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

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Tale of Two Offices

In previous blogs, I’ve made passing references to my rural home office. Such an office might seem anachronistic today, especially when large group facilities are becoming the norm. So how did I end up with such an arrangement, clearly bucking the trend?

About 25 years ago in my role as a professional, I felt the need to develop closer ties to my community. This was hard to do in the dense suburb outside the Washington Beltway where I rented a suite in a modern medical facility, a facility which sat along a six-lane parking lot/thoroughfare that was generously designated the main commuter artery into Bethesda, Md.

I had recently purchased a home quite a distance away in the last rural corner of my county. It took several years to adjust to the house payments and the expense of running a new office. I also had incorporated comprehensive orthodontics, which had its own startup expenses. Once I felt financially secure, I decided to attach a satellite office to my home, but I found the county regulations daunting—the medical facility in which I practiced had already satisfied the myriad of codes for a health care facility, but not my home. However, I persevered through the bureaucratic jungle.

And though the trend was toward multi-dentist, multidiscipline offices with a slew of hygienists and expanded duty auxiliaries, I felt drawn to a practice in my community. After jumping through all of the government hoops, I finally opened a home office with one operatory. Yes, I planned to do my own hygiene—at least for a while. (I now have three operatories and a full staff.)

I soon discovered an unforeseen advantage concerning emergency calls. Although living far from the suburban sprawl, I didn’t mind traveling the distance to Bethesda after hours if a patient had a truly pressing problem. But it always irked me to have this in-person conversation late on a Saturday night:

“Well, how long has this been keeping you up?” I’d ask, only to be answered by a flippant, “It started last Monday, but I didn’t want to take off work. And it’s not really that bad.”


“It’s actually never kept me from sleeping,” the patient would say, which wasn’t what I was told over the phone. Of course, these types of situations should be handled during regular office hours.

Once the home office was opened, I would begin to recite directions to it. Those folks who were really hurting had no problem with the drive, although many thought they might be lost when they passed the dairy farm. But those people who just wanted a convenient time quickly realized how far out the practice was and made an appointment “during the week.” I don’t mind seeing emergencies off hours—it’s part of the job—I just don’t want to be taken advantage of. This was a great way of screening people.

Initially, we were open just one day a week. And, at first, some patients would pay me in kind; like with eggs or venison. I know it sounds quaint, but accepting what the farmers offered helped them to “afford” basic treatment. However, I never traded goat cheese for high-end veneers.

My first local patient called on a Tuesday with a toothache, the day before my home office opened. My Bethesda receptionist gave Bud an appointment first thing on Wednesday morning. He was happy to be seen so soon. We were equally happy. Bud volunteered that he lived across the railroad tracks, “just opposite the country store.”

I went to sleep anticipating my new career move. About 2 a.m., my wife shot out of bed in response to what sounded like a loud explosion. She looked out the window and saw flames in the distance. Rolling over to go back to sleep, I muttered, “Let me know if the fire gets any closer.”

That morning, we awoke to a traffic jam along our country road, which was highly unusual. Commuters occasionally bypassed the congestion on I-270 using our road, but this was something else. Having plenty of time before the office opened, we walked the half mile to the center of “town” to see what was up. A train carrying new Cadillacs had derailed; railroad cars and Caddies were strewn about like Matchbox cars.

A neighbor told us that the home of Mr. and Mrs. Gwyn had been torn off its foundation by a flying railroad car. Their house, now a pile of rubble, was the only one across the tracks, behind the store. As it slowly dawned on me, I inquired if Mr. Gwyn’s first name was Bud.

“Yes,” their neighbor said. They had been taken to the hospital but were basically OK, just a few scrapes and bruises. It was truly a miracle.

That’s when I realized that my first patient would also be my first no-show. But Bud had a pretty good excuse. A week later, I extracted his tooth. He told me that the second scariest thing that ever happened to him was that train wreck. The first was a visit to a dentist years ago. But, in contrast, this procedure was pain-free; he left smiling. After this inauspicious beginning, my new practice grew exponentially.

I soon discovered that this rural area was populated by more than just farmers. Through the Lions Club, the local country club, and our church, I met many professional people who had moved to get away from the congestion: attorneys, university professors, journalists, politicians, and a couple of CIA analysts who can’t really tell you what they do. This allowed me to perform state-of-the-art treatment while helping the generational folks to obtain basic care on a regular basis—without my participating in charitable clinics far from where they lived.

Years later, I was so busy that I couldn’t keep up the pace of maintaining two offices. Although I had a part-time associate in Bethesda, I was basically a solo practitioner working two locations. And our county wouldn’t permit an associate in a home office. I even had to argue for a hygienist, which a bean counter thought might count as a dentist. In the end, my hygienist was allowed to stay and has been with me for more than 15 years.

