The Myth That Dental Patients Should Know Their Benefits

Dental health care providers need to let patients know they’re here to help them with their benefits.*

Dental Products Report
Tue, 2015-04-28 10:45 | by Teresa Duncan MS FADIA FAADOM

2014-Duncan-hi-res_teresa_dpr-article-dental-products-report_nda_small-rez*Christensen Dental Consulting Hosted the Seminar “Buckle Up! Insurance and CDT Code Changes Are Coming!” on Sept. 2015 and wanted to Share this Article Written by Teresa Duncan, Our Amazing Speaker.

Dental office websites often have financial sections that state, “You are responsible for knowing your insurance benefits, but we will help you file claims” or, “We’re happy to help you with your claims, but you are responsible for knowing your plan details.”

When these were written, they were no doubt intended in a friendly but firm way, but in our insurance-dominated landscape, it could easily be perceived as a red flag to the patient. What the patient really needs to read is “we’re here to help you with your benefits.”

How did we get from insisting that patients know their plans to becoming mini-insurance databases? Simple: The market has pushed us in that direction. The National Association of Dental Plans and Delta Dental of Pennsylvania report 78 percent* of the plans sold are PPO plans. Let’s put it another way—individual and group purchasers of plans select plans that offer a preferred provider network in an effort to reduce expenses. These networks are swelling with providers now—a very different scenario from 10 or even five years ago.

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This has created an opportunity for offices that are willing to take on the burden of discovering and tracking patient benefits. Is your insurance administrator collecting new patient benefit information on the new patient call? I hope so—if you wait to collect the information, you and the patient may be surprised at how the plan works in your office. Patients have already been primed by medical offices to hand over their insurance information rather robotically. Dental offices should also be collecting it but with much more of a customer service bent.

The patient relies on us to help decipher his or her benefits. Is that fair to the dental office? Definitely not. But is it the new business reality? Absolutely. Let’s look at it from a different perspective. Let’s say you are scheduled to have an inpatient surgery on your foot. Your surgeon’s office will likely preauthorize the procedure for you. But what would you do if the office asked you to find out what the surgery would cost and if there are any plan exclusions? Is there a limit to how much anesthesia you can have? What hospital can they use? What material can they use during the surgery? Is there a missing toe clause? You get the idea!

Most of us wouldn’t know the first question to ask or even what department of the insurance company to call. We look to the surgeon’s administrator to know his or her way around the insurance maze. It’s a stretch to expect our patients to know enough to ask about alternate benefits such as amalgam-priced payments for composite fillings or partial denture payments for implant placements. For laughs, you could ask your neighbor to read that sentence and explain it back to you. It’s a rare patient that could do this. Frequency limitations for bitewings and crown placements regularly confuse providers, so it’s an easy assumption that patients wouldn’t even think to ask about it. The only time a patient is aware of a frequency limitation is because they have run into it at another office and ended up with unexpected out-of-pocket expense.

This absolutely adds work to your already-stressed administrative team, but here’s what I tell my audiences: If you’re not helping them with their insurance, they’ll find an office that will. That’s hard to hear for a healthcare provider. We’re supposed to be blessed with the sanctity of the patient-doctor relationship. Ask your medical colleagues how well that relationship is working for them. American physicians’ private practice is highly influenced by the benefits market. I’m not suggesting we let insurance drive our decisions regarding patient care but that we realize how important it is to the patient that his or her benefits are understood.

I want your office to be the one that tells patients they’ll help with the language. Think of your team as translators of a foreign language for your patients. In essence, their dental benefits read like Latin to them. Your administrators are similar to a dental Rosetta Stone—provide your patients with the translation and a smile along with an offer to help rather than an admonishment that they should know their benefits.

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About the author
 Teresa Duncan, MS, FADIA, FAADOM, is an international speaker who focuses on revenue, dental insurance and management issues. She is a fellow of the American Association of Dental Office Managers. Her memberships include the American Academy of Dental ConsultantsNational Speakers Association and the Academy of Dental Management Consultants. She was recently named by DPR as one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry. Teresa received her master’s degree in health care management.

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Article reposted here by NDA member Christensen Dental Consulting.

Improving Patient Communications & Loyalty

pos_professionalNever has the bond between a provider and patient been more important than today.

Dental practices face challenges they haven’t been prepared for. More competition. Lower reimbursements. A tightening bottom line.

