Never a dull moment: New dentists discuss managing work with life and family

Dr. Fallon and his family.

Dr. Fallon and her family.

A partner dentist in a group practice in Massachusetts, a spouse and a mom to two children ages 5 and 3, Dr. Andrea Fallon knows well the day-to-day challenges of balancing job and family responsibilities.

“Dentists have worked so very hard to gain that degree, and owner dentists have an obligation to their practice and staff to continue to produce and keep the practice going,”
said Dr. Fallon. “I find it difficult to make the time for both work and family. This balance is a daily struggle.”

To be sure, the obligations many new dentists are facing — managing student loan debt, working full time, contributing to a family and keeping their own needs and well-being in check — can feel overwhelming.

Dr. Fallon said one way she ensures work doesn’t bleed too much into time with family is to unplug. She keeps her cellphone off when possible at home and only checks email at the office. She said she limits herself to two work-related events such as dental meetings, speaking obligations or CE per month and she and her husband, who also works full time, schedule up to two week-long vacations a year to spend time as a family.

She also takes one day out of the office every few months for solo time.

“I may go for a run or a yoga class. I may get my hair cut. I may do nothing and read a novel, but it’s my day to do whatever my body/mind/spirit needs,” she said.

Dr. Mattingly and her family.

Dr. Mattingly and her family.

Time off is also a way to mitigate stress for Dr. Emily Mattingly and her husband, David, who is also a dentist. The couple has two children and both dentists are partners at a group practice in Missouri.

The Mattinglys plan family vacations each year and, two or three times per year, take a weekend away as a couple to go to a dental conference.

It’s easy to fall into a routine and forget that “you cannot work all the time; you have to take a break,” said Dr. Emily Mattingly.

Alternating workdays with her husband when possible, hiring a nanny and living close to their parents help manage work schedules with her children’s schedules, said Dr. Mattingly, who said she maintains a detailed calendar with to-do lists.

Still, no matter how much time and thought goes into planning, sometimes parenting and working full-time means improvising, Dr. Mattingly said, recalling a recent particularly demanding morning that resulted in her daughter, who is 2, having a cupcake for breakfast.

“We don’t usually have cupcakes for breakfast. Sometimes it’s just survival mode,” Dr. Mattingly joked, but added sincerely that there’s no one right away for managing a busy life.

“There is too much social media/internet posting telling people how they should structure their lives from parenting to working to what you eat,” she said. “I’m really a proponent of doing what works best for your family and ignoring unwanted or unnecessary pressures from others.”

One tool the ADA offers to help new dentists navigate the pressure is a collection of articles, videos and other resources related to stress management and work-life balance on the ADA Center for Professional Success website,

Furthermore, a number of courses related to improving work-life balance will be available at ADA 2017 – America’s Dental Meeting, including one focusing on emotional well-being and another offering an introduction to meditation.

For more information about the meeting and courses offered or to register, visit New dentists can network, relax and learn with their peers at the ADA New Dentist Conference held in conjunction with ADA 2017. For more information and to register, visit Also, the Women in Dentistry Leadership Series geared toward women dentists and team members will feature speakers discussing approaches to life and navigating a male-dominated field. For more information, visit The Women in Dentistry Leadership Series is sponsored by Crest + Oral-B.


Another Year Wiser

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It’s the end of another school year and you’re another year wiser, but how much do you know about wisdom teeth?

Our third molars have been referred to as “wisdom teeth” for centuries since they typically appear in our late teens or early twenties, when we transition from adolescence into a “wiser” adulthood.

Most people get four wisdom teeth, but some have more, fewer or even none. Sometimes wisdom teeth come in without any problems, but very often this isn’t the case.

If these teeth are so wise, why are they such troublemakers? Because they often become “impacted” — meaning they are trapped in the jawbone or beneath the gums, unable to grow in properly. This can damage the roots of nearby teeth, or create pockets in which bacteria can thrive and cause a gum infection.


