor, a representative, or an accountant, you know which accounts are ordering less and less with each passing month. You see the facilities in disrepair and the empty reception rooms, or empty schedules. You know the practices that are not finding a way to “get by”. Let them know that you see the signs of struggle and let them know that they are not alone.
Kelly and I, and our team of coaches, are here to help any doctors who are struggling, or who are not struggling, but just want to assuredly take their practices to the next level. Dentists are faced with so many additional challenges now more than ever before…hiring shortages, rising team compensation and supply costs, difficult team retention, corporate competition, challenging policy compliance, HR nightmares, increasing stress. As my grandmother would say, “Oy vey!!!” The good news is that we serve a population that needs dentistry more than ever. Cosmetic dentistry is at an all-time high. Technology is available to make dentistry more fulfilling than ever before. And we are here to help you feel not as alone in your challenges. The systems, diagnostic criteria, verbal skills, computer proficiency and training we provide in our coaching programs helps struggling practices find success, and successful practices achieve unprecedented growth and potential.  You are not alone. We are here to help you.

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By Mercedes LoRusso,

This month Kelly and I begin our 14th year helping doctors and practices raise their standard of care, raise their patients’ appreciation of the value of that care, and organically helping their practices grow and become more successful. Our goal is to inspire doctors and their teams to create an environment where patients are welcomed in increasing numbers, systems enable these patients to accept more dentistry than ever before, and patient satisfaction is the highest ever, which generates more referrals and positive reviews to feed the new patient flow and  this compounds the growth of the practice. We have been very successful in working with over 100 practices in the last 6 years and we have helped them cumulatively generate over $75 million in increased revenue. But despite this increase in production/collection, greater fulfillment and higher level of fun, there is still the understanding that “you can’t please everyone all the time.”

Too many of the dentists that we meet seem to constantly be in fear of losing patients. Many have not yet brought everyone back from COVID. There are certainly skills that can be learned on how to inspire these patients to finally return by invoking a program of emphasis of the oral-systemic connection. Everyone wants to be well, so a dedication to taking patient blood pressures, doing thorough Oral Cancer Screenings, using adjunctive devices for the OCS, doing FULL periodontal probing to diagnose periodontal disease, scanning for wellness and doing more thorough comprehensive exams would certainly seem like a good place to begin in differentiating your practices. But, when practices make these changes, they often encounter some patients who give pushback to the improved practices and they toy with going back to the same old – same old.
A farmer and his son were bringing a donkey to sell at the market in their village. They passed a group of girls who made fun of them walking alongside the donkey. So, the farmer put his son on the donkey. Further down the road they passed a group of older women who scolded the farmer for allowing his son to ride, when he should be riding because of his age. So, the farmer asked his son to get off of the donkey and he got on. Later, they passed some travelers going in the opposite direction who told them that if they wanted to sell their donkey, they should not tire the donkey out, for it would be worthless when they finally got to the market. So, they tied the donkey’s legs to a pole and they carried it to the village. When they approached the market in the village square, the people who were in the market began laughing at the site of them carrying their donkey.
They laughed and screamed so loud that the noise frightened the donkey and the donkey kicked itself free from the bindings and ran away. The farmer and his son returned home empty handed, except for learning the lesson that you will achieve nothing by trying to please everyone.
We cannot satisfy the demands of every patient, but we can purify the services we offer and how we deliver those services and care, so that the majority of our patients see the value of doing things to a higher standard.
1.   Establish your vision for your care and service so that your patients become more concerned with missing appointments with you than of what they will experience in your office.  This comes from raising your standard of care.
2.   Dare to be different, because differentiation gives you your competitive advantage over the other doctors in your area who do things the same ways they have always done them. Be proud of what differentiates you and your practice and team from others.
3.   Show more empathy, be more caring and be willing to listen more than you speak. Show more sensitivity to patients’ anxiety, and build a greater understanding about how you can make a difference in their lives.
4.   Raise the value of what you do in the eyes of your patients. This comes by not educating them about what they need, what you do, or how you do it, but rather, by emphasizing the benefits to THEM of WHY they should WANT the care that you know they need.
5.   Make your office become a place where people want to be. This means that you want to create a culture of common courtesies, everyone saying please and thank you for everything, and constantly giving praise in every direction. When team and patients experience this type of an environment, the team wants to be more empathic and deliver the greater care, and patients appreciate the concern for them and accept more comprehensive care without concern for cost or insurance coverage.

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By Mercedes LoRusso,

We believe that one of our greatest successes of the past year was the Doctors Dedicated to Success (DDS) Mastermind Program. We were very happy that we routinely had between 25-30 doctors participating and the quality of the guests made each of the meetings a worthwhile experience for all who joined. We are delighted to announce that we will be hosting our second year of the program beginning in September. We have received commitments from some incredible guests to insure that this year will be another very worthwhile program. Our first guest will be Tim Twigg, of Bent Erickson and Associates. He will address a very timely topic : how to deal with team members who have not been vaccinated, and how to answer patient inquiries about the vaccination status of the members of the team. In addition, each meeting will continue to foster a culture of sharing the ideas that contribute to all of your successes and some solutions to the challenges that you may share with one another. All participants will be able to schedule two Practice Growth Coaching Phone Calls during the course of the year, and will receive feedback on a recorded Secret Shopper Call, all included in the cost of the Mastermind Program. The first Mastermind meeting will be Wednesday September 22nd at 7:30 pm.

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