We have to start communicating better with patients. To reach new ones. To keep existing ones. To improve the patient experience and ultimately the relationship between a patient and a provider.

Patients want more personalized care and communication – whether it’s sent to their mobile, laptop or mailbox.

Practices know it, but 90% admit they don’t have the expertise to do it right.

First, it’s important to define ‘communications’. POS Professional Office Services defines patient communications as every piece of communication (printed, digital, verbal and novnverbal) that a patient has with a practice and a provider.

So now that we have a handle on what we mean by patient communications, where is a logical place to start? Let’s start with the brand. Why does the brand matter so much? Your brand is more than a color or a logo – it’s a promise to your patients.  Do all of your pieces have the same look and feel?

Integrated, personalized branded materials along the entire patient journey improves how practices communicate with their patients.

Look around your office and at every single piece of communication you send to a patient. Your brochures, statements, posters, digital messagings, welcome packets, letters and so on. Do they look like they come from the same practice?

Through extensive research for our customers we learned how to improve patient communications and patient/provider engagement. The result? The Five Phases of the Patient Lifecycle.

  1. The New Patient – Welcome and registration communications
  2. Diagnostic & Treatment – Communications to support treatment and care
  3. Financial – Customized patient statements and supporting communications
  4. Educational & Preventative – Recare and frequent practice news
  5. Patient Acquisition – Marketing and patient referrals

Intentional and frequent communication will improve relationships.

Every piece of communication you are sending is part of an ongoing conversation you are having with your patient.
POS Professional Office Services approaches communications as a way to create a bond with patients. Our expertise includes Print. Patient Statement Processing. Digital Messaging. Patient Surveys. And we brand every single piece of communication to reflect our practices’ brands.

Find out more about POS, a NDA member, by clicking here.


By Rick Epple, CFP®, NAPFA Registered Financial Advisor

financial-7tips_Aurochs_epple_AFG_Infographic_2As summer passes and we head into fall, are you thinking I have been working as a dentist for a number of years and while I make a good income, I have no idea if I am on track for retirement. How do I take control of my future? The following process can be used to start you on your way.

Step 1: Dentists, determine where you are at…
Gather all your investment statements, checking account statements, 2014 tax returns, insurance documents, business documents including your P&L, loan documents, spending history, and current estate documents.

These documents can be used to look at where you are today and make projections for the future. A Dentist can use one of the following tools to create a financial snapshot:,, or Quicken Personal Finance.

Step 2: Dentist Financial Goal Setting
The next step for dentists is to determine how much extra savings is needed to achieve your retirement and financial independence goals. There are a number of calculators available on the web that can help identify the target savings number. Just be aware that the assumptions used in the calculators can have a big impact on the results. Another way to look at determining a target number is to use 4% “safe” withdrawal rate in retirement.

The 4% rule in my opinion is a pretty good indicator of preparedness for financial independence. Example: A dentist’s $3 million dollar investment portfolio can create roughly $120,000 income stream (before taxes). At this rate, a properly diversified portfolio should last 30 years or longer without running out of money. Besides the retirement goal, other goals need to be included and can increase the amount that is required. Examples of other goals include paying for college for children or grand children, extensive traveling, charitable intentions, vacation properties, etc. A good book to read to begin the process of evaluating what retirement might look like is “The New Retirementality” by Mitch Anthony.

Step 3: Dentists, determine what your “gap” is…
After determining the gap between the expected income in retirement and the projected expenses, a plan to fill in the gaps is necessary.

Step 4: Dentists, maximize your savings!

  • Dentists have a number of vehicles to help build savings!
  • Maximize contributions to your 401k plan. Up to $53,000 ($59,000 if over age 50) can be contributed for 2015 as an employee and employer.
  • Explore the possible use of a cash balance pension plan. This type of plan allows for higher contributions to make up ground for retirement savings if needed. The downside is that it can be very complicated to setup and administer.
  • Contribute to Roth IRA, Back door Roth IRA, Spousal IRA, or Non-Deductible IRAs as allowed depending on income and rules.
  • Other possibilities – Use Health Savings Accounts (HSA) accounts, 529 college savings accounts, and/or build a taxable savings account.

