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Building Your Future in Dentistry: Beyond PPOs

November 12, 2020

For many young dentists, being a part of a Preferred Provider Organization, or PPO, may seem like the best option to broaden possibilities when cultivating a dental practice. The usual notion is that PPOs reduce billing costs, provide a vast referral network, and bring in more patients. Though these are true for the short-term, opting out of PPOs and adopting a fee-for-service practice reaps more benefits in the long run. 

The business of dentistry 

Though most dentists enjoy the clinical aspects of dentistry, it must not be forgotten that dentistry is also a business. Opting for a fee-for-service practice not only ensures that you get paid what you deserve, but it also aids in providing better quality care for your patients. PPOs initially bring more people to the dental chair, and opting out of a PPO is scary for some as this means a sudden decrease in revenue. A fee-for-service practice allows dentists to gain better profit after the initial decrease in the number of patients. As revenue becomes higher in the long run, dentists are able to afford better materials, higher-quality laboratory services, and the latest technology. This, in turn, attracts more patients willing to pay more for better dental services. 

How can dentists increase their profits when there are fewer patients? The first thing to do is to reduce overhead costs. A solo dental practitioner has three top expenses: salaries of the dental staff, laboratory fees, and the cost of dental supplies. Among the three, the cost of supplies is what can be significantly reduced. Dental practitioners must ensure to pay their staff well, in order for them to provide excellent service. The quality of laboratory work must not also be reduced, as it directly affects dental procedures. Therefore, obtaining inexpensive supplies of good quality may be the best option to reduce overhead expenses. 

A better way to increase profit in any business is to increase production. When expenses become difficult to reduce, increasing production rates will exponentially affect profit. However, this may be difficult when under contract with a PPO. 

Developing a strategy 

Before opting out of a PPO, the biggest fear of dentists is that they may not be able to compete with other dental clinics in their area.

Analyzing the environment is the first step to developing a strategy toward better dental practice. Know the other dentists in your area and learn about the services they provide. Gather information about their patients. Though there may be many options for dental services in a particular place, such clinics may be saturated. Know your patients well so you can offer the proper services to the right people. 

Next, develop a profit plan. How much will it cost for you to be able to provide more services? Compute the salaries of the additional staff you may need to hire and the equipment that you need to buy for your clinic. Where can you get the best supplies at the lowest cost? What new technology is out in the market? Calculate all the expenses and then come up with a budget so you can adjust the rates of your dental services. You may also increase the fees of the procedures most commonly done in your office. Changing your billing practices will eventually allow you to become confident about leaving your PPO. 

Communicating the changes 

When you implement your strategy, remember to communicate with your staff and your patients. Dr. Gary Light shares the rule of 5 Cs to effectively communicate changes in your practice. The message has to be compelling, convincing, clear, concise, and compassionate. 

Train your staff well so that they would know how to adapt to all adjustments in billing procedures. More importantly, teach your staff to always explain why changes are made. This way, patients will not be shocked by unexpected charges after a procedure. Patients also need to adjust to a fee-for-service practice when they have been used to a PPO. 

Effective communication may be done in many ways.

  • Aside from talking to patients, you may also post guidelines on the wall of the reception area or waiting room.
  • Utilize social media to communicate changes in your practice.
  • Post updates on your website.
  • Remember that communication need not be verbal. For example, mounting framed certificates or posting information on dental technology will remind your patients that what they are paying for in your fee-for-service practice are high-quality services. When you gain their trust, they become more comfortable in the transition from PPOs to fee-for-service dentistry. 

The spread of COVID-19 has greatly affected dental practice worldwide, not only in the way procedures are done, but also in the fees that have to be charged. Additional costs due to sterilization, personal protective equipment, and additional safety protocols all amount to higher dental fees. In a fee-for-service practice, it is important that patients are aware that these additional charges provide them safety from the spread of infectious disease. 

Redefining your practice 

The question that dentists need to answer is, “What makes my practice unique?” When you set yourself apart from other dental practices that are saturated by patients under PPOs, you gain more confidence in the quality of your services.

  • Adopting a success mindset is crucial, which may be aided with the help of a performance coach.
  • Coaching allows dentists to stay on track and be reminded of how they want their practice to be in the future. Furthermore, it would remind them why they want to improve their practice. Everything boils down to the desire to provide excellent service. 

In the business of dentistry, price equals perceived value. When patients are provided a service wherein they pay virtually nothing, they fail to understand the importance of that service. Dentists must also remind their patients about the reasons why the fee-for-service procedures are worth the price. When patients are aware of the lengths their dentists go through to provide quality care, they begin to value all the aspects of the practice and become willing to pay what their dentist deserves. 

Redefine your practice and build your future in dentistry. Create a sustainable practice that provides excellent oral care for your patients. 


 Benco Dental, Dentistry 2020 & Beyond, Freedom From PPOs. (2020, September 3). [Video].? YouTube. 

Grant, M. (2020, July 7). Understanding Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO). Investopedia. 


Salierno, C. (2020, August 7). I just dropped a PPO. Here’s how I did it. Https://Www.Dentistryiq.Com/Practice-Management/Insurance/Article/14181287/How-Dentists-Can-Successfully-Drop-Ppos. DentistryIQ. 


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