Impaction isn’t something you’ll necessarily feel — at least not initially. That’s why it’s important to keep up your regular schedule of routine dental visits during the years your wisdom teeth are growing in — usually between the ages of 17 and 21. However, if you feel any pain or notice any other signs of wisdom tooth trouble before your next scheduled dental visit, be wise and call the dental office right away!

Getting to know you: Dr. Courtney Burrill

Dr. Courtney Burrill poses for a photo with her three children, Carolyn, Alex and Audra. Dr. Burrill is a general dentist in the United States Air Force currently stationed in Anchorage, Alaska.

Dr. Courtney Burrill poses for a photo with her three
children, Carolyn, Alex and Audra. Dr. Burrill is a general
dentist in the United States Air Force currently stationed
in Anchorage, Alaska.

Why dentistry?

My journey to dentistry was not a straight path. I started a family right out of college, moved around with my husband’s career and I worked as a high school science teacher. When the opportunity presented itself to attend dental school, I took it! Its the perfect mix; getting the opportunity to help others and getting to form authentic relationships with my patients.

Why are you an ADA member?

I feel a sense of duty to stay involved with my profession and to keep myself knowledgeable and relevant in our ever-changing world. From my local component to the national level, being a member of the ADA helps me feel confident that someone has my back.

What was your first job?

During high school, I worked the snack bar at a local golf course, was a waitress at a hotel restaurant and worked at Einstein’s Bros. Bagels.

What has been the best time of your career so far?

The most memorable time in my career thus far was participating in a humanitarian mission to the Philippines. It was an amazing experience to work with local and foreign dentists and military members, providing medical and dental care to thousands of impoverished Filipinos.

When I’m not practicing, I’m:

Always involved with my amazing three kids. I enjoy being involved in our local community, coaching my kids youth sports teams and being outdoors (year-round!) in our great state of Alaska.

One fun fact about me:

I was a Starbucks barista for three years in college. Latte anyone? Getting to feed my caffeine addition and chatting with people all day long…loved it!

Sleep Apnea: Our Journey to Be Recognized as Physicians of the Oral Region

We dentists started as barber surgeons, with teeth as disposable as hair. The oral region was glossed over as unimportant by the medical community for thousands of years. A good friend of mine, a physiatrist (physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist), admitted to me that his education stopped at the temporomandibular (TM) joints and anything beyond that was a total mystery to him. In my

So, You’re Getting Invisalign…

Whether braced weren’t an option when you were younger or you’ve always had that one crooked tooth that you wish would get in line, Invisalign is a fantastic and subtle option to get that perfectly straight smile you’ve always dreamed of. Check out the steps we’ve outlined below to learn more about how it works and to decide if it’s the right option for you.

Step 1 Consultation

This is your chance to ask your dentist any questions you have about Invisalign and how it will fit into your existing oral health routine and lifestyle.

Come prepared with questions like: How much will it cost? Will my insurance cover it? Are the retainers painful to wear? How long will I need to wear my retainers and how many retainers am I likely to go through?

The more informed you are before proceeding to the next step, the better!


Step 2 Record Collection & Digital Scan

Once you’ve committed to Invisalign, the process will move forward fairly quickly. Your dentist will need to get an accurate and thorough scan of your teeth so they can create your individualized Invisalign trays. Your mouth will be X-rayed, photographed, and given a 3D scan (and fear not: it’s a totally mess-free process as no impressions need to be taken).


Step 3 Treatment Plan Developed

This is one of the most exciting and unique parts of the Invisalign process. Your dentist will come up with a completely individualized treatment plan for you based on your X-rays, photographs and scans. This includes both the length of treatment and the number of retainers (also called trays) that you will wear. 

Your dentist may also decide that attachments (or ‘buttons’) are a necessary part of your treatment. Attachments are small, clear grips attached to the surface of some of your teeth to help keep the retainers anchored in place properly.


Step 4 Your Invisalign Retainers are Created

Once you and your dentist have agreed on your treatment plan, your dentist will have all of the retainers you will need throughout the process created. If attachments are part of your treatment plan, your dentist will likely schedule an appointment with you to apply them prior to picking up and wearing your retainers.


