Context: A Vital Key To The Success Of Your Dental Practice

Published on
April 15, 2024

Do you think that what you do is the only thing that determines your success? Well dear dental friend, think again. It’s all about the context.

Leading a powerful and successful life, both personally and professionally, means making certain distinctions and living by them. A distinction is a new mindset that causes you to stretch and grow. I’d like to offer one for you to try in your dental practice.

Let’s start by asking a few questions:

  • Why is it that some dental practices are more successful than others?
  • Why, during “challenging economic times”, are some practices having record months while others are struggling?
  • How does one practice thrive when a new corporate office opens next door, yet another down the street goes belly up?

Perhaps it’s not just what they are doing, but more about the experience they create for their patients. Actually, no, not perhaps, I dare say it IS about the experience.

This is what we call the content versus context distinction.

What does this mean? Let me explain.

Most dental practices perform a lot of the same work – schedule patients, implement a hygiene program, enroll patients into operative work, collect fees and work with insurance companies. Patients these days can get their dental work performed by any practitioner. All the things we do are the content of our work.

What makes up the context of your practice?

The context, on the other hand, is how the patient engages with you and your team.

  • What is your service like – is it “5-star” or mediocre?
  • Do you have a culture of teamwork or can you feel the conflict in the air?
  • Is the physical space in which you work welcoming and comfortable or dated and uninviting?
  • Are you emotionally connecting to your patients or are you just going through the motions?

These are just some aspects that create the context, or culture, of your practice. Remember: your patients can go anywhere for their dental treatment. They cannot get you and your team anywhere else! So really, the experience your patients have is a direct result of the service you provide including:


Your practice’s vision must be defined and communicated to your team. Vision is a crystal clear picture of how you want your life and practice to be.

If you had the ideal practice, what would that look like? Ultimately, the vision of your practice is about creating an emotional connection with your team and your patients.


Agreements support the vision. Agreements are not official policies; they are a code of conduct that your team agrees to follow. For example, agreeing to open and honest communication, or agreeing not to subgroup, or talking behind another’s back, or agreeing to provide a 5-star service to every patient.


Communicating with integrity will support positive interactions within the practice. The quality of our life is the quality of our communication, with ourselves and with other people. Once we have an agreed-upon set of operating principles, we must effectively communicate them to keep the agreements in place and maintain the vision as our primary focus.


Relationships are what you get when you have mastered the three areas above. When you have a shared vision or outcome and agreements about how you will "be" with one another and with patients, and when you communicate openly and honestly about issues when they arise, you have the perfect recipe for rock-solid and lifelong relationships.

In order to be great in all four areas, you must see yourself as a leader and someone who sees the best in your team and patients. It may stretch your idea of what it means to be a dentist, entrepreneur, and business owner. You must alter your mindset!

The next time you’re ‘doing’ the dentistry in your practice, ask yourself how can you be different going forward? What are three things you can implement into your practice now, and I mean right now, in order to change the context of how your patient experiences your practice? Remember, your patients are not clinicians, they will only know how you made them feel, not the quality of your technical skills.

I challenge you to intentionally focus on the context of your practice and create a culture of success. Your team deserves to be led, inspired and encouraged to deliver the highest quality experience. The result will be that your team members will stay onboard longer and patients will complete their treatment, understand and be compliant in their continued care, and will want to refer all their friends, family and colleagues. Here come the 5-star reviews! I know you’ve got the hand-skills.

Always, and I mean always, be cognizant of who you are being when doing what you do. That’s what makes the difference between a good dentist and an extraordinary dental practice.