What Kind of Dentist Will Succeed in the Future?

light bulb on chalk board

A Repeat of the Past or an Invention of the Future

Dentists have been completely acculturated into believing the future of the dental business would always be a repeat of the past. Depending on a past-based practice model gave dentists — particularly those in solo dental practice — a level of certainty, stability, permanence, and constancy. Wherever you have a predictable future, all you need to do to be successful is simply do what other people have done before, but do it better, more, or differently. Nevertheless, that is simply, more, better, and different of the same thing.

So dentists, dental consultants, and dental associations marched in lockstep toward a future that was basically a replica of the past. Sure, dentists today have really cool bells and whistles that their forefathers would have applauded; computer-generated practice management, digital imaging, lasers, 3D imaging, and a lot more square footage per operatory, with way-cooler chairs and delivery systems and eye-catching art in the waiting room. But when you break it down, today’s dental practice is simply a modernization of what has always and already been.

What’s Next for the Dental Business?

So, what happens when the future becomes unpredictable? What occurs when there is no history to rely on, no past to bank on, or established model to have faith in? Now what? What does a dentist do when the future is uncharted, volatile, and capricious? What does a dentist do when the future is not an extension of the past?

Regrettably, the past is now history. The changes that are occurring are permanently and forever altering dental practice. Building a future based on the past is like building a communication system based on landlines and rotary phones.

This is the perfect setting for entrepreneurs to succeed. But most dentists are not entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers, whereas most dentists are risk-averse. Entrepreneurs are big-picture, visionary thinkers, whereas most dentists are linear, functional thinkers. Entrepreneurs don’t design themselves or their work to avoid failure; most dentists design themselves and their work to be safe. Entrepreneurs are bold, dynamic, courageous, and highly inventive — all of which are characteristics not frequently found in dentists.

An entrepreneur is an enterprising person who comes up with unique ideas for a business model. They stand in a future that is possible and they risk themselves, their assets, and their goodwill to turn that possibility into a reality. This might explain why managed-group practice is experiencing such explosive growth — their CEOs and founders are entrepreneurs. And this might also explain why “traditional” solo practice is headed for troubled waters, given their leadership and advisers have both feet planted firmly in the past.

Entrepreneurs see a future that is possible — a future that has never been done before, and then go out and make that future happen. And these entrepreneurs are emerging in both managed-group practice and concierge dentistry.

Don’t Miss Your Opportunity

As I keep saying, this is an extraordinary time to be a dentist-entrepreneur because you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself and elevate your expression and your mission for unparalleled success. Do not waste the opportunity. It will not come again.


— Marc