Step 5 Pick Up Your Invisalign Retainers from Dentist

The big day is finally here and your journey to the straight smile you’ve always dreamed of is about to begin! Your dentist will run through the process of putting the retainers in as well as any maintenance do’s or don’ts you should be aware of.


Step 6 Swap with 2nd Invisalign Set

By the time you’re ready to move onto your second retainer, there should already be a noticeable improvement with your teeth. Just like your friends (or your kids) who would complain every time they had their braces tightened, you will likely feel a bit of discomfort as you switch to a new tray. This is all a natural part of the process and it means the retainers are working how they’re supposed to.


Step 7 Swap with 3rd Invisalign Set

Once again, there should be a visible difference between your teeth at the beginning of the Invisalign process and now!


Step 8 Progress Appointment with Dentist

This is the fun part! You’ll get to see exactly how far you’ve come and how much you’ve already achieved. Your dentist will take a look at your mouth to make sure everything is as it should be and to see if your attachments need to be adjusted.


Step 9 Final Assessment with Dentist

Congratulations! You’ve done it! You’ve followed all of the steps your dentist laid out for you, dutifully changed your trays, and now you’ve got a mouth full of gloriously straight teeth to prove it! 

In your final assessment, your attachments will be removed from your teeth and your dentist will cover everything you need to do to ensure your teeth stay put (options will likely include either a fixed appliance or a removable appliance).

 Benefits of Invisalign

Still not sure if Invisalign is right for you? Here are some of the amazing benefits you can look forward to:


  1. Unlike braces, your Invisalign retainer can be removed to eat, drink, and brush your teeth.

  2. Invisalign retainers are transparent and are much subtler than braces.

  3. Invisalign retainers are comfortable to wear

  4. New retainers are put into place to adjust for the movement of your teeth (meaning you don’t just wear one retainer for the entire process)

  5. Invisalign retainers are easy to pop in and out (which is particularly helpful if you have a special occasion coming up).

  6. And most importantly, your Invisalign retainers will not affect your speech. Once your mouth has adjusted to the retainer, you’ll be completely lisp free (we promise).

Curriculum vitae or resume: What’s the difference?

While many people use resume and curriculum vitae (CV) interchangeably, their formats are quite different and they are not intended for the same audience, according the ADA Center for Professional Success. Which type of jobs encourage a resume? Which typically prefer CV?

Center for Professional SuccessDetermining what type of employer will be reviewing your application will determine whether you submit a resume or a CV.

A resume is used when applying to business, industry, government, or non-profit jobs.  Usually one to two pages, a resume should include your name and contact information, education, and work experience listed chronologically. It should be a summary of your most relevant professional experiences tailored to the particular job or position you would like to acquire.

The main purpose of a resume is to get an interview. Hiring managers review hundreds of applicants so your resume should be concise and clear. A polished resume is your first chance to make a good impression on potential employers.

A CV is typically for fellowships, grants, scholarships, or jobs in academia. The CV should be fairly detailed and cover your life’s accomplishments including teaching and research experience, publications, awards, presentations, and affiliations.  You should also include academic areas of interest, education, employment experience, and professional references.

Unlike a resume, a CV does not have a page limit. On average, a CV is two to three pages in length, but will continue to grow throughout your professional career.

Final Pointers:

  • Be conscious of formatting. Make sure spacing is consistent within the document.
  • Stick to common fonts, such as Times New Roman or Arial, you do not want to distract the reader or make the information more difficult to read.
  • When listing experience, use chronological order with your most recent position first.
  • Seek out examples. Modeling your resume after an individual who shares your discipline and interests may be beneficial.
  • Look to any document formatting system you use (such as Microsoft Word) or online for free resume templates.  Much like the font, use something simple and straightforward.
  • Don’t put sensitive personal information such as your Social Security number on your resume or CV. It can put you at risk for identity theft.

