Becoming an emergency dental practice can be very rewarding, both financially and emotionally. Emergency dentists become open to new patients and can help people who are suffering on short notice.
Of course, there are personal and professional sacrifices that come with operating an emergency practice. If you are considering taking on patients, it’s important to have a good idea of what is involved and what types of issues you need to prepare for beforehand.
No matter what kind of practice you operate, you’re going to have to deal with the occasional combative patient. However, don’t be surprised if you find this happening a bit more frequently when you become an emergency dentist. There are a few common reasons why emergency dentists tend to bear the wrath of unhappy patients more often than others.
Pain: Patients seeking emergency dental services are often under a significant amount of pain as a result of broken, chipped, or abscessed teeth, to name just a few. Coping with pain is enough to put anyone in a foul mood.
Payment: The cost of getting care for a dental emergency isn’t something most people plan for, and you are likely to deal with plenty of patients who won’t like the cost of their emergency treatment.
Waiting: Some patients who show up with an emergency are going to have to wait to be seen. Accepting walk-ins is a great way for emergency dentists to get more patients, but not all those patients will understand having to wait for the next available doctor.
Extended and Early Hours
If you plan to be competitive with other emergency dental practices, Monday-Thursday 8 am to 4 pm office hours will not work. Our emergency practice is open 8 am to 9 pm during the week. We are also open until 6 pm on Saturday and 5 pm on Sunday.
Aside from this schedule, there are times that I will make arrangements to see patients even earlier. For instance, if someone’s front crown falls out and they have an important appointment the next day, I’ll agree to see them as early as 7 am.
High Volume, One-Time Patients
These extended hours also mean you’ll get a lot more one-time patients. Part of the allure of our practice is that we are open late and take walk-ins. That means many patients will already have a family dentist, but need to be seen after work or on a weekend to have an emergency dental issue taken care of properly.
Emergency dentistry also means that you’ll be getting a high volume of patients in the afternoon and on weekends. To keep your team members and the other dentists from burning out, you may find it helpful to rotate schedules, so people aren’t working every weekend. You’ll likely find it is necessary to take on additional team members to meet the increased demand.
Becoming Proficient with Common Emergencies
As an emergency dentist, there are some issues you’ll see more often than others. It’s important that you prepare for some of the more common emergencies.
- Denture problems
- Tooth fractures
- Crown and bridge problems
- Pain diagnosis
Keep all the necessary treatment materials well-stocked to ensure you are equipped to begin handling emergency cases at higher volume.
Making Sure You Get Paid for the Treatment You Provide
You’ll need to have your collection process on lockdown before you start focusing on dental emergencies. The patients who need immediate help can come with varying financial backgrounds and may or may not have insurance.
Make sure new patient paperwork includes an updated payment policy that clearly defines the patient’s responsibilities. Keep the signed copy of this policy in the patient files. Your plan should include all the payment options your office accepts.
You should also make it clear to patients that you will not see them before finalizing payment arrangements. You should also make sure your practice management software is up-to-date and that you will easily be able to bill insurance companies and track those payments.
With a higher volume of patients, you may be better off sending out statements more frequently. Sending them once a month may become overwhelming and eat up resources. Consider making this a weekly or bi-weekly task.
Unfortunately, there are going to be occasions when patients don’t pay their share on time. You state’s collection laws will determine how you are legally allowed to start the process. These laws often specify how often you are allowed to call patients.
While it can be a hard part of the job, it is important to remember that it is only fair for patients to pay the agreed-upon amount. The skill and expertise of your staff are essential in easing someone’s suffering, and you deserve compensation.
Be persistent if necessary, but it is also crucial to be compassionate and respectful, even when the patient is less than courteous.