Friday, February 27, 2015

Organic Marketing: A Real Life Study

100% grass fed, no hormones added, no artificial preservatives, farm-raised organic beef.
And, you’re hungry now, right? Go grab a snack and then come back and read my blog…

If you’re a “carnivore-connoisseur” like me, you know what a difference there is in such a quality cut of meat. It just tastes different. Like, a WHOLE lot different! It’s a tenderer, fresher, higher quality variant. Its post-operative effect on your digestive system is different, too (yes, I went there).

So what the heck does this have to do with a dental blog, you ask? Well, I thought it would be a poignant analogy for selective dental marketing in today’s crazy world. I honestly get an email, call, piece of literature, or live sales person every single day I’m at the office regarding some form of potential marketing:

It’ll gain you 200 new patients in a week!
You’ll literally double your bottom line overnight!
Do this, and you’ll put the dentist down the street out of business!
You’ll lose 10 pounds from using this product!

Well, I may have thrown that last one in there by mistake, but you get the idea. These are all very tempting sales pitches. Ones that I’m sure some dentists jump at or these companies wouldn’t be in business. But I have news for you—they’re extremely misleading and, most of the time, downright false.

I call it window dressing marketing. Sure, if you have an unending supply of money, do everything in the book. Commercials, radio spots, newspaper ads, magazines, internet, billboards, t-shirt cannons at the Little League game, you name it. You’ll be the talk of your peers, but you’ll also be out a heck of a lot of cash. I think we could easily spend $75,000 a month on the various marketing programs I’m presented with.

You undoubtedly will gain a few patients out if it but, in the end, what are you looking to spend PER new patient attained? This is something you should know or at least decipher before you sign up for these “slam dunk” marketing methods. And when I say this, I say it with experience in trying these tactics, and in most cases wishing I had spent the money on something else worthwhile. Like a WaterLase® laser….

I kid.

Do you know what really gets the patients in the door, and keeps them coming back?

Being a real, honest, and available dentist to your patients. Treating them like family. Truly caring about their well-being, treating them fairly clinically and with your procedure costs. Not nickel and diming, or asking them to take out a second mortgage on their house to pay for their dental work. Spending quality time at their appointments to find out how they’re really doing; asking about their family, kids, and lives. Shaking hands. Giving hugs. THIS is what gets you those lifelong patients everyone so desires. Let’s call it organic marketing.

Certainly there are basic needs you have to meet to get your practice’s name out there. A good website, social media platforms, SEO/online review building. Toss in some community events, supporting local businesses/causes—all good and necessary methods that also won’t break the marketing bank. These are the backbones of how we’ve built up a pretty successful practice through organic marketing. When you do these basic things, and you treat your patients like family, you’ll be impressed at how many people they in turn tell about their experience at your office. People see through the froufrou nowadays. It’s not just about a pretty (or poorly produced, in the case of most I’ve seen) TV commercial anymore. People want content/depth/honesty. They want to know that someone THEY know had a pleasant, painless experience at the practice they’re looking to join.

This is not a blog meant to put down all of the marketing methodologies that are out there today, but simply a call to action to my peers of 1) doing your due diligence by researching and selecting only those methods that pay off in the end and spending your well-earned money wisely; and 2) being able to back up that window dressing marketing you’ve thrown out to the masses.

So, let’s start ridding ourselves of the highly processed, preservative-filled, decade-old marketing and move toward a more organic program. Your wallet will thank you but, more importantly, your patients will be happier, healthier, and more apt to tell everyone they know what an awesome dentist you really are!

Donald Murray III, DMD

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

It’s that moment when you hand the mirror to your patient and she says, “Awww, I didn’t know my teeth could look pretty!” It’s a reminder why I love this career.

It started with a simple suggestion to a young, mid-20s female patient. The young lady first arrived at our office this fall with a toothache, which led to our recommendation for comprehensive care. Being highly motivated to avoid a toothache in the future, she returned for an exam. It was at that time that I simply asked, “Is there anything that you would like to change about the appearance of your teeth?”

