Practice Management Lessons Taught by Mom and Dad

  • by Eric S. Studley, DDS, and Ivy D. Peltz, DDS, MSEd, PhD, MAGD
  • May 26, 2020
5-25-MomDad_CDental practice management systems abound, offering different methods of simplifying and standardizing protocols for dentists to maximize efficiency and growth while maintaining a high level of patient and staff satisfaction. While some third-party expertise is often invoked to properly manage all the aspects of a dental practice — such as accounting or federal regulation compliance — the culture of the practice is determined (intentionally or not) by the leader, often the owner dentist. As Americans celebrate and honor the influence of parents and caregivers on Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June, we suggest that you review some of those early lessons taught by these figures in your life and think about how to best apply them to define the culture of your practice more intentionally. Here are some examples of how the lessons taught by our parents can guide you in maintaining an ethical, well-run dental practice. 

Value friendship. Staff retention is one of the greatest concerns for dental practice owners; turnover is disruptive to dentists, staff and patients alike. A thriving practice requires a dedicated team. When hiring, seek staff who share your values and level of commitment. Once you find and hire these like-minded individuals, make sure they understand how much you appreciate them. On days when you are irritated by small inadequacies, remind yourself of the ways in which your life is enriched by your staff members on a daily basis. Treat them as the valued members of your practice they are. 

Honesty is the best policy. Interacting successfully with others requires a strict adherence to honest thoughts, statements and practices. You must be a critical thinker, capable of questioning your previously held assumptions in order to determine whether they continue to ring true. You must be self-reflective in order to demand the honesty of yourself necessary to grow and improve over the course of your career. And, in your service to others, you must be honest in communicating to them how your clinical decisions are based on the best available evidence, the resources available to you, and your thorough understanding of their needs and desires. 

Accept responsibility for your actions. “Do no harm” is one of the five principles of ethics specified in the American Dental Association’s “Principles of Ethics & Code of Professional Conduct.” We would argue that “do no harm” falls into the category of the least you can do. Your actions affect the lives of others, and it is your responsibility to account for those actions. As one example, continuing education should not be viewed as simply a requirement for relicensure but rather embraced as the only means by which you can continue to practice responsibly. Without remaining well-informed in the field, you risk practicing below the standard of care. 

Be the best you can be. As a dentist, you are a role model within your practice, your community and your family. You are a leader, and with great power comes great responsibility. Others look up to you. In order to lead well, you must always give your all in every endeavor. We’re not suggesting that you only attempt activities at which you can excel. Rather, we recommend the yoga practice of putting your best foot forward and letting go of the results. 

Believe in yourself. Hopefully this one isn’t as hard as it used to be, since you already have many accomplishments under your belt. You have learned that, with hard work and dedication, you can get the job done. However, each phase of a dental career brings new experiences and challenges. While your faith in yourself was likely to have been instilled in you by your primary caregiver(s), at this point, you must draw on your past successes to garner the determination to move forward, constantly imposing change and improvement upon yourself. 

Of course, each parent or caregiver teaches different lessons to each child, and not all of the lessons apply to dental practice. But if you’re fortunate enough to be celebrating Mother"s Day and Father’s Day with the influential figures in your life, make sure to give them an extra “thank you” for helping you achieve success in your dental practice. This will make them happy, no matter how else you celebrate the day. 

Eric S. Studley, DDS, and Ivy D. Peltz, DDS, MSEd, PhD, MAGD, are the co-founders of Doccupations, an online algorithmic dental job-matching service. They are also retired New York University College of Dentistry general practice directors and clinical associate professors. To comment on this article, email