Innovation on a budget: Three ways to boost your dental practice’s performance without breaking the bank

As in any fast-paced industry, innovation plays a critical role in dentistry. Today’s dental practice owner is both entrepreneur and health practitioner, and adaptability in both roles is crucial to success. While it’s true that innovation can mean playing an endless game of “keeping up with the Joneses,” it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are several ways that dental practices can adapt to changing times and improve performance while sticking to a budget.

Innovations in treatment: Educate your staff and patients

When you think of innovative treatments, technology may take center stage in your mind. While it’s true that clinical technology is an important investment for any dental practice, there are ways to improve your quality of care without spending much.

Acknowledging the mouth–body connection is one way to provide better service, and all it takes is some training and a plan. By educating yourself and your staff, you’ll equip your office to provide more comprehensive care. So choose a topic and study up. A few examples:

  • The TARGET Center says that dentists can help with early recognition of HIV infection. They can also provide better care to HIV-infected patients by being aware of how their medications affect oral health and what side effects their medical treatments may have.1
  • The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that “a thorough, systemic examination of the mouth and neck need only take a few minutes and can detect [cancer] at an early and curable stage.”2
  • Nutrition can play a big part in oral health, especially in children. Taking the time to discuss nutrition while counseling patients shows your commitment to personalized care and can help improve their overall health.

Consider training your dentists and hygienists to assist patients in recognizing early warning signs and dealing with health issues. This can be as simple as reading authoritative websites and articles, or you can invest in outside training.

Innovations in customer service: Show your patients you care

Although most dental practice owners go into dentistry for its clinical aspects, customer service is a huge part of growing a healthy business. Younger generations are gaining spending power and making their own health decisions. That means dental practices must adapt if they want to keep a strong customer base.

A no-cost way to retain patients and gain new ones is to provide outstanding, personalized service. It may not sound so innovative, but too many practices neglect this vital area. Making a few notes in a patient’s chart about his or her family, job, or hobbies will help you engage in friendly conversation at each appointment.

Also, consider whether your staffing situation is appropriate. Do you need more staff, fewer staff, or a change of staff to better suit your needs? Patients don’t like to wait, and they love friendly, personal service. If you need to add staff on a temporary or permanent basis, consider using a modern, cloud-based job-matching platform instead of a temp agency. Platforms like Cloud Dentistry might seem like a traditional staffing agency, but are different than the usual dental temp agency.  Save time and money compared to traditional staffing firms. They also make it easier to choose the right person for the job.3

Staffing should be considered when it comes to specialty services, too. Today’s dental patients value seamless experiences. They have a limited amount of time. They’d rather not spend it tracking down specialists and going back and forth between offices. Large corporate practices may offer special procedures in house. Smaller practices may insource specialists, bringing them into the practice when they are needed. This keeps revenue in house and makes life easier for patients. Today’s advanced job matching platforms can help practices hire specialists on an as-needed basis.

Innovations in marketing: Meet your potential customers where they are

Any discussion of innovation in the twenty-first century must address the internet. There’s room for innovation in both online marketing and the way practices manage their internal data.

Pew Research reports that nine-tenths of American adults are online.4 Many of them use the internet for health research. According to a report in the Journal of the American Dental Association, “patients are directly accessing information on new dental care technologies and treatment methods, then coming to their dental appointments with questions on these new therapies.”5

For dental practices, this means more than just having a website. Innovation in online marketing is multi-faceted:

  • An informative, user-friendly website is critical. Patients want to check out a practice online before they visit in person. It’s a great idea to include a blog that shows off your knowledge, highlights your customer service, and boosts your search engine ranking. Hire a web guru or research the process and do it yourself.
  • Ranking high in search results can bring you business, but only if you’re targeting the right audience. A professional can ensure that your site uses the right keywords, has an optimal meta description, and targets a local audience. If money is tight, you or one of your tech-savvy employees can do this.
  • Reviews can go a long way in growing (or damaging) your business. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews on your business’ Facebook page, Google, and review sites like Yelp. You can even respond to reviews. It’s a great way to mitigate bad reviews, resolve issues for unhappy patients, and demonstrate to the public that you care.
  • Content marketing is taking off. Building an online presence through blogging and social media can boost your business, but only if it’s done thoughtfully. Innovation is useful here. As with website creation and search engine optimization, you can hire an expert. Alternatively, you can do some research and optimize your corner of the web on your own.