Step 5: Dentists, review the insurance element…

  • Conduct a thorough review of your insurance program. In my experience, dentists typically have huge gaps in their personal and/or business insurance programs.
  • Meet with insurance agents to have a risk assessment and evaluation of your insurance program.
  • Determine needs for life insurance, disability insurance, long term care insurance, business insurances, property & casualty insurance, etc.
  • Shop around to verify that you are receiving good value for the premium dollars you are spending.
  • Implement appropriate and recommended coverage.

Step 6: Dentists, do some basic business planning

Run your dental practice like a business.

  • First, develop a business plan and marketing plan.
  • Determine measures to benchmark the practice and monitor progress to the plans. Measures include profit, patient satisfaction, employee satisfaction, new patients, expenses, etc.
    Areas to look at:

    • Do you want to focus a niche for your practice and then develop it?
    • Do you need help with Dental Marketing?
    • Do you have the systems and procedures in place to manage the practice? Think “E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E Gerber.
    • Does dental patient retention need to be improved?
    • Review insurance to improve value for the premium dollars spent and to protect the practice.
    • Most dentists/employers don’t realize the costs of maintaining their retirement plans. Costs can have a significant impact on account growth. If you don’t know the costs, investigate to determine you have a plan with the features you want and are paying a fair fee(s).
    • Do you have a place where the people you work with enjoy coming to work? A good working dental team.
    • Are you utilizing outsourcing as a tool to improve profitability?
    • Maximize all deductions available to the business.
    • Consider owning the building your dental practice is in instead of paying rent.
    • Do you have contingency plans in place should you or a key employee becomes disabled or dies?
    • Do you have an exit strategy for your business? Buy/sell agreement or plans to bring in a future buyer of your practice?
    • The bottom line is that you want to maximize the amount you take out of the practice while providing the necessary investment back into the business to achieve your goals.

Step 7: Dentists here are other areas of your plan to consider…

  • Determine personal cash flow and income needs. Planning cash flow can be very difficult. However, having an accurate picture of expenses now and in retirement can ensure a successful retirement.
  • Implementing a pay yourself first philosophy can help jump start retirement savings if needed.
  • Manage debt – Review all personal and business debt. This is often an overlooked aspect for dentists. Appropriate strategies can help increase net worth in the long run. Having consumer debt in retirement can also make it very difficult.
  • Determine if your investment strategies include balancing risk, maximizing return and preserving capital
  • Conduct a tax planning review to verify all available opportunities are being taken advantage of.
  • Do you have a plan in place to pay for your children’s college education?
  • Review that appropriate estate planning documents are in place.

There really aren’t any short cuts and you will need to invest time in determining where you are at and then implementing a plan to help achieve your goals in line with your values. If you do so, you can take control.

Proper planning can provide dentists and their families with Peace of Mind. While I work with many types of clients, my dentist clients have found my services especially helpful. Give me a call and I can help make your practice of dentistry a foundation for a great retirement!

704_Rick Blog-epple-small-portraitRick Epple, CFP®, is the founder and president of Aurochs Financial Group (AFG). We at AFG work in our client’s (including dentists) best interest to understand their unique issues and create a flexible but clear and direct road map to achieve your goals.  This consists of a comprehensive and integrated wealth management plan and corresponding unbiased custom solution.  Our plan will continue to guide and protect our clients in the years ahead, regardless of the changing market and economic condition. He is also a NDA member.
Aurochs Financial Group
15600 Wayzata Blvd., Suite 100 • Wayzata, MN 55391
Phone: 952-470-5049 • Email:

A HOT Property In Both Worlds: The CUBEX2!

Zirconia Crowns Cubex2There is no denying the fact that zirconia restorations are on the rise in dental offices. Whether you are currently prescribing zirconia, hearing about it through educations courses, e.mail blasts, or seeing the marketing materials landing in your office , you know it is here. In 2010, about 60% of the restorations created at Renstrom were PFMs, while e.Max and Zirconia were both about 15%. In 2014, PFMs were down to just 16%, e.Max was at 37% and Zirconia had risen to 45%! And that number just continues to rise! As with all new products, the technology continues to improve with time.

The latest material Renstrom has been using is CubeX2, and we have been seeing great success with the new material! CubeX2 has the strength of zirconia that dentists prefer (720 MPa), yet has the translucency that is approaching lithium disilicate. We are getting the best of both worlds!