Let me first point out that it took me a very long time to get comfortable enough to ask patients about the appearance of their teeth. Early on, I felt as though I was being intrusive by asking, “Do you like they way your teeth look?” Once I was over the personal angst of asking, it became much easier. Asking these types of questions opened a dialogue in which patients could tell me what they did or didn’t like about their teeth.

Asking the question as well as adding a complete series of extraoral photographs have improved my ability to better see what can be improved upon. I can’t believe that I practiced dentistry for so many years without consistently taking extraoral photos.

Returning to the patient of the day…she has generalized white mottling of the enamel, with the mottling being more significant and brown on the facials of teeth No. 8 and 9.

The conversation was simple: I asked if she had a desire to change the appearance of her teeth and she said she didn’t think there was anything that she could do. We discussed both direct resins and porcelain as options. She was upfront and honest and stated that she really was mostly concerned about “the brown spots”; the white “speckles” didn’t cause her much concern. At her appointment, she was still a bit confused as to how I would be able to “fix this”—pointing to her teeth and questioning whether they would look like normal teeth. We again reviewed the process and after our discussion, it became clear that much of her confusion was based on the fact that she’s only had amalgam restorations and couldn’t understand how the bonding would look normal.

After gaining her consent, we proceeded with conservative preparations and blending of many shades to mimic the appearance of the adjacent dentition. Upon final polishing and checks, I felt we had significantly improved the esthetics of this young woman’s teeth and I was confident that she would be pleased with the end result. She was ecstatic. She pulled her lip back to look at her teeth and absolutely beamed.

This is justification for all those days that you want to throw in the towel—those days when you have the feeling that you can “no longer do this job!” This patient exemplifies my desire to continue to learn so that I can improve my skills, my desire, and my experience to provide only the very best for all of my patients.

Colleen B. Delacy, DDS, FAGD

Friday, February 20, 2015

Winter Woes

I was really having writer’s block for this post until this morning. I thought about voicing my frustrations with the weather this week. We had to close the office Monday due to the snow and ice that blew in on Sunday night, causing all the schools in the area to close. When that happens, we have found that we might as well close the office, too, because the staff with school children need a solution, many of our patients are of the age in which they don’t need to be traversing the roads and sidewalks, and I even welcome the rare event to stay home. So, I won’t complain about the subsequent cancellations and no-shows for the past two days that the office has been open. I’ve always heard that the best way to find out who your friends are is to complain about your problems.

I would like to talk about something that might help our Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) members. I have a young patient that is moving out of state. We saw her for a procedure this morning and she is need of some restorative care now for which we will not be able to provide before she moves. I decided to help her out by searching for AGD member dentists in her upcoming new location, and I made some interesting discoveries.

First, I went to the AGD website,, and did a search for dentists in the area. The new site is very easy to use and by merely entering the city and state, I was able to locate about 20 dentists in the city boundaries of her new home. I found two offices that looked promising for her, based on her needs and the information on the practice websites. She was impressed with the ability to do this, not to mention appreciative of my efforts on her behalf. I did the search chairside while waiting for her anesthetic to take effect, so little “extra” time was spent (besides, my schedule is quite open today). I was surprised to find that only a few of the AGD dentists listed had websites. The two choices I recommended to her did have websites. Enough said?

Second, I showed her how to get to the AGD website on her own in order to do her own search, and also so she could see the educational areas for patients. I also familiarized her with our website. While I was doing this, my two assistants commented that it had been a while since they had looked at our office website. I suddenly realized that I, as well, had been negligent in reviewing my own site and that I needed to do that on a regular basis. Living in a university town, there is a high turnover of young patients who search for most everything via the Internet, and we are finding more of our new patients, of all ages, turning to the Internet first to search for services. Many of those find their way to our website, so we need to keep it up-to-date.

Probably if you’re reading this, I’m preaching to the choir. The AGD has done a great job with the organization’s website. It has many valuable resources for members and patients. Make a point to visit it and become familiar with it. If you’re already doing so, encourage your AGD friends to start using it. If you know dentists who are not AGD members, show them the site and use it as a good recruitment tool. Some of the dentists who I noticed in my search did not have websites listed. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have one, but they may have failed to update their AGD profile with the website addresses. So, check your profile to see if your website is there and if you don’t have a website, seriously consider getting one. Don’t forget to keep your website current with new procedures and services as you add them.

