By Mercedes LoRusso,

Smile Potential E-Newsletter
(516) 599-0214

As spring begins and leads into summer, it is wonderful to see people walking with more bounce in their step. There is joy as outdoor pursuits can be resumed with the warming weather. And spring is also the season of love.   Many romances begin as the days begin to lengthen and the sun shines more brightly. Maybe this was my inspiration as I gave a young dentist the advice to “Stop kissing the tooth….Make love to it!”


Maintaining a solid relationship with a spouse or loved one requires a great sense of commitment, and excellent time management to make each moment together count. Being a dentist requires the same sense of commitment and time management. The commitment is to expedient completion of the procedures to the highest level of competence, and to do it in a way that helps maintain time commitments and some degree of profitability.

One of the joys of being a Dental Practice Coach is seeing the new members of our professional community beginning their careers in the practices that we are working with. Most of them begin their first positions with confidence, and with high expectations. Some, take off and fly, while others, become humbled by the need to combine clinical performance with excellent people management and business management.

Recently, I was asked to observe the associate dentist in a practice. Members of the team had expressed some frustration over the doctor taking two and a half to three hours to complete a simple “crown prep, temp and impression.” Similar situations have occurred in practices with scanners and mills, but in those practices, it is usually more related to time management of the digital work flow.

In this practice I watched as the doctor touched the tooth with the diamond, then stopped and blew air on it to inspect what he had done, which was very little to that point. This routine was repeated time after time for quite a while. It reminded me of how, in Dental School, we would all drill a little, then repeatedly blow the dust off with our mouth. I will never forget how, on my first live patient, I almost went to blow off the tooth with my mouth, until I caught myself and switched to the air-water syringe.

Finally, I asked the doctor to have his patient rinse, and I took him into the hallway and said, “Stop kissing the tooth and make love to it”. Stunned, he asked what I meant. I told him that he must begin the procedure having visualized what the end result will be. For a crown preparation, it is seeing the tooth reduced sufficiently to allow the proper thickness of restorative material to restore the tooth to full contour with sufficient bulk to reduce the chance of fracture. In order to do that we must embrace the concept of depth cuts to determine the extent of reduction. We know what It should be circumferentially and occlusally. Just get in there and commit to doing it. As Nike advertises, “JUST DO IT!”. Once the depth cuts are completed, then connect them with a gross reduction diamond, and then add your finishing line, whether it be shoulder chamfer or bevel. The key to doing this is to get in there with commitment to the final outcome and embrace the confidence to get there with minimal hesitation and stoppages.

One of the tools that I recommend to help accomplish this is a stopwatch. There are four phases of the procedure that should be timed:

1.   From the time the patient is seated, to when the handpiece is picked up to begin the preparation.

2.   From the time the handpiece is picked up, to begin the preparation, to when the handpiece is put down with the preparation completed

3.   From the time the handpiece is put down to when the impression or scan is completed.

4.   A. For same day crowns – from the time the scan is complete to when the patient is asked to wait for the crown (this includes the design of the crown)

B. For patients returning – from the time the impression or scan is complete to when the patient is dismissed (this includes the fabrication of a temporary crown)

We recommend that each of these phases should take no more than 15 to 20 minutes. The act of timing your procedures seems to create a greater awareness of completing it expeditiously. Tasks expand to meet the time available. Time awareness creates greater urgency. After a while, the routine becomes more comfortable to complete in the lesser amount of time, and this will allow the doctor to schedule two similar procedures in the same amount of time that it previously took to do one. Remembering that one additional crown per day for a doctor generates $200,000 additional revenue for a practice, it puts an exclamation point to “Stop kissing the tooth… make love to it!”

If you would like to find out more about how Smile Potential Coaching can help you grow your practice and become more productive,

send us an email at or call us at 516-599-0214.


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By Mercedes LoRusso,


November is the time of year that it is most appropriate to express gratitude and appreciation. We appreciate that all of you have let us into your practices and we are grateful for the opportunity we have been afforded to help you achieve greater success. We are thankful for the wonderful connection that we have been privileged to make with all of you. We strive to help all of you work smarter and not harder.

