Tiburon, CA, April 27, 2007 --(PR.com
)-- The average dentist reports that his or her dental practice has been embezzled. In a recent dental marketing
survey conducted by TheWealthyDentist.com, 59% of dentists reported that they had discovered evidence of theft. The remaining 41% have never been able to prove an embezzlement took place.
Dental embezzlement is not a new occurrence, but it has made headlines recently. In Olympia, Washington, a former dental office bookkeeper and her husband pleaded guilty to taking $1.9 million over seven years. The dental practice they stole from was not insured against theft and does not expect to recover more than a fraction of their losses. The practice's two dentists say it has set back their retirement plans by ten years.
Many dentists reported similar stories of cash payments ending up in employees' pockets. In Utah: "Our office manager would take cash payments and keep the money; she got away with about $10K." In Massachusetts: "The front desk was giving receipts for less than the actual amount paid by patients." In Tennessee: "My office manager was holding back insurance and patient checks and depositing them in place of cash payments."
In many cases, doctors' internal monitoring systems caught embezzlements before they became too large. "In my 24-year career it has happened twice," said an Arizona dentist. "Both times my systems proved effective. The thefts were discovered in less than a week's time from occurrence, and the employee confessed." A California doctor had a similar experience: "We caught it before it got too big, about $2,000, but it was not a pleasant experience."
The losses reported by dentists in this poll ranged the gamut from small to large. Some complained of stolen stamps or lost toilet paper. According to a Missouri dentist, dental practices suffer from more kinds of theft than one can count: "Gold, stamps, crediting patients accounts, writing their name on checks from patients, taking cash."
Though it's not quite embezzlement, many doctors complained of employees who waste time and cost the practice money. "The only embezzlement/theft/fraud I am aware of is time," said a North Carolina dentist. "I do know is that time has been stolen from my practice by people coming in late, leaving early and using work time for personal things," said one California dentist. Another agreed, saying, "I once had to fire a front office employee for 'creatively scheduling' overtime for herself as well as participating in other suspicious activities that unfortunately added up to a lot of lost revenue for my practice."
Theft of tooth-whitening supplies was cited by multiple dentists. An Ohio dentist discovered that her bleaching supplies had been stolen by the assistant of a doctor with whom she shared office space. The assistant was practicing dentistry without a license out of her home and charging for her services. Another dentist opened his office one morning to find bleaching trays left out that matched the receptionist's boyfriend's teeth.
For some, the emotional betrayal of an employee's embezzlement was even worse than the lost income. "My best front desk employee in my 25 years of practice and trusted friend was the person with her fingers in the till," recounted a Minnesota dentist. "Now honesty is the only trait I look for when I hire new employees." A Texas doctor cited the toll of addiction: "A trusted and loved assistant began using meth and started stealing money from the practice as she was able. Her drug problem was finally discovered and she was let go. The theft was relatively minor, but the betrayal was huge."
Another Texas dentist was irate to discover that although his thieving receptionist had embezzled from previous employers, none would tell him. After he found the receptionist was covering his endorsed checks with her own signature, he fired her and confronted one of her past supervisors. "He told me that they were investigating her on similar charges, but his attorney told him he could not discuss it with anyone while they were building a case against her. Thanks a lot for the heads up when we called for a reference!"
"While the results of this poll might tend to suggest that 41% of dental practices have not been embezzled, that's not necessarily true - it only means they can't prove or don't suspect anyone has embezzled from them! It really highlights the importance of checking employee references and monitoring for theft," said The Wealthy Dentist founder Jim Du Molin, a dental management consultant who has worked closely with dentists for many years. "I've heard more stories of embezzlement than I can count. Some are heartbreaking, some are idiotic, some are worthy of a soap opera. But they all have one thing in common - trusting the wrong people."
For additional information on this and other Wealthy Dentist surveys, as well as more dentist comments, visit www.thewealthydentist.com/survey.
About The Wealthy Dentist:
The Wealthy Dentist is a dental marketing and practice management resource featuring dental consultant Jim Du Molin. The site offer a weekly dental newsletters and dental survey that are viewed by thousands of dentists across the United States and Canada. The Wealthy Dentist is a sister company of the Internet Dental Alliance, Inc. (www.internetdentalalliance.com). IDA is the largest provider of dental marketing websites, online patient newsletters and denistl directories in North America.
Jim Du Molin