I am going to make it a rule to review our website monthly during a staff meeting to be sure everyone in the office is engaged with the site. I also am going to be sure that they are familiar with the AGD site, as well as any other organizational site that I have access to. With the flood of information available today, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you’re drowning. I intend to attempt more than just tread water. I want to get a speed boat!

I apologize to my colleagues in the north and northeast for my whininess about the weather. I understand that Punxsutawney Phil has a bounty on his head.

Looking forward to spring,

Terry G. Box, DDS, MAGD

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I Tried to Hire an Associate Today

It did not go well. My attempt to hire an associate did not go well.

Much like your office, my office is busy these days—crazy busy on some days. I get home exhausted and not looking forward to coming back for more the next day. I need help and some days off.

I placed an ad online and received several résumés to review. For the most part, they were very nice résumés from some talented people.

I set up a few interviews. I liked a couple of the applicants and felt they might fit into my practice.

However, this is where it all fell apart. I won’t use absolute numbers since salaries vary by region. Let’s just say each candidate was asking for several hundred dollars per day or 25 percent of production—whichever is greater. This is a lot more than I ever made as an associate. Yes, I know times change, but I also was competing against a lot fewer dentists for many more available positions. It certainly is not that way now.

Interestingly enough, everyone asked for the EXACT same salary. I found that very curious.

I crunched the numbers. If I paid the applicants what they wanted, they would be making as much money as me! Yes, I would be paying an associate to come into my office so that he or she can take home more or less the pay that I make! Of course, they would have no employee headaches though, like payroll taxes, property taxes, etc.

My wife’s suggestion was for me to just sell the practice and find work as an associate. She figures she’d have a husband who is much less stressed, but bringing home the same salary.
Funny how that suggestion has remained stuck in my head. 

As I crunched the numbers even further, I realized something else. Let’s assume overhead at 75 percent, a number that is generally used. Of course it varies, but let’s use that for our discussion. If I pay the associate 25 percent, my total overhead now becomes 100 percent. How much is left for me? What financial incentive do I have to bring them into the practice?

It would make no business sense for me to hire any of them. You often hear new graduates say they can’t find any positions. It’s a shame.

If you’ve recently hired an associate, how did you make it work? Or do you? Is my math wrong?

Andy Alas, DDS

Monday, February 16, 2015

Animal Dentistry

Yesterday, my first patient of the day was a 19-year-old Malayan tiger. Nineteen is getting old for a tiger, and our patient was suffering from resoptive lesions common in many species of cats—especially as they age. The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb., is regularly ranked among the best zoos in the country. The endodontist I work with at Creighton Dental School performs all of the root canals for the animals at the zoo. Whenever a lion, a bear, or a monkey breaks a major tooth, he goes in to help out the vets. The previous restorative dentist had recently moved, so I was in the right place at the right time.

Treatment is often performed on the floor of the cage. However, our tiger had other things that needed to be evaluated, so they brought him into the main hospital. After tranquilizing him, it took about 12 people to carry him in! The vets evaluated him for osteoporosis and they harvested sperm. Then it was my turn. During his annual exam, they had noticed resorptive lesions along the gumlines. Tiger dental anatomy is very similar to dogs and cats, only bigger, so I had at least some idea of what to expect. The previous dentist had talked me through her technique and materials. The first step is to remove the calculus so you can visualize the lesion properly. This step took the longest as there was a lot of serious scraping to do. The next step was to remove the gingival tissue that had grown into the defects. Hemostasis was the main issue I had while working. We all know how much inflamed tissue like to bleed, so with lots of pressure and lots of viscostat there was some semblance of hemostasis. Then I treated them like any other root surface lesions—etch, prime, and bond, and restore with glass ionomer. We had borrowed a portable hand piece unit, but I could not get the high speed to run. So, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to polish as well as I would have liked. Hopefully the patient won’t complain. Once I finished, it was time to wake up the tiger. They rushed him out and the vet let us know later that he had recovered well. 