Another benefit is turnaround time. Due to the manufacturing process of zirconia, we are able to return them back to you in a short-er time frame so you are able to have your patients back in the chair even sooner! The manufacturing process is becoming more digital, making your restorations even more accurate. Once we receive your case and complete the model work, we can scan the dies, design your crowns, and then they are ready to be milled. Once they are milled, the crowns are quality checked, finished, and ready to be stained and glazed, or if it is a coping, our ceramists will layer porcelain to your specifications.

Then as always, Rick Renstrom will check each crown before it leaves the lab, to make sure it was completed to each doctors personal specifications.

Although CubeX2 is a great option for a lot of cases, there are limitations as well. Your darker or very low value shades are still best layered when esthetics and the shade are the high priority. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call and we’d be happy to discuss it with you! If you haven’t tried it yet, make sure to give us a call and ask to try the CubeX2 zirconia! (Pronounced: Cube-Ex)

More about Renstrom

Dental Laboratory based in Minnesota, and NDA Member.

Practice Expansion Financing Basics


Practice remodels and build outs are a great way to enhance patient experience, workspace functionality and design aesthetics. Oftentimes remodels and build outs are also a necessity to manage growth, expansion or a new practice location. There are many factors to consider when planning a practice remodel or build out – one to consider early on is practice financing.

As a commercial banker, there are two numbers I look at going into every practice remodel or build out – cash flow and project cost. These numbers are not mutually exclusive. Together they represent the feasibility and financial practicality of a practice remodel or build out.

Cash flow analysis is something a good banker, CPA or practice consultant can help you with. A quick way to look at cash flow is to take total annual income divided by total annual debt servicing, taxes and living expenses. This number needs to exceed 1.0 to be considered cash flow positive.

Project cost will ultimately be determined by a construction bid and any equipment or furniture that will be purchased.

Once your cash flow and project cost are determined and validated through credit underwriting, you are ready to begin the work. During the remodel or build out period, the approved financing is disbursed in stages to your vendors, contractors or as reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses. These distributions continue throughout the remodel or build out until the work is completed, at which point the sum of the distributions, minus any interest paid, are converted to a term loan.

Practice remodels and expansions are some of the most rewarding projects I work on with dental professionals. These projects can also be quicker and easier than expected with careful planning and a holistic view of the process.

Practice Philosophy


Dear Patient,

We understand that choosing a new dentist and dental health team can be a challenge, leaving you feeling somewhat uncertain. Let us welcome you and share some insights about what we do for our patients. The philosophy guiding our practice is as follows:

“Our purpose is to help people achieve the highest level of dental well-being and in so doing, to enhance the quality of their lives.”

In other words, we help you be or become as healthy as you choose.  Instead of just telling you how healthy you ought to be, we will try to help you understand your choices about dental health and then let you make a free and informed decision. Your first choice in this regard is how you would like to begin with us. There are five levels on which people may choose to be seen in our practice:

  • Level 1…URGENT CARE: People in crisis or with an emergency problem such as pain, swelling, or bleeding that need our immediate help are at this level. We see urgencies immediately, whenever possible.
  • Level 2…REMEDIAL CARE: People who choose this level of care desire treatment only when something breaks or becomes uncomfortable. Generally people at this level expect a limited type of examination, focusing on obvious problems. They usually want to correct immediate problems with as little effort and cost as possible.
  • Level 3…SELF-CARE: Patients who choose this level of care want a thorough examination and take an active part in the treatment and prevention of present and future disease problems. However, they usually choose repair solutions that are short range in nature.
  • Level 4…COMPLETE DENTISTRY: Patients at this level are similar to people described in level 3. They choose to have a thorough examination. However, they decide on a MASTER PLAN to formulate a long-term treatment plan for health and repair. These patients are very concerned about treating the causes of dental disease, not simply the effects. These patients want all dental treatment provided to be completed in the most lasting fashion possible.
  • Level 5… LOOK YOUR BEST: People in this group are in level 4 as far as dental health is concerned, but also want to look their best at all times. They know that their smile is one of the first things others notice about them and want to put their best foot (face) forward.


We hope these levels of care make sense to you. It is not uncommon for people to begin at one level and progress to another over time. We are here to help you discover and decide at what level you are most comfortable. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you and provide you with the best dentistry appropriate for you.



To YOUR health,



Dr. Hans Skariah, Jodie and Gloria

Promenade Court Dental