Internally, your dental practice can take advantage of cloud technology. Transitioning from local servers to cloud-based services may save you money in the long run. If you’re still storing your data in your office, consider switching to a cloud-based service that takes care of maintenance. This change can also make accessing your files more convenient.

Consider your investment

Each practice is unique, of course. Before you take on any change, it’s prudent to analyze the costs and benefits. Innovation can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you decide to take on loads of new technology or focus on wowing your patients with personal service, your practice can benefit from innovation at any level.


  1. Integrating HIV Innovative Practices. Module 1: Treating the Whole Patient — The Importance of Oral Health in Total Patient Care of PLWHA. TARGET Center website. November 2013. Accessed February 11, 2017.
  2. The Oral Cancer Foundation. Cancer Screening Protocols. The Oral Cancer Foundation website. Accessed February 11, 2017.
  3. Cloud Dentistry. Why Cloud Dentistry? Cloud Dentistry website. Accessed February 12, 2017.
  4. Pew Research Center. Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet. Pew Research Center website. January 12, 2017. Accessed February 11, 2017.
  5. Douglass CW, Sheets CG. Patients’ Expectations For Oral Health Care In The 21st Century. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 2000;131:3S-7S. doi:10.14219/jada.archive.2000.0397.

Wake-up Call: Fixing Your Employee Cell Phone Policy

Many of us are attached to our cell phones and a tap or two away from our social media accounts 24/7 these days—including your employees! This poses unique challenges to dental practices attempting to regulate employee behavior on the job.

Unlike so many other businesses, dentists and practice managers have to worry about upholding standards of patient care, complying with HIPAA and keeping Protected Health Information (PHI) safe, confidentiality requirements, and all sorts of other layers of responsibility.

With all that on the line, it’s clear that you need a clear and firm policy regarding cell phone use in your practice. But…wouldn’t it be easier just to tell employees they can’t use their phones…or even to take them all away during the workday?

Women Gossip

Beware: Cell phone confiscation makes for an unlawful policy

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend of dentists and managers taking more and more extreme measures to keep employees off their phones while at work, including confiscation policies like this one: “Employees must place all cell phones in the basket upon arriving at work.” And I understand the temptation! But there’s a problem with this approach: It’s not great HR, and even worse, it’s unlawful.

Policies like this sound like they might be effective, but recent decisions by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have found these types of policies to be unlawful. Why? They may discourage or even interfere with an employee’s right to use their cell phones, during break times, to communicate about workplace conditions with fellow employees, union reps, lawyers, or regulating bodies.

You are reading this correctly: Employers not only can’t restrict an employee from discussing their wages and working conditions with one another, you can’t even have a policy that may discourage an employee from exercising those legally protected rights!

Not only that, but employees are adults—even if not all of them act that way. Cell phone confiscation policies and outright bans are a bit too parental, and can trigger a backlash of rebellious discontent that is not worth the effort.

So, what’s the wisest alternative to keep employees off their phones when they should be working?

From an HR perspective, there’s no single easy answer that fits all practices. An effective employee cell phone policy needs to cover many different elements and scenarios:

  • Cell phones should not be used in front of patients or at the front desk
  • Cell phones should not be used when employees are expected to be working (Note, you can’t restrict cell phones to only “off the clock” because breaks of 20 minutes or less should be paid, and thus are on the clock).
  • Cell phones should only be used in the break room / outside the practice / etc.
  • And more…

And each office setup is different, so that’s a challenge, too. Your rules may need adjustment, within the boundaries of what is enforceable in your state.