For anyone who is interested, there are other chances to get involved with animals. A friend of mine recently started volunteering at a humane society. She is an MD and she assists the vets during treatment. She is a big animal lover, and now she gets to help animals and learn from the vets. If you have an interest in animals, I suggest talking to your vet or local animal shelter to find out if they need any help. For me, treating the tiger will always be a highlight of my career. 

Sarah Meyer, DDS

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hearts and Flowers

While trying to think of a topic for this blog, I was torn between using either Friday the 13th or Valentine’s Day for inspiration. My plans for both nights include wine, dinner at home, and sweatpants. Maybe there will be some scary movie- or romantic comedy-watching as well. If you thought the life of a dentist was exciting, wait until you become a dentist and a parent—then the fun never ends.

So let’s talk about love. It’s nice to have it in your personal life, but it’s also nice to have it in your work life. As health care professionals, it is rewarding to feel loved and appreciated by your patients. It motivates us to try harder and become even better at what we do.

So, how many of you generally feel the love as a dentist in your practice from your patients? I would have to go with maybe 15 to 25 percent of my patients seem friendly and generally happy to be in the office and are, for the most part, excited to see me. These are obviously my favorite patients to treat. (A subgroup of this category is “parents of young children.” For them, coming in and getting their teeth drilled is like a vacation. They are usually asleep in the chair before I even get out my syringe, and they are so patient and understanding. They are the best!)

We have a good 50 percent who are what I would like to call neutral. Not too excited, but not sporting a frown before you even walk into the exam room—overall, a typical New Yorker personality. I enjoy these folks as well. This is my personality, so we get along and understand each other.

Then we get to the last 15 to 25 percent. These are the ones who really make you work for their affection. It’s the person who blurts out, “I really hate the dentist!” as soon as you walk into the room. The patients with that permanent cagey look on their face when you say you would like to take a look at their teeth and see what is going on. They may refuse to take X-rays. They may even rush out of the office after their cleaning, because “they don’t have time for the exam.” Sometimes I wish they would just give me a chance. I don’t think I’m so bad!

How do you get these patients to fall in love with you? (Not for real—that is just inappropriate; please, do not hit on your patients.) I am a big fan of the “kill them with kindness” approach. As they say, you catch more flies with honey. Your efforts may seem to go unnoticed the first few times. I would say a positive sign is if the patient returns in six months for a recall visit. They may not seem too enthusiastic, but hey, they returned. They may not like the dentist, but at least you are the one they dislike the least. Sometimes you may be pleasantly surprised to discover they really do belong in that first category of your favorites; they just needed some time to get comfortable with you.

Finally, there are, unfortunately, a few patients who deserve no love at all. Every dental practice has them, and their degrees of unpleasantness can vary. I consider myself a tolerant and patient person when it comes to patient care, but sometimes even I cannot live with certain things. My biggest pet peeve is when patients are rude to the staff in the office. They constantly yell at the receptionist over the phone when they do not get their way, or they are rude to the assistants when they try to take care of them. These are the ones with whom I try to conserve my mental energy. I don’t attempt to win them over. Some things are just not worth it.

Have a great weekend!

Lilya Horowitz, DDS

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Finding Value

Where do you find your value? 

As an aside, I just finished the first season of “Breaking Bad.” I have to say that I don’t think it’s as good as everyone says. It’s a bit slow. But it’s in 40-minute segments, so if you have a rainy afternoon, you can watch half a season. Everyone says it’s so awesome, so I am assuming it’s going to get better. If it isn’t, please warn me now. 

As you may know, I am a huge Florida Gators basketball fan. Man, we have had some great years. But this year…wow! We are 12-11. We played the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, and it was battle royal. What a game. We were up by 9 and then up by 2 at the half.  Then it was us just holding on. Soon, they went up by 5, but we were able to get it to 2 with the ball. We went on to miss four straight free throws, and they didn’t miss anything—we lost by 6. I was proud of our guys, but that is just how the season has gone. But when we have a season like this, I don’t watch ESPN SportsCenter or other games. I go into hiding (and hope Duke loses).  So lately, I have been doing a lot of hiding. I hope it gets better. 

