Itinerant dental specialists are growing in numbers and popularity. Due to dentists’ declining income and patients’ increased demand for special dental services, these specialists are in high demand. Still, many dentists are reluctant to work with an itinerant dental specialist. They have questions about how it works or aren’t sure if it’s right for their practice. In this article, we’ll talk about what an itinerant dental specialist does and how they can help your business.
What is an Itinerant Dental Specialist?
An itinerant dental specialist travels to other dentists’ offices to perform services. Itinerant dental specialists may rotate between several different dentists’ offices on a weekly or monthly basis, or they may be contracted on an as-needed basis. This differs from the traditional model, where dentists referred patients out to specialists.
A wide variety of specialists may choose to travel—periodontists, endodontists, and oral surgeons can all be itinerant dental specialists. They perform services such as dental implants, extractions, or root canals, all in the offices of a general dentist.
Itinerant Dental Specialists vs. the Traditional Model
How does using an itinerant dental specialist compare to the traditional model of referring patients out? There are several advantages to working with a traveling specialist.
First, general dentists lose money when they refer patients out. Each year, dentists refer out billions of dollars’ worth of services to specialists. By using an itinerant dental specialist, these services are kept in the office. The dentist now controls the billing and contracts with the local traveling specialist to perform the treatment services. The dentist and specialist will agree on a treatment sharing percentage which typically includes sharing the costs associated with performing the treatment.
Without an itinerant dental specialist, dentists may feel that the only way to keep their clients in the house is to hire a full-time specialist. This can leave already struggling dentists paying another salary. Other dentists have chosen to perform minor procedures themselves, such as extractions. While this may work financially, it means patients are not receiving the high-quality services they would get from a dedicated specialist. The assumption of treatment liability becomes a major hurdle for private practice dentists who feel compelled to perform specialty dental services. When case treatment becomes compromised such as when there is a catastrophic failure of an implant, the cost, and complications of remediating these cases rise substantially. It is simply a matter of numbers. Private practice dentists typically don’t see enough cases in a month or year to provide the patient with the necessary care and experience when cases become unexpectedly challenged. An oral surgeon, on the other hand, will often see 10-50 times more implant cases in a month than the average individual dentist. In addition, the ongoing education that an oral surgeon goes through every year is utterly dedicated to these types of specialty treatments whereas a general dentist may have different educational and training priorities.
There are also advantages for specialists who choose to travel. Itinerant dental specialists can travel full time and avoid the high cost of renting and maintain medical office space and running their own private practice. They may also decide to have their own practice, then travel specific days out of the month to supplement their income. This works well for dental specialists who don’t have enough clients to fill their schedule. It is also an extremely powerful method for strengthening the relationships with their existing referral base who are undoubtedly being courted by other local specialists.
Dental specialists who are in high demand may especially benefit from traveling. Often, dentists and patients are willing to pay a premium for itinerant dental specialists. Highly qualified itinerant dental specialists can make hundreds or thousands of dollars in a days’ work, without worrying about the overhead costs that come with a private practice.
Finally, there are major benefits for patients. When patients require special services, a referral to an outside specialist can be a hassle. The patient has to call the specialist, set up an appointment, and go to an office they do not know for a procedure that is expensive and complex in nature. There is also more paperwork involved for the patient. Not surprisingly, many patients don’t follow through when they receive a referral from their dentist and in many cases, the patient never returns to the original dental office. With an itinerant dental specialist, patients don’t have to go anywhere—they can receive treatment right in their regular dentists’ office. Studies have demonstrated that patients are much more likely to accept treatment when the treatment is provided within the office of the general dentist.
A Growing Market
The market for itinerant dental specialists is growing fast. More dentists are employing traveling specialists rather than referring patients out. This is due to a number of factors, specifically, the rising costs of running a dental practice, dentists’ declining income, and the easy availability of itinerant dental specialists.
As the cost of doing business rises and dentists’ income falls, many dentists are looking for new ways to increase revenue. Adding the services of an itinerant dental specialist provides dentists an opportunity to bring in more money. This cash flow would have been going to outside specialists’ offices previously but is now shared between the general dentist and the specialist.
The internet has made it easier for dentists to locate specialists. There are several sites that help dentists connect with itinerant dental specialists who can perform the services they need. Sites like Dental Specialist Network and Synergy Specialists provide a pool of dental specialists from which dentists can select on a contracted basis. These services can be expensive but they do provide a nice resource for dentists looking for help within their practice.
One of the fastest-growing of these sites is MyPractice9. MyPractice9 is a bit different than other sites that connect dentists and specialists. On MyPractice9, dentists and specialists can both register and search for what they’re looking for. Dentists post jobs that they need to be completed—for example, a dentist may have a patient in need of an implant. Specialists can search and find jobs that are in their geographic area and area of expertise. By matching general dentists and itinerant dental specialists in this way, MyPractice9 is creating a new kind of market for dental services. Mypractice9 is free to dentists and they charge a flat rate monthly membership fee to specialists.
The advantages to dentists partnering up with itinerant dental specialists are numerous. By working with a traveling specialist, dentists can save money and provide better care for patients. Now that it has become easier than ever for dentists and itinerant