Three in five dentists will be embezzled by a staff member over the course of their career. Here’s why it happens so often — and what you can do to improve your odds.

We’ve all experienced the emotional rollercoaster of having a friend betray our trust. It can take time to recover mentally, but with a solid support system, we typically end up getting back on our feet.

In a guest column with Incisal Edge dental lifestyle magazine three experts share their perspective:

“What if one of your employees commits the betrayal, though? Nobody wants to imagine that — which is exactly what an embezzler is counting on. What makes embezzlement different from other theft is that an embezzler is in a position of responsibility and trust over what he steals. The very word calls to mind a rogue’s gallery of almost swashbuckling Hollywood criminals. Reality, unsurprisingly, is different.

American Dental Association research suggests, astonishingly, that more than 60 percent of dentists will fall prey to staff embezzlement at some point, often suffering losses of $100,000 before they realize it. Why such a high incidence rate? One, dental practices operate on a business model different from most industries’. Many companies can avoid delegating administrative oversight to just one or two people, but most practices generate sizeable revenues with a small workforce. An ADA survey from 2010 showed that 53 percent of dentists had between three and nine staffers, and average gross monthly revenue of $122,000. Particularly in solo practices, weighty ownership responsibilities often leave little time for managerial tasks.

Another complication: the fact that so much of what dentists do is paid for by third parties. Billing of this sort removes one of the only means of control most business owners can rely on: the involvement of the customer in the details of the transaction.”

What, then, should you do if you suspect the worst?

Learn five key tactics in Incisal Edge


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WILLIAM J. AQUILINO, JD, MBA, MSCHR is associate general counsel at Benco; he has represented and advised dental and medical professionals for more than two decades.

KAY HUFF, RDH is Benco Dental’s director of dental coaching; she has been helping practices achieve their goals for 30 years.

DAVID HARRIS, CFE, CFF, CPA, CMA, MBA is chief executive officer of Prosperident, the world’s largest business specializing in the investigation of financial crimes committed against dentists. All three have had considerable contact with dental-practice embezzlers.