Thank you to all who have placed your confidence and trust in Smile Potential in 2022. From all of you, we derive our optimism and hope for great things to come in 2023 for all of you and your practices. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, your families and your teams.

Be sure to mark your calendars to attend the Greater NY Dental Meeting at the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC the end of this month. Dr Katz and Kelly will be featured presenters on Tuesday. (see below).


Has anyone else noticed how people seem to be more on edge than ever before? This is not just in politics, where it has become worse than ever before, but in everyday life as well. Frustration with circumstances out of our control, and the need to find others to blame, seem to wind the springs of our reactive selves to the point that otherwise benign situations illicit out of proportion responses and, often times, regret over our actions.

Dr Howie Gurr, a clinical psychologist who has worked with Smile Potential for many years, frequently tells the following story. Imagine that you are the last to board an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building. Being the last to enter, you turn to face the closing door and you are barely able to move because the elevator is packed so full. As the elevator begins to ascend and the numbers of the floors are rising you feel the most annoying sensation of being repeatedly hit on the back of your leg with a hard object. It is not painful, but it is uncomfortable and the repetition is torturous. You cannot wait for the elevator to reach the observation deck so that the doors will open and you can turn and give the person who has been hitting you a piece of your mind. The door opens, you quickly turn and find, to your likely disappointment, that the person behind you was a frail, old, blind woman with her cane held out in front of her. You experience both frustration over not being able to vent, and disappointment in yourself that you might have taken an action that you surely would have regretted.

What is the reason that we are so quick to come to conclusions? One reason is that we may not be actively listening, but rather thinking of our response before we hear an explanation. When we jump to conclusions and react so quickly, it usually lacks consideration. Patience enables us to make the initial assumption that others intentions are good. When we assume that others are well intended it gives us the perspective to not feel compelled to shoot the messenger, but to consider and discuss the message constructively. Assuming good intentions demonstrates a level of trust, which is the foundation of a great team.

How does this apply to our dental practices. Each and every day we are faced with patients who exhibit some form of belligerence in our offices. It may be impatience or nastiness in the reception room. It may be passive aggressiveness when they are seated, or refusal to follow recommendations. We may unfortunately tend to dismiss these patients as being mean, unfriendly, or unappreciative. The truth is that these patients are anxious or fearful, and their fear has taken hold of their ability to act in a kind or welcoming manner. If we can break down the barriers that illicit the anxiety, we can create a far better experience for these patients and we will, in turn, receive a far better response from them, and, likely, more appreciation. We must develop the mindfulness to show more compassion for the challenges of others. Be more empathic.

Similarly, we frequently become frustrated with members of our dental teams. Dentistry tends to be a stressful field for EVERYONE in the practice. As dentists, we often take for granted that team members should be able to read our minds and anticipate our needs innately. The truth of the matter is that every one of us are different. We think differently, we act differently, we speak differently and we interact differently. The expectation that anyone can know how we got to this point in our professional lives through extra-sensory perception is totally unreasonable. In order to create work relationships that are as perfect as possible, we must provide more training than we ever plan for, give more clarity in expectations than we have ever considered, and show as much compassion and understanding as we have ever shown before. Since it is unlikely that we will consistently accomplish all three of these concepts, then we must show patience in questioning whether there is an understanding of expectations. We must show a willingness to constantly supplement training and offer support, and assume that our team’s intentions are good, then  show effusive and constant appreciation for effort and even incremental improvement. Frequent positive reinforcement and appreciation create greater receptiveness to occasional constructive commentary.

 I recently asked numerous dental team members to consider the adjectives that they would use to describe the best boss or teacher that they ever had. The adjectives that were mentioned most often were appreciative, encouraging, inspiring, kind, positive, calm, supportive, fair, decisive, smart and visionary. Isn’t it interesting that few of those qualities have anything to do with intellect? More than two-thirds are emotional qualities. None of those who I questioned listed negative emotions such as anger or impatience. Negative emotions may prompt instant action but they don’t inspire people in the long run. Negative energy takes a considerable toll on people in a dental practice.