The hard, scary facts on employee cell phone use

It is not reasonable to expect that phone, text, and social media usage stops cold and your employees’ personal inbox disappears at work just because we, as employers, make a rule. And while our policies should treat employees as the responsible adults that most of them are, those policies do need to be robust, clear, and enforceable in case rules are broken.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Legal compliance. Policies must not violate any federal, state or even local laws, especially the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which applies to all employers, regardless of union status. The NLRB, which enforces the NLRA, has been particularly aggressive in recent years.
  • Smartphone capabilities. Today’s phones are also cameras and recording devices. They store and transmit images and videos, voice recordings, and data. If an employee snaps a picture of something in your clinical area during break time, do you know your options as an employer?
  • What if an employee photographs an OSHA violation? This is important to understand: Employees have protections that allow them to take pictures and videos of workplace conditions—but not to compromise PHI.
  • All employees must be fully trained in their HIPAA compliance responsibilities, including the safeguarding of PHI. They should know better than to photograph or post any patient details on social media (even your practice’s) without formal patient authorization, or to discuss patients with anyone not at your practice and who doesn’t have a need to know. Your employees must also understand how very severe the consequences of HIPAA violations can be.

To keep you safe, your cell phone policies need to be thorough without being overly restrictive, and enforceable when you need to discipline or terminate, without treating your employees as children. In short, well-balanced and professionally drafted cell phone and social media policies are essential to protect your practice.

These policies need to be created by an expert, so call us or contact your favorite attorney for help, and it doesn’t hurt to have expert advice on hand to know how to legally enforce them in any difficult situation.

Dental Professionals: The world has gone mobile- have you?

Researchers have found that in today’s society more than half of all web traffic is on mobile devices. As a result, dental offices have jumped on board by creating and using mobile friendly websites.  A major reason for the growth in mobile internet usage is that we live in a society that has become virtually dependent upon mobile devices.

There are many offices in the dental industry that are hesitant about moving into the mobile realm. There is an inherent preconceived notion that patients may interpret a mobile website poorly or that the mobile presence may not be how the practice envisioned.

Truth be told, there are an excellent amount of advantages to dental practices that have a mobile website. These advantages generally include:

  • Better placement on Google search results
  • Quicker and easier access to your website
  • Additional engagement and time spent on your website
  • Increased number of potential patients
  • More efficient handling of patient appointments

Do you know if your practice website is mobile friendly?

If you are unsure, you can check using Google’s mobile friendly tool. While researching your website, another important feature Google offers is Google Analytics. Analytics is a useful tool for tracking how visitors come across and engage with your website.

It is becoming easier than ever to create a mobile friendly website!

Conversion platforms have become the simplest way for dental offices to take their practices mobile. These platforms offer functionality that recreates your website into a mobile version. A few websites available with user friendly software are:

Taking your new mobile site to the next level with ‘Plugins’

Plugins are add-on features a practice can use to add bells and whistles to a website. Plugins can include anything from a click-to-call button, which will directly call your office, all the way to an appointment scheduling option. Online appointment scheduling is more convenient for patients and also saves on your resources such as time and money. Other widely useful plugins include:

  • Share Bar: A bar hosting links to all of your practices social media websites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn).
  • Map: By entering your office location, patients have the option to use GPS navigation to more easily find your dental practice.
  • News Feed: Posting notifications keep your patients updated with your practice. It is also a place to inform patients about promotions or specials.
  • Photo Gallery: New patients will appreciate a virtual tour of your office facilities as well as getting visuals of your staff. This will create a more personal encounter for patients, making them more likely to come in for a visit.

After creating your mobile friendly website…

There are some last minute questions to ask yourself:

  • Would you spend time on this website if it wasn’t your own?
  • Is the website easy to read?
  • Is the website easy to navigate?
  • Does the website load within a few seconds?
  • Does the website provide an overall good experience for patients?

Now it is time for you to tweak your own mobile website! Software available today has made this process more accessible to the average person. Advantages of a mobile website are undeniable for both your practice and patients. The world has gone mobile- make sure you’re not left behind!

