Illnesses happen and the personal impact on a dentist can far surpass the effect felt by other professions.   We all will occasionally encounter the flu or a cold, but some of us will have the misfortune to get real ill.  Whether its early multiple sclerosis, skin cancer, or a thyroid disorder; it really doesn’t matter. You can’t go to work today.

Who cares? This will never happen to me and I’m healthy as a horse.  Do you see your physician regularly?   Are you overweight?   Do you exercise regularly?   Do you eat a healthy diet?   If you are on medication do you take them as prescribed?   Do you take enough time off to relieve stress?    DIFFICULT QUESTIONS, RIGHT?     You have a one in four chance of encountering a disabling illness during your career. This will last at least 3 months.   For many of you it will lead to a permanent disability.   We aren’t making these statistics up, they are well documented in insurance industry data. They can’t afford to be wrong.

When a dentist cannot practice, even for a few weeks; the effects on a dental practice can be catastrophic. With increasing competition from corporate dentistry, high practice overhead, and the immense cost of setting up a dental practice; the financial burden on many practices is huge. The loss of production for even a few weeks can be significant on that practices bottom line. What happens if you are gone for months?

Most likely your staff will begin to delay patient care at the first notification of your illness. This may be a successful strategy for a few weeks, but your patients will not wait indefinitely  for care. At some point they will begin to consider contacting your competition. Your most loyal patients will remain committed for a few months, but lack of information on your condition may lead to loss of even the best patients. Dental practices are living entities are must be respected. They consist of people. Your family, staff, suppliers, and patient population are all individuals with different needs and aspirations.

Make no mistake. You are in an ever-increasing competitive profession. New graduates with student debt are extremely motivated to produce. Corporate dental practice are driven by profit and volume. Practice management consultants stress the need to expand, enlarge, and maximize efficiency. You face an army of dental competitors who will show  no mercy if you are sick or ill.

Your practice can survive your illness, but you will need either some luck or preparedness to survive long-term. Your situation may even be worse if you practice alone without partners. Group practices have the advantage of  a readily available replacement. Those of us solo practitioners on our own. It is unlikely your hygienist will be able to function independently and the rest of your staff cannot produce income.

Unfortunately, now is the time many practitioners panic. Some will do nothing and freeze, others will quickly sell the practice they have worked so many years to build.  Both approaches are wrong. They could lead to irreversible financial and personal loss.   Anxiety and fear can lead to terrible business and personal decisions.  We have been there before. Use our prior experiences to fight back, win, and survive. We are dentists helping others dentists and our only motivation is seeing you succeed and survive your battle with your illness and its associated disabling conditions.

You now have a real problem. You need someone to treat patients until you can return. You may not know when that will be. We have previously reviewed Mutual-aid agreements DENTAL MUTUAL-AID AGREEMENTS take a serious look at getting one for your practice. They are no joke and may save your career. Take some time to get an agreement in place now.

Face the fact that you are disabled. It may be for weeks or months. Do you really know?  Disability is a “four letter word” and  very distasteful, but it does accurately describe your situation. Hopefully it is only temporary, but define temporary. You really can’t and approaching disability with knowledge is the key to survival. Yes survival. You don’t have a cold or flu, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this posting. See our article on the ten steps to survive disability .TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY. It will get you headed in the right direction.

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