Regular expression of positive energy can transform a practice in a very short time. Who is the CEO (Chief Energy Officer) of your practice? Who is constantly giving encouragement to the team and pumping them up? Who is heaping praise and appreciation on the members of the team and raising their perception of worth to the practice? Who is giving the team a sense of optimism and a sense of fulfilled purpose day in and day out? No one ever said that it has to be the doctor, but it is essential for a practice to have a strong CEO if it is going to be successful.

November is a perfect time to embark on a culture of appreciation and positive energy in your practices. Use the spirit of this Thanksgiving month to thank your patients, your vendors, and anyone else that you do business with. But most importantly, direct and focus the most sincere and heartfelt appreciation to the members of your team who directly control the success that you achieve in your practices.

If you would like to find out more about the process of appreciating your team and creating the most positive culture, please contact us. Send us an email at or call us at 516-599-0214.



Dr. Katz was privileged to recently record a webinar for Dental Intelligence on Calibrating Diagnostic Criteria and Increasing Treatment Acceptance. This topic is the “Blueprint for Practice Growth”. We are happy to provide the link so that you can view a recording of that webinar.



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By Mercedes LoRusso,

October is the time of year when practices are making the final push for a great year before holidays and time with family rightfully become our end of year priority. It is a time when we begin to think about how we, and our practices, have performed, and what we might have done differently to have achieved a better outcome. It then becomes the time of year to give initial thought to what we can do differently in the coming year to achieve any unrealized potential. That is why this tends to be the time of year when most of our coaching clients come onboard, and achieve great things in the coming year.


If you are reading this, you are a dentist, a dental professional, or a team member in a dental practice. You have achieved a relative degree of success, but undoubtedly, you want more.

How do dentists get better at what they do? How do they become more productive? How do they make more money? How do they lower their level of stress? How do they become more fulfilled?

There is a traditional pedagogical view that we go to school, we study, we practice, we learn and then we go out into the dental world and make our way on our own. Many believe that as professionals, we are capable of managing our own improvement. It sounds great in theory.

It turns out that there are numerous problems with navigating this path. There are numerous challenges to achieving greater success on your own. Often times you don’t recognize the issues that are standing in your way of increased production and greater success, and if you do, you lack the experience to develop strategies and systems to overcome them. The result is that somewhere along the way, you stop improving and you settle for what you have, conceding that “this is the best it will be”. We see it all the time and it breeds complacency. Coaching breaks this cycle.

Henry Ford said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” But the world continues to change at warp speed. Dentistry is constantly changing. The patients we care for, and how they respond, are changing more and more with each passing day. Thus, to change your success, you must meet the challenge of change and similarly change the way you practice.

When it comes to change, the small things matter. When we coach dental practices, we do not make drastic changes in the way dentistry is performed. We do recommend numerous small changes in methods that improve the standard of care and the ways that the dentists and teams communicate the value of care to their patients. That ultimately leads to increased patient acceptance of care, ease of providing this increased care, less stress and greater fulfillment. The practices that we coach experience tremendous growth that exceeds what non-coached practices are seeing during these challenging times.

Many practices that were strong prior to COVID, have not been able to sustain steep growth following the initial surge from reopening a year ago.  One of the major reasons for this has been team turnover and failure to attract, or retain, strong team members. When the doctors and remaining team are working beyond capacity, they are faced with inadequate time to train new team members and pre-existent systems are diluted, which erodes efficiency and increases stress. This leads to burnout and further attrition of team.

Our coaching program provides support and guidance to help you and your practice get through tough times. We help you create clarity on what is important and then prioritize tasks and skills geared towards reaching your practice potential. When you go it alone, you often have to learn from mistakes. Because we have now worked with over 130 practices, we have encountered most common, and uncommon, challenges in practices and we have helped practices overcome them without experiencing “trial and error”.

In the course of your typical days it is difficult to objectively evaluate what is working, and steering you to be successful, and what is derailing your progress. One of the greatest things that we do in working with a practice is identifying what is being done well, cheerlead for the team for their successes, and then identify opportunities for improvement. Coaching gives you and your team a fresh perspective and leads to growth.

A major emphasis of our program has been derived from an almost unanimous response of doctors and team members for wanting improved communication. The departmentalization in offices leads to barriers in communication. Learning to overcome these barriers and improving communication among the team, and with patients, enables far greater harmony and success with far less stress and conflict. Practices with better communication tend to attract the best team members and do not lose them. Patients seem to respond to practices with a stable team by accepting more treatment due to increased confidence and trust.

