By Laura Hatch and, contributing writer

January 11, 2018 — In the debut of a new column, Laura Hatch, founder and owner of Front Office Rocks, analyzes problems common in dental practices and offers practical steps you can implement to either fix these problems in your practice, or, better yet, make sure they don’t occur.

There are, essentially, two types of practices: reactive or proactive.

This categorization isn’t about how good you are at delivering patient care, but rather how good you are at controlling your daily issues.

Let’s start with defining what we’re talking about and how these definitions apply to your practice.


Reactive means a practice is acting in response to a situation rather than creating or controlling it.

That definition describes many dental offices to a T. From the moment you walk into the office, the entire day is spent fixing things, putting out fires, rearranging the schedule, handling problems, and, in the middle of the chaos, trying to deliver excellent dentistry and hit your practice’s goals.

Is it any wonder you end the day exhausted and frustrated? In some offices, this has become the new normal. Why does this happen without us ever realizing it?

Another way of thinking about it is that the office allows everything to happen throughout the day without preparing or planning for it. I am not suggesting that you can entirely stop these things from happening. Patients run late, emergency patients need to get squeezed in, procedures don’t go as planned, and so much more that is typical of the daily dental office operations.

This leads us to our second definition: proactive.


Proactive means you are creating or controlling by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.

I suggest that because we know the events mentioned above will come up regularly, instead of scrambling and trying to figure out what to do after the fact, why not plan for them in advance?

Here are three ways to become more proactive and deal with daily issues.

“Is it any wonder you end the day exhausted and frustrated?”

1. Create and follow a scheduling policy.  

The schedule is the system that runs the entire office and when issues arise, there should be a written plan to handle the issue. It is more effective for the team to know how to handle issues as they happen and work together to fix them, rather than spending time and energy trying to figure out a solution after the fact.

2. Set goals and manage to them.  

Often, doctors think they have a goal, but the team is not aware of the goal. It is not discussed on a regular basis, and very little time is spent working with the team to set a plan to reach the goal.

What is the point of having a goal if the team is unaware of it and not helping reach it?

Be proactive by setting goals and discussing them with the team consistently and developing action plans to allow everyone to contribute ideas and actions to attain the office goals.

3. Handle issues as they arise.  

Many dentists would rather ignore small issues that come up with employees because they are uncomfortable with confrontation and hope the issue will go away if ignored.

However, the opposite usually happens. By the time the doctor has a discussion with an employee, the issue has grown so big that it is hard to turn back, and it has affected more than just a single employee. Now, you are dealing with an office issue.

Address the little things as they come up, to keep them small. Allow the employee the opportunity to fix or stop the issue and not let it grow and infect the entire team.

What can you add to this list to create a proactive environment in your office?

Ask yourself, “Is there a chance this could grow into a bigger issue?” or “Is this something that might happen again?”

If you answered yes to either of the questions, then handle the issue now so it doesn’t grow out of control, or develop a plan to handle it if it does happen again.

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