Internationally experienced dentist Prof. Goran Tošić: “Focus on the delivery, not on the promise, and you will keep a consistent flow of patients.”

Our business is based on referrals, and to this day word of mouth is the best advertisement there is.

How can dentists learn to be not only specialists, but also managers? And what are the things not to underestimate when deciding to set-up their own dental office? Dentist, researcher, university professor and our Curaden Academy lecturer, Goran Tošić, shares his knowledge and advice about setting up and managing a dental practice.

Professor Tošić, you have experience from dental offices and clinics from all around the world. Is there anything that all the dental practices have in common? Or is there a universal business model that works everywhere?

There’s no such business model that can unanimously be implemented across the vast diversity of the present moment. No go-to ‘quick rules for success’ a dentist can be sure will work, just considering the difference in public mentality, access to technology, varying degrees of state bureaucracy and health systems… No such thing exists.

If I had to pick something I believe is an absolute must for a successful dental practice anywhere – I’d have to say it’s the pursuit of excellence. Never settling for less, not finding excuses but facing the challenges of one’s environment. I understand some places might have it easier than others, but it’s the approach to their own relative ecosystems that all successful dental offices have in common.

Opening one’s own dental practice is quite challenging. Do you think it’s the right thing for young dentists, just after university, to do?

There are no shortcuts in life… or dentistry. Absolutely everything performed in a dental office can be broken down to two things: knowledge and skill. You might have one but you need the other. It’s only after university that the real learning starts, and trial and error are key words here. You have to be patient and trust the process and put in the time. So to answer your question: Get experience before you start your own practice!

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When a dentist runs their own dental office they must be not only a medical expert, but also a manager, sales person, HR specialist… How do they get the education they need in these additional fields?

Personally, I believe that the educational system as we know it is dead. After a whole career of working at different universities, I have found one thing in common and that is that they don’t work as we would like to. I am a huge advocate of self-learning and today it’s easier than ever.

Fundamentals of business management should be obtained at contemporary courses and trainings specifically designed for the purpose.

“I am a huge advocate of self-learning and today it’s easier than ever.” 

What are the most common things that dentists underestimate when they decide to open their own practice?

It’s actually most common that they overestimate their own capability which leads them to underestimate the real clinical process and the value of multidisciplinary experience.

When we compare the past and the present we can see some differences: In the past, people used to go to the same dentist all their lives, but now people move from one location to the other more often, and look for some recommendations and some added value when they choose a dentist. What’s your advice here? How can dentists keep their patients and how can they attract new ones?

Well, our business is based on referrals, and to this day I still feel that word of mouth is the best advertisement there is. Past to present, nothing beats a satisfied and pleased patient.

Before we had billboards, now we have Facebook ads but the model is the same – focus on the delivery, not on the promise, and you will be sure to maintain a consistent flow of patients.

There’s a deep discussion about the importance of preventive dentistry. Is it even possible to turn a dental office focused more on prevention, into a profitable office?

Generally speaking, it is not only possible but highly beneficial for oral health standards. But, if we zoom in, the way you would go about setting up a preventive dental office is highly determined by market power and the health system of the country. To put things in perspective, I’m sure you’d find a lot of lucrative preventive dental offices in the US, but not that many in India.

What are the three essential things that every new dentist should think about in terms of dental management?

Only three? Let’s say – know yourself, know your patient, and realise what you’re able to handle and where to ask for help.

“Our business is based on referrals, and to this day I still feel that word of mouth is the best advertisement there is. Past to present, nothing beats a satisfied and pleased patient.”

We are seeing many more dental offices that focus on specific groups of patients, rather than only ‘general’ dentistry. For example, there are child-specialist dentists, dentists who focus on athletes, etc. Will this kind of ‘specialisation’ be a key thing in the future?

Certainly there’s room for specialised dental surgeries that target specific groups of patients, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the future. Surely it makes for a more streamlined process but there are far too many grey zones that always pose a need for a generalist approach. I don’t think we should look at these as two combating forces, but actually two working together.

What about dental hygienists? Do you think dental hygienists will be a consistent part of general dental offices in the future? Can they help the business?

The problem I see right now is the lack of proper schools and training for real dental hygienists. Overall, yes, I feel that a good dental hygienist can highly improve the service and overall workflow efficiency in the dental office. That being said, I would once again like to go back to my previous point and advise young dentists to be patient and take their time – and in this case, not rush into employing dental hygienists too soon.

Prof. Goran Tošić is a specialist in Endodontics & Operative Dentistry and a certified Dentsply/Maillefer trainer. He has experience as a teacher, researcher and dental surgeon at universities, dental clinics and dental offices across Serbia, Norway, Italy, Lybia, Botswana, Greece and the United Arab Emirates. He is also a lecturer at Curaden Academy, and you can watch his webinars on