On to the topic du jour: Where do you get your worth? Where do you find your value? Do you get it from your practice? Do you get your value from your patients? This is a tough one. 

I am 45 years old, and I have been practicing for almost 20 years. I love what I do. And over the years, I have learned a lot. I have learned how to do better dentistry. I have learned how to manage people (the people who work for me and the people who I serve). I have learned how to manage my time (this is debatable), and I have learned what a profit/loss statement is.  

Being a sole practitioner, you have to be a fast learner, and you have to continue to learn every day. Once you think that you have mastered something, another weakness appears. One thing that I have learned to do is not to be so sensitive. Let me explain.

As dentists, we love to please. We can please 99 percent of people, but that still doesn’t satisfy us. It lets us breathe a bit, but satisfying people like us...that is a tough one. You see, there is just that one person who doesn’t like us. Why, why, why, why? Why don’t they like us? And why does it make us feel so insecure?

Over the past 20 years, I have gotten better at this, mainly because I don’t have the time or the energy to care. I know that sounds bad, but it is true. I have four kids—a 15-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl, an 11-year-old boy, and a 5-year-old boy. I am busy. 

I crank it out all day from when I wake up at 5:50 a.m. (my first patient is at 7 a.m.) to when I finish work at 4 p.m. I get a call from home, like clockwork, at about 4:08 p.m. I am the assistant coach of my 11-year-old’s baseball team and his practice starts at 5 p.m. My daughter is on swim team, and that also starts at 5 p.m. I am going to get home at 4:45 p.m., and both kids are going to come out of the house, all ready for their respective sports. 

“Well, why doesn’t your wife do that?” you might ask. Well, she is already on her way to pick up my 15-year-old from track practice, which ends at 5 p.m. on the other end of town. She usually has our 5-year-old in the car with her, and he eventually falls asleep on the ride while saying, “I’m not tired.” And, on the weekends, well, it is a lot of the same. Up at 4:50 a.m. for a run, then baseball practice at 9 a.m., and sometimes swim meets or games. Then church stuff all day Sunday.  

Anyway, I also realize that people bring their baggage to our collective works. Some people are making a ton of money, and they live week to week. Then they break a tooth. Who is going to get the brunt of their frustration?  Some people are having trouble with their marriages or their kids, or maybe they’re having house repair issues. And some are just unhappy people. So back to my original questions: Where do you get your worth? Where do you find value?

Do you find value in your practice? How about your staff?  I love, love, love my staff. I try to build an environment that is fun, mutually trusting, and beneficial. And, like my patients, I want my staff to like me all of the time. But guess what? I have a photo from a staff trip we went on about five years ago, and half of the staff members in that photo are not even at my office anymore.  

Do you find value in your salary or what is in your bank accounts? I want to say that I fall into this trap. I find value in my bottom line. But let me tell you this, my friends, doing so puts you on a slippery slope. We all know your financial status could change in just a matter of weeks. You get hurt. The compressor goes down. Next thing you know, that $50,000 saving account is down to $10,000—and then you are depressed for a couple months.  

How about your stuff? Don’t even try it. The Bible talks about not putting your faith in things that could be moth eaten or rust. Things we buy get old, and they lose that “new” feeling really fast. That feeling is so fleeting. You know you can buy a sweet new BMW and think you are too cool. But how long will that last? You just hope they don’t change the body style in the next few years so your car still looks brand new. (This is why I drive a 14-year-old car; it always feels old.)  

Thankfully, we can find value in the dentistry we are striving to do. And, we can find value in…our values. We can find value in our family, and in what you are trying to do with your kids. You can find value in your relationships. You can find value in your religion. This is the value I am talking about—the kind that will not rust or be moth eaten.

Have a great day!

John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD


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The statements expressed on this blog to include the bloggers postings do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), nor do they imply endorsement by the AGD.