Speaker Spotlight – May 2021

Speaker Spotlight with: Dr. Toni Surace

Practice ownership is more about managing a team than it is about clinical dentistry. Just being a good dentist is not enough to make you a good business owner."


Dr. Toni Surace graduated from Melbourne University in Dental Science in 1995 and formed her practice, Smile Style Dental in 2000.  As a Principal Dentist, Dr. Surace went through the Momentum Management Program and found by implementing procedures, protocols and systems, she could run her practice remotely and leverage her time. This enabled her to be selective in the type dentistry that she personally did and allowed her to fulfil her other passion of helping dentists run their business more effectively and efficiently. She then became a coach and trainer at Momentum Management and loved it so much that she decided to buy the company!

Today as the head of Momentum Management, Toni has become a renowned international presenter where she is able to draw on her own experiences as well as her clients to help others tackle any issue impacting their practice. As the winner of the ADIA Dental Industry Professional for the Year in 2012, she was formally acknowledged by the industry for the much-needed work she does to assist other Dentists.

To further assist dental practices, Dr. Surace has also written a book titled “Be Exceptional – 50 Dental Practice Systems to Kill Average and Wow Even Your Mother-in-Law”. Dr. Surace further assists dentists by addressing questions concerning the dental community within her Q & A column “Best Practices” in Australasian Dentist. 

Toni is an enthusiastic, energetic presenter that delivers high value at every course she presents. She has formal training in team building and team management, positive psychology, digital marketing, business and leadership. Toni is passionate about people and dentistry. In her role as international presenter, coach, trainer and mentor to dental practices, she thoroughly enjoys assisting people to grow within dental practice management, marketing and communication.

Toni is changing dentist’s lives and lifestyles every day. She is passionate about people and passionate about dentistry!

Did you find that having five years experience post- graduation sufficient to start your own business? What were the benefits and challenges you faced?

Does anyone ever have enough knowledge to start their own business?! I wish I knew then what I know now! I think there comes a time when you realise that working for other practices is not right for you anymore and that it is time to take a giant leap of faith in yourself. I had got to a point where I could not find a practice to work in that shared a similar clinical philosophy to me. I am very much a preventative dentist who loves to practice biomimetic dentistry. I often found I was not able to provide clinical options that I believed were the correct ones for my patients. I was ‘encouraged’ to place crowns etc. when I believed a well-done composite would have been more beneficial for the patient and I decided that I had enough, and I would buy my own business. I was very fortunate to have an extremely supportive family and accountant by my side who made the transition into ownership relatively easy. I was also able to draw on my experience in running a practice for an absent owner when I worked in country Victoria. My 2 years in the country gave me a lot of confidence, both clinical and business. I had no one to refer to, no one to discuss cases with and I just had to learn how to do things on my own! Confidence is paramount if you want to succeed in dentistry!

One very early challenge was my first day in my own practice that I had purchased from a dentist who had been practicing for 20 years. I remember my concern about having full books of patients and not even thinking about staff. The night before I started on my first day, the DA called in sick. I had no idea what to do and didn’t even know the name of temp agencies, so I panicked until I called one of my previous bosses for support. That was not the end of it! The next day when I was seeing patients, the receptionist came and told me that unless I paid her $5 more per hour, she was leaving! I had no idea how to respond, so I panicked and said yes. What a bad move….  A year later, she was still causing issues but by then I had found my footing as a practice owner and was able to deal with the situation in a better way. Practice ownership is more about managing a team than it is about clinical dentistry. Just being a good dentist is not enough to make you a good business owner. I wish I had known this back then!

How did you transition from being an in-chair clinician to working remotely? How long was this process?

I was practicing in my own business for about 10 years before I was able to ‘autopilot’. There was a lot of water that went under the bridge during that time, and I have to say, life was not easy for me as a business owner, mum and wife. To be perfectly honest, I struggled greatly with anxiety, depression and perfectionistic tendencies that after about 5 years of trying to balance all of my hats, I had a nervous breakdown and tried to commit suicide. I was lucky, I survived but I still remember the feeling of hopelessness, the mental pain and stress that I just wanted to stop and taking my life seemed like the only answer.

Once again, I had an incredible support team by my side and once they knew there was an issue, they were there to help. I didn’t talk to anyone about my issues, didn’t ask for help and that proved to be the cause of my demise. My family wouldn’t let me go back to work without getting help. I did every practice management course under the sun in Australia and overseas, and I was able to implement systems and protocols that made the business more about my team than myself ,and that allowed me to practice 3 days a week. ‘Mummy hours’, rather than 5.5 days per week full time. After a few years of working this way, and after multiple requests for help from my colleagues, I decided to put my practice on ‘autopilot’ and run it remotely, while I helped people through my company, Momentum Management. One of the key requests I get is for help with systems and enabling owners to buy multiple practices, work less and still have a great income. I know that on average, it takes approximately 3 years from going into work full time to working exclusively remotely. It takes a lot of work and effort, but it is worth it!

You are now the Managing Director and Director at Momentum Management and Practice Entrepreneur Network, respectively. Tell us more about these businesses. What courses/ words of encouragement would recommend to others thinking of venturing into the business world/ new practice owners?

Momentum Management is a company that helps dentists become the best possible version of themselves. We teach communication skills, leadership, practice systems and processes and we help people start their own businesses and live out their dreams. We are all about life and business mastery. I am very proud of my company, which I am involved in on a hands-on level. Everyone we employ has been working in the dental profession for many years and we focus on building a support team in practices, so dentists can do more of what they really enjoy rather than being tied down by business. We give dentists freedom!

Practice Entrepreneur Network is a partnership that I own with Emanuel Recupero from Dental ED. We have combined high-end clinical education together with communication and practice management skills to help dentists grow and provide superior outcomes for their patients. Check out our Facebook Group Dental Evolution, we provide free continuing education for dental professionals.

If you are considering business ownership, I can highly recommend you attend one of our Mini Business Programs. This is a 3 day course on practice management and business ownership that will help you understand what it takes to run a dental practice in 2021! (We will be able to offer a discount to your group if you would like!)

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