Ask someone on the street to name a successful CEO. They’d probably say Jeff Bezos from Amazon or Tim Cook from Apple. Of course it would never occur to them to name their orthodontist, but why not? Okay…I get it. Orthodontists aren’t exactly heading up billion dollar businesses. But they are the chief executive officers of their practice. And they can become successful—very successful.

Unfortunately, many orthodontists aren’t maximizing their CEO potential. Why not? They don’t receive any training for this critical role when they are in dental school. They then enter private practice, which is a complex small business, and have to figure out the business methodologies for their practice operations while spending the majority of their time treating patients.

Three Things CEOs Must Do

Despite lacking formal business education and having to deal with both the complexity of practicing dentistry and managing the practice, the orthodontist must still fill the role of a CEO. The following are three critical business practices that all CEOs use to achieve success:

1. Monitor the metrics.

All CEOs must understand the metrics that provide the overall picture of their company’s performance. For an orthodontic office, this involves evaluating the data on production, collections, overhead, profitability, staff labor percentages of revenue, referral sources, treatment coordinator conversion rates, number of starts, patients in observation, and overdue debonds. By analyzing these metrics, the doctor and office manager will be able to discern the practice’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This analysis will allow for excellent planning for both the short and long term.

2. Develop highly efficient and effective management systems. 

For maximum efficiency and effectiveness, an orthodontist must provide their staff with specific guidelines on duties and production targets related to management systems including scheduling, patient financial management, collections, case presentation, clinical schedules, clinical time analysis, customer service, and marketing.

3. Act as a day-to-day leader.

There is no one leadership style that CEOs must use for success. Some orthodontists are very driven and others are much more relaxed. Some orthodontists are always energetic and enthusiastic, while others are analytical and more reserved. All of these styles can work well as long as they are authentic to the doctor as the leader and CEO and are paired with a positive, caring approach. In today’s world, employees want authentic leaders they believe have their best interest in mind. Once you’ve determined your style, employ team motivation, mentoring and coaching to keep your team engaged and help them reach their highest potential.

Every orthodontist that owns a practice is a CEO. It’s not something that can be abdicated or delegated. In addition to your daily clinical duties, you must keep focused on the three areas outlined above for successful CEO performance. OP

Roger P. Levin, DDS, executive founder, Dental Business Study Clubs—Dentistry’s only All-Business Study Clubs, the next generation of referral marketing for orthodontists. For more information, call 833-DBSCLUBS or visit