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Here are 5 ways to Transition from being a Dentist to becoming a Dental Entrepreneur Becoming a successful dentist is no easy feat. It is an area where innovation is paramount, without which survival and progression becomes difficult

By Dr Santhosh Kumar

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Becoming a successful dentist is no easy feat. It is an area where innovation is paramount, without which survival and progression becomes difficult, to say the least. A critical assessment of the field by a former president of Dental Council India found that dentists greatly outnumber the job opportunities available to them. There is a growing number of dental graduates with low prospects of a job. Existing practitioners are currently facing a financial crisis themselves.

Juxtaposing dentistry in the west and east, there are many differences especially with regards to economics, equipment and standard of care. In the east, especially the Indian subcontinent and the South-East Asian region, the dental industry is relatively unorganized and challenging. This provides amazing opportunities for dentists to explore new entrepreneurial approaches that can help them in setting up and growing their practice.

Before considering entrepreneurship, it is important to understand the risks and rewards of becoming an entrepreneur. Dental entrepreneurship is not just an abstract concept anymore. Over the last decade, many dentists have started bringing the concept into fruition.

An entrepreneur is someone who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hopes of profit. Going by the definition of entrepreneurship, every dentist who sets up a clinic is an entrepreneur. But the problem lies in the fact that many dentists are unaware of the basic qualities or requirements needed to become an entrepreneur. The term entrepreneur implies qualities of leadership, initiative, management abilities, and business team building. These attributes are essential to acquiring manpower, developing a workable business plan and other resources. The individual takes full responsibility for the failure or success of the endeavor.

In reality, entrepreneurship is an art, which requires finding gaps and filling it with solutions. For example, if a clinic doesn't have sufficient patient flow, instead of blaming the system, a dentist has to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and seek solutions. Obviously, there are risks associated with investment of capital and time, but there are also rewards as well as more control over the business itself.

The transition from a dentist to a dental entrepreneur is the conversion of a private practice to an enterprise. Some of the factors involved in a successful conversion include communication skills, persistent efforts, risk taking ability, updating knowledge and new trends, mastering the treatment skills, management of support staff, patient satisfaction, financial viability as well as the ability to understand the needs of the society. Dentistry as a field is changing and being moulded into a more corporate endeavor due to accelerating pressures by market driven factors.

Here are the 5 ways of transitioning from a dentist to a dental entrepreneur:

1. Opt for co-branded dentistry: This is probably the easiest and simplest way to become a dental entrepreneur. Over the last decade, there has been a significant change in the business model of dentistry. From privately owned solo practice to corporate dental chains, dentists are mainly opting for these two categories of dental clinic. However, both these categories come with a fair share of risks and limitations. In a solo practice, dentists have to bear the administrative burden as well as the financial investment. On the other hand, in corporate dental chains dentists work as employees without any share in profits. Opt for a co branded dentistry model where you can own your dental practice yet receive administrative infrastructure and support with all the non-clinical aspects of practice by the franchisor

2. Understand the challenges and solutions: Understand the challenges faced by dentists in the industry. Connect to successful dentists to learn how they have tackled those challenges. If there is a solution that can be implemented across clinics and if this can be monetized, then a good business idea is in hand.

3. Continued dental education: Once the formal education is completed dentists often get very little prospects in learning about new advances in dentistry. This provides an opportunity to create a platform where the dental fraternity can enroll and get education and knowledge about the latest developments in the field.

4. Introduce innovation: A dentist can bring about innovation by creating technologies/ services to enable dentists to become more successful. The innovations can either improve productivity/or quality, enhancing the overall services provided to the patients. These innovations can solve basic challenges like appointment management, managing dental records, patient feedback, patient retention and education systems etc.

5. Bridge the gaps: Study successful practices across the world to understand gaps in the market. Understand the feasibility and implement existing proven solutions in practices where the gap exists.

These are some of the steps that can aid in the transition from dentist to dental entrepreneur. These guidelines are applicable across a larger swathe of the dentistry population as well as single practitioners with an entrepreneurial vision.

Dr Santhosh Kumar

CEO and Co-Founder, Just Dental

Dr Santhosh Kumar is the founder and Just Dental, a dental care startup that is creating a new category of self owned co branded dental clinics to eliminate the limitations and challenges in private practice and corporate dental chains. Prior to this, he  has  served as Sr Director of Clinical Data Management unit at Quintiles India, managing global Data Management team with oversight spanning multiple geographies. 

Dr Santhosh has played leadership roles at Accenture, TCS and IQVIA (Formerly known as Quintiles research). With over 17+ years of experience in Healthcare industry, his key strengths are leadership, strategy, organization alignment, customer & service orientation, change management, employee & organization engagement and team work. 

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