We subscribe to the principle that whatever you do is worth measuring and we embrace the use of analytics to help practices make minor adjustments in systems to help them achieve more with less effort. This enables working smarter and not having to work harder. If you speak to the doctors who we work with, you will find that they cannot believe their increases in production seem to occur with less effort and stress than they envisioned. This helps them develop a better work-life balance and they become less resentful of working in their practices. When we feel stressed and overwhelmed it is impossible to focus and we tend to waste more time with no productive outcome. Coaching definitely helps to reduce the level of stress in your practice.

Much of the reduced stress comes from building accountability among your team. It starts with the doctor in helping to develop improved leadership skills and team empowerment. We find that our coaching program gives team members more intrinsic motivation to take on new challenges. This prevents the tremendous amount of disengagement we are seeing in so many practices that we observe. A disengaged team cannot be productive and more responsibility falls on the doctor. Our program shifts much of this responsibility off the doctor’s shoulders as the practice becomes team-driven.

The results of coaching are improved patient care, increased production, increased income, lowered stress, and more enjoyment. Ultimate success in dentistry is not easy to achieve without support. It demands perseverance and patience. Coaching helps provide guidance and support for the steps that need to be taken to reach your potential.

For any doctor desiring greater success, coaching is an important engagement to consider. It should be an important part of your professional life, because it can provide support, encouragement and motivation, as well as tools, skills and strategies for growth. Just like highly successful athletes, everyone needs a coach who can help guide them and provide more focused direction on their journey. Consider having Smile Potential as your coach to help you smile more and reach your potential. That’s your Smile Potential.




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By Mercedes LoRusso,

 Welcome back from the summer.  Each year I take off the summer from writing these newsletters to follow my own advice for creating a proper life/work balance.  The summer months allow me to “recharge my batteries” and also discover ideas that may be helpful to all of you.  The first of these ideas is related to a problem that I have seen developing over the recent months.


Dental practices are not the only entities suffering from a lack of abundance of suitable potential employees.  The dental lab industry has also been hit by an exodus of trained technicians and a shortage of workers to take their places.  Increased busyness in the labs from dental practices picking up their productivity has also meant that many technicians new to the field have been inadequately trained on the need for the absolute perfection needed for fit and function of the crowns and prosthetics they are creating.  The result is that dentists are increasingly finding that their lab cases are delayed or not meeting their standards for fit.  This, then, requires longer delivery appointments, and it results in frequent remakes, reappointments and eroded patient confidence.

Time is money.  The biggest expense to any practice, other than team compensation is lost production time.  We normally think of this in terms of cancellations and broken appointments.  We ask offices to track open appointment time each month and calculate the impact on the practice.  If we assume that a doctor is producing $600 per hour and a hygienist is producing $150 per hour, then just eight one-hour open appointments for each of them during a month could cost the practice as much as $6,000 in lost production, the equivalent of an entire wasted day of office time.

What often goes unnoticed is the lost production time, and increased work, that can be attributed to compensating for delayed deliveries, or less than adequate crown fit.  During a recent practice observation I saw that crown deliveries were being scheduled for as much as an hour.  The scheduling coordinator said this was made necessary by the increased time it had been taking to adjust crowns to make them fit.  Delivery of a crown should never take more than a half hour.  If a crown is taking more than 10 minutes to adjust to make it fit, it probably should have been remade.  With digital impressioning and workflow, there is no reason that a properly fitting crown cannot be seated in a minimum amount of time.  When we are taking an hour to cement a crown on a daily basis, the doctor described above has lost as much as $5,000 production in a month.  Even worse, is having to reschedule patients because a crown does not fit.  The doctor mentioned above recalled that seven crowns had needed to be re-impressioned, and deliveries rescheduled, in recent weeks.  This amounts to an additional $4,000-5,000 in lost production.

