Understanding Capacity

A favorite story I tell young dentists is how – early in my career – I couldn’t find restorative time for two new patients in desperate need of attention because I was too busy being a hygienist. Yep! I was booked out for weeks! Clearly, I had no understanding of the issue of capacity.

Simply stated, we are limited in our ability to provide services for additional patients by the number of operatories, staff members, or equipment on hand. Sometimes the issue is easily resolved, but often the solution requires a combination of these factors.

Among the many challenges new practitioners face is how to plan for practice growth. Decisions regarding facility size, number of operatories, lease-hold improvements, and room for expansion must be balanced against cost and cash-flow. In my case, I hired a part-time hygienist who used one of my operatories two days a week while I added a third operatory.

When I designed my final office, I equipped the five operatories I needed, and plumbed one for future growth. Although I still only worked out of two ops for restorative services, I needed two for hygiene plus an empty one for flexibility. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my hygienists rarely used the fifth operatory, even when running late. It was only then that I realized the additional operatory lacked a Cavijet! A $50,000 suite wasn’t being used because it lacked a $6,000 piece of equipment! Solution? Buy another Cavijet.

Two principles shared by Amy Morgan, Pride Institute’s CEO, proved invaluable. First, a general practice needs one full day of hygiene each week for every 200 active patients of record. Second, no more than 10% of monthly cash flow can be spent on elective purchases without adverse consequences. Thanks, Amy!

Finally, resolving issues of capacity must be balanced with the owner’s vision for the practice. And when capacity supports the vision, great things can happen!

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Mountaintop Moments(3) resized

“What are stumbling blocks and defeat to the weak and vacillating
are but stepping stones to victory to the determined soul.”

Orison Swett Marden


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