The pandemic has been a turbulent ride for the dental industry.
Practices across Canada and the United States faced new challenges, and as a result, dental professionals adapted to meet the demands of a society dealing with the pandemic.
Dentists, registered dental hygienists, and other practice staff kept their eyes and ears wide open as ever-changing policies dictated how and when dental care could be provided.
Naturally, there were stumbling blocks along the way. But dental professionals took these difficulties and turned them into learning opportunities. And the industry has come out the other side of COVID-19 more knowledgeable and passionate than before.
With vaccine rollouts promising greener pastures, it’s the perfect time to take stock of the lessons dental practice owners have learned over the course of the pandemic.
Given the abundance of aerosols travelling through the air in any examination room, there were immediate concerns about dental offices being vulnerable to super-spreading.
It was an understandable concern shared by clients and practitioners alike. Aerosols are inevitable when you’re working with high-speed equipment and saliva, blood, or plaque. For all we knew, everyone and everything could have been contagious.
Yet, as a dentist, you’ve always taken steps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in your practice. You’ve been trained from day one at dental school about PPE and other necessary precautions.
Those very same safety precautions that were already part of your everyday routine proved highly effective when protecting against COVID-19. As a result, dental offices’ transmission rates have remained low throughout the pandemic.
Gowns, caps, gloves, and N95/KN95 masks saved the day. It won't be easy to take them for granted again.
During the initial shutdown in spring 2020, 25% of dentists relied on teledentistry. Those who invested in teledentistry tools before the crisis gave themselves a leg up once restrictions took hold.
Of course, there was no predicting a pandemic. But these types of technologies keep you prepared for worst-case scenarios so that patients can continue to receive care, no matter what.
Dentists have learned to continue embracing teledentistry. Furthermore, they’ve discovered the value of staying informed about technology trends throughout the industry.
Who knows what the future holds and what type of tech you’ll need? You can't be prepared unless you stay informed.
The pandemic was a scary time for everyone, including dental practice owners. But as a leader, you have a responsibility to be empathetic, honest, and available to your team.
Everybody working at the office was going through their own challenges and facing their own fears. Strong dental leaders always kept that in mind, prioritizing the health and wellbeing of their teams.
Moreover, a trustworthy dental leader knows their duty to the community, keeping them safe along with employees. Such leadership shined while setting up COVID-19 protocols and maintaining a safe working space.
Faith Barreyro, DMD said it well in an interview with the Canadian Dental Association, where she discussed the challenges of maintaining a safe dental practice.
“As a new practice owner, I had the challenge of gaining the trust of my team members as well as my patients during COVID,” she said. “We’ve all shown patience and understanding toward each other during this time because we recognize that we’re all in this together.”
It is clear that the pandemic has reminded practice owners of the importance of transparency and empathy in leadership.
A core principle of wellness is the mind-body connection.
Emotions often lead to physical symptoms, some of which can be oral. For instance, nearly half of dentists have seen an increase in bruxism and fractured teeth since the end of lockdowns.
Dentists are often the first healthcare providers to find and identify signs of stress, and as such, wellness initiatives should be part of every practice in a post-COVID world.
This will offer patients a more three-dimensional approach to their well-being, improving their overall quality of life.
“Some patients mentioned that our office was the first public place they had been to since shelter-in-place,” said Zoey Huang, DDS, speaking to the CDA. “In our conversations with our patients, I realized that it’s more imperative than ever to understand proper self-care and stick to healthy daily routines, healthy eating, ergonomics, healthy emotions and mental health.”
There are many unsung heroes of the pandemic. Among them are the Canadian and American Dental Associations.
As the COVID-19 guidelines changed throughout the first year of the pandemic, both the CDA and ADA offered important guidance to dentists across both nations.
By April 2020, the ADA had already formed an Advisory Task Force on Dental Practice Recovery. Soon after, a toolkit was released to help dentists get their practices up and running during the pandemic while protecting patients, staff, and themselves.
As the pandemic persisted, more resources were made available by the CDA and ADA. These efforts kept dentists informed and safe.
The constant updates, lobbying, and advocacy led to the dental industry growing stronger, more unified, and able to thrive despite COVID-related boundaries.
COVID-19 restrictions will steadily be lifted with vaccines rolling out, and dental practices will enjoy the related benefits. However, dentists won’t forget the lessons they learned along the way.
After all, if there’s one final lesson the pandemic taught you, it’s to take nothing for granted. So, being ready to adapt will remain a top priority.
Signing a lease is one of the first of many big decisions you’ll make when starting your own dental practice.
When you're just starting out, it's hard to envision where your business will be in a few years. But while your lease might seem like an afterthought now, it can carry a lot of weight if you ever decide to move, sell, or shut down your practice!
There are many dos and don’ts involved in negotiating a lease for your dental practice. Today, we’ll take a look at the big three: make-good clauses, subletting and assignments, and the length of the contract.
A make-good provision lays out how the landlord expects the property to be when the lease is over. If you don’t leave the space in the condition you agreed to, you’ll pay for it!
Examples of common make-good clauses include:
A make-good clause can be bad news if your practice space is a fixer-upper and you plan to undertake major renovations. Years down the road, when it comes time for you to move on, you could be on the hook for the expenses of stripping the property or returning it to its original state.
Fortunately, there are ways to navigate this costly sticking point. Sometimes, all you need is to ask. Your best chance is if the landlord is eager to bring on a tenant long-term and you have leverage.
Of course, it won’t always be that straightforward, in which case, you’ll need to take other steps to offset those expenses.
Below is a list of actions you can take to stave off the potential pitfalls of a make-good clause if your landlord doesn’t get rid of it:
Sublets involve transferring your lease’s rights and responsibilities to a third party (i.e., the right to access space and the responsibility to pay rent every month) without changing your original contract with your landlord. You’re responsible for any of the new tenant’s actions (e.g., if they miss rent, you’re stuck with the bill).
This option's a bit risky, but it's a whole lot easier to negotiate than an assignment. Sublets are ideal for sharing your practice space with another dentist or professional part-time, or on a temporary basis.
An assignment, on the other hand, entirely releases you from your obligations as a tenant and transfers those obligations to the new tenant. This option makes sense when you’re selling your practice or trying to move to a different location before the end of your lease. However, since you need the landlord's permission to assign your lease, you must talk to your landlord before making this arrangement with another professional.
To avoid any confusion, your lease should clearly state which scenarios allow an assignment to occur.
Typically, the longer your lease commitment, the more leverage you have in negotiations with your landlord.
For example, your landlord might agree to get rid of the make-good clause because you sign a longer lease. Or, they might even end up paying for some of the improvements you make to the space.
Before signing a long lease, consider the following:
Remember that a long lease can be rigid, so you should be 100% sure that the benefits outweigh the commitment!
Finally, know that the end of your lease doesn’t always spell the end of your business at that location. If you have a good deal on a great space, talk to your landlord about renewing the lease before the end of its term. However, renewal clauses should not be a substitute for negotiating good make-good and assignment clauses up front.
Securing a great lease from day one will help get your practice off on the right foot! Understanding these factors gives you a better idea of what to look for in a dental practice lease before you shake hands and start doing business.