I find it disturbing when I hear that a doctor is seeking a new lab and is deciding primarily based on price.  The difference in cost of digitally produced crowns (even actual impressions are converted to digital flow by the labs when they scan the impressions) is minimal, generally ranging from $99-129, The difference is far less than the cost of lost production time caused by poor fit.  The decision on which lab to use should be exclusively based on the quality of the work and the fit of the crowns.  My suggestion is to contact the doctors in your community who have the best reputation, or local prosthodontists, to find out which labs they use successfully, and begin your search with those recommendations.  The additional cost will be more than off-set by the savings in experiencing less lost productive time.  Don’t be “Penny wise and Crown foolish.


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By Mercedes LoRusso,

In early April I lost my Dad. He had lived a long productive life and impacted many people, In honor of Father’s Day on June 19th, this month I want to tell you about the “Lessons I Learned From My Dad…About Managing a Dental Practice…and Life”.



My Dad was an incredibly humble and quiet gentleman, who possessed a strong voice when it came to his lifelong passions. He was a very proud veteran of the Korean War and channeled his experiences into a long career of political writing, speech writing for local and national candidates, and campaign management, even into his 90’s. His other lifelong passions were golf, baseball, model aviation, and caring for his loved ones. For 18 years, from 2002 until 2020, my dad woke up every hour, on the hour, every single night, to care for my mom who had a severe medical condition that required around-the-clock care.

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My dad, humbly, was a great teacher. As one of the founders of Toastmasters, he had me learn the art of public speaking while in high school. Little did I know then, that 40 years later, it would become a major part of my career. The ability to communicate in front of others is one of the greatest determinants of success in almost any field of endeavor. As dentists, a most important role we have is inspiring our patents to make the best decisions for themselves regarding their oral health. Our ability to communicate clearly is greatly impacted by our ability to speak.


One of the most profound experiences of my life was delivering my Dad’s eulogy. Because so many people have a fear of public speaking, it is said that many people have a greater fear of delivering a eulogy than being in the casket. For me, the opportunity was an absolute privilege, and I found great comfort in the experience. In closing my Dad’s eulogy I summarized the three most important lessons that I learned from him throughout my life.


The first was something he taught me when I was learning to play golf, “Keep your head down”. This is one of the greatest challenges when learning the golf swing, but it was far more profound for the rest of my life. It was also my Dad’s way of telling me to always work hard. It inspired me through my years in school and during my entire career. When you keep your head down, and to the grind, you achieve far more than picking your head up to watch others do the work. In my dental practice it meant spending time working “on my practice”, and not just working in it.


The second lesson was about hitting a baseball. When I had trouble hitting curve balls in my early years playing ball, my Dad repeatedly told me “Don’t step in the bucket”. When you “step in the bucket” you have given up on maintaining the position necessary to hit a pitch that tails away from you. This lesson when applied to my life was to never give up and maintain a posture that enables you to consistently succeed. For me that meant attending as much continuing education as I could to become as masterful as possible in performing oral surgery, endodontics and implantology. Never stop attending continuing education and always seek knowledge to advance your career…and never give up.


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The third lesson was to “Earn my playtime”. When I was young it meant that I would have to do two to three hours of chores around the house before I went to play ball with my friends.   When I went to school it meant working hard enough to earn an academic scholarship so I could afford to go to college and playing a sport so that I could receive a grant to live on campus at the college of my choice. I worked nights driving an ambulance for NY City EMS so that I would be able to afford Dental School without taking crippling student loans. Applying myself in these ways enabled me to “earn the playtime” that a successful career in dentistry later affords you.


The bonus lesson from my Dad came from delivering his eulogy. It was an incredible experience to speak lovingly and with pride about the great impact my Dad had on me and so many others who he touched throughout his lifetime. It was easy to speak eloquently about such a wonderful man. It was so easy that’ll afterwards, it made me think about why I had not told him those things enough while he was alive. So the last lesson is that you should not wait until it’s too late to tell someone how much you love them, or how much you appreciate them. Because when they’re gone, no matter how much you cry or shout, they won’t hear you anymore. Tell your family you love them everyday. Everyday, tell the members of your dental team that you appreciate them.

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Dad, thank you for teaching me so much about managing my practice…and life. Come Father’s Day, I will miss you, but I will honor all that you taught me. I continue to “keep my head down”, “avoid stepping in the bucket” and “earning my playtime”.

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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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