Tips to Lower Dental Office Occupancy Costs

It’s increasingly challenging to keep costs low when managing a dental practice; controlling expenses should be a high priority. Reducing overhead by improving efficiency, maximizing revenue, and cutting unnecessary expenses is a good place to start; but what happens if you’ve already addressed these areas?

Most dental professionals aren’t aware of the potential cost-drivers and expensive risks hiding in the details of their dental office lease. A dentist could save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of their tenancy by taking the time to review these details before signing their lease. Amendments can typically be made to the lease at startup or renewal time to control costs and protect your practice from financial traps in the long run.

Dental Office Lease Costs and Other Fees

“Annual Base Rent” in the lease is the amount a dental tenant agrees to pay the landlord for occupying the space. Securing reasonable rates initially will allow you to remain profitable as your practice grows. Aim to protect rental rates and unreasonable escalations by negotiating a cap on the annual escalation.

You should also do your due diligence to research rental rates for competing spaces in the area, and learn what the landlord is asking for other comparable vacant spaces in the building/center to ensure that the proposed lease rates are fair.

Operating Costs

Operating costs are the expenses related to the operation/running of the building. Due to the fact that occupancy costs such as property taxes or insurance are fixed in nature, an explicit dental office lease outlining the impact of these costs plays a key role. Non-fixed costs (ie. maintenance) must be closely audited to ensure you are not overpaying for your proportionate share.

Know What You’re Being Charged For

Many landlords have been known to back charge expenses by filing them under the term “operating costs.” It’s important to ensure you have the “right to review statements of operating costs” included in your dental office lease in order to determine exactly what you’re being charged for.

There are a number of operating expenses that are unreasonable for the landlord to pass along to the tenant, including:

  • Improvements made to increase property value
  • Building repairs or replacement of structural components
  • Real estate broker commissions
  • Professional fees not relating to your space
  • Interest or principal payments on mortgages or debt costs, unless it is your debt or “Tenant Improvement Allowance” (TIA)
  • Marketing association fees that are not driving traffic to the building or helping your business

Keep in mind that operating costs can often be controlled or reduced at lease negotiation time by setting up percentage formulas or by capping costs at certain thresholds.

Common Area Maintenance (CAM) Charges

CAM charges fluctuate from year to year depending on factors such as insurance premiums and property taxes. It is critical to ensure you have the legal right to audit CAM charges and that the lease clearly states the landlord is responsible for paying the CAM charges on vacant space in the building.

Administration Fees

Ensure that you are not paying high administration fees to your landlord (anything over 5% is unreasonable). Also, be aware that “administration fees” and “management fees” mean the same thing; ensure you’re not being charged twice.

Tracking Critical Office Lease Dates

Take proactive measures to avoid unexpected financial disasters by tracking and managing your critical dates aggressively. If you miss your dental office lease expiry date, you are automatically a month-to-month or “overholding” tenant and have lost the security of your practice location.

When in overholding, your landlord has the right to terminate the lease and evict you by providing only 30 days’ notice. The cost to demolish, renovate, relocate, and rebuild a dental clinic from scratch can easily cost $200,000 or more, not to mention any practice downtime faced and lost patients as a result of the move.

Double the Monthly Rent

Many lease agreements state that as soon as your lease expires, the landlord has the right to charge you twice the normal monthly rent. Check the “overholding” clause in your lease to see what your penalty rent will be.

The “Option to Renew” Provision

The “option to renew” provision in the lease provides the ability for tenants to extend their tenancy in the building. The “extension deadline” is the last day that you may exercise your option to extend the lease term. Negotiating “options” into your lease is beneficial because they can protect you from rental escalations and provide you with the flexibility to stay even if the landlord has other plans for the space at the end of your term.

The Power of Negotiation Time and Lease Language

It is always a challenge to control occupancy costs for a dental practice; and language in the lease can easily drive costs up. Dentists can save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of their tenancy by tracking critical dates, taking action at least 18-24 months before renewal time, and reviewing the details of their dental office lease at startup time.

The best way to ensure that your lease is set up with fair and affordable terms is to have the agreement reviewed professionally by dental office leasing experts before you sign it.