For sanity’s sake, I had to close one of the offices. That was a hard decision. I’d known the people in my suburban office for years, and I had watched their kids grow up, marry, and have kids of their own. And I’d also made many friends in my rural practice. So which one to close? As I sat in stop-and-go traffic on Route 270, I realized it was a no-brainer. My commute through the kitchen was easier, as my main delay was whether or not to get another cup of coffee.

After I closed my down-county office, I happily discovered that most of my patients followed me to the country. Once in the car, it wasn’t that much further for most people; many found that they lived between the two offices and it was actually easier to drive in the opposite direction of rush hour. And they liked the ambience of our farm animals. Horses, dogs, rabbits, and peacocks are very soothing to patients anticipating dental treatment. I expanded my home office and never looked back. An oral surgeon recently took a cue from me and built a modern facility just across the street. We do a lot of implants together.

Yes, practicing in the country is an anachronism, but it’s one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Jim Rhea, DMD

Friday, February 6, 2015

Piano, Music, and Gifts

His name was Court Stone. A confirmed bachelor, he lived in an old house, in a beautiful old neighbourhood of Toronto, about a 25-minute walk from my house. He looked after his elderly father, who I always heard stories about but never saw. Apparently he had dementia.

Every week, I walked to his house for my one-hour piano lesson. I would often arrive early and sit in the waiting area and listen to the student before me. I loved that waiting room. It had an old harp (out of tune) and a foot pedal, air pump organ. It had all of the stops and buttons that would change how it sounded.

Mr. Stone was a kindly older man in the traditional old British style (but was born in Canada) and he was a brilliant piano teacher. He built an extension onto his house to create a teaching studio that contained two 12-foot Steinway concert grand pianos side by side. Oh, the sound that came out of those pianos.

A typical boy with some musical talent, I was not realizing my potential because I had other things to do than practice. Thankfully, for me, video games, iPods, and other portable electronic devices had yet to be invented, or I would have been lost forever. After some time, and after running out of new excuses as to why I did not have time to practice, he told me to practice or not come back. Whoa! Wake up call. I was so embarrassed I could not tell my parents, so I started to practice. And, before I knew it, I was playing songs that I actually enjoyed hearing and then everything changed.

One of my most vivid memories was playing a piece called Piano Concerto in C (I cannot for the life of me remember who composed it). It had two parts, the lead piano, which is the part I learned, and the “orchestra” part, which also could be played on a second piano. I had forgotten about the fact this was a concerto that required an orchestra and one day, while playing this for my teacher, he sat down at the other piano and started to play the accompanying orchestral part that complemented what I was playing and I don’t think I stopped smiling for a whole week. Being a part of creating that beautiful music was humbling, and exciting. To this day, I relive that moment as if it was yesterday.

In Canada, there is a formal training system for music education called the Royal Conservatory of Music. (It seems that everything important in Canada has the word Royal attached to it, so strong are our British ties and heritage as a country.) Eventually, I rose to complete Grade 10 (the highest level) at the Royal Conservatory and made my parents and teacher proud. But music was not to be my career.

Those years of playing the piano trained my brain for working my fingers on both hands in a coordinated manner that has allowed me to be an accomplished typist, and hopefully has helped me with my dentistry as well. We certainly work in a small space, using fine motor skills in dimensions that measure in fractions of millimeters.

As a GP dentist, I enjoy the variety of procedures and disciplines we are capable of doing, in preventive dentistry, restorative dentistry, prosthetics, endodontics, periodontics, oral surgery, orthodontics, radiology, oral medicine, and more. However, as much as we know, I am also grateful for the opportunity to work with wonderful colleagues who are specialists in a specific field of dentistry.

I have worked with, and continue to work with, many fine periodontists. One of the colleagues who I enjoy working with is Dr. Thomas Yu who is also an accomplished amateur concert pianist. He has travelled the world playing the piano with professional symphony orchestras at a level of ability and accomplishment that far exceeds what I ever achieved. What a gift he has.

Dr. Yu was voted into the 2014 Class of the Top 40 Under 40 by Avenue Magazine and I could not be happier for him, achieving this wider recognition.

I have not played the piano in more than 35 years. I look at the music I used to play, and it is all so foreign to me. It is a “language” I have lost. I hope to pick it up again someday soon. Now, my excuse is a busy dental practice and family life. No longer the young boy with few responsibilities, my life has a way of filling my time as I age.

As we ply our daily grind, don’t forget to enjoy the gifts we are both given, and the ones we get to enjoy witnessing and experiencing that others possess.

Warm regards,

Larry Stanleigh, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

In the Right Place

You know those times in life where you’re just struggling? Yea, those…

Emotionally, physically, spiritually—the source varies, but the feeling is the same.

Hey, if you don’t ever get to this place…
Round of applause!
God bless you!
More power to you!
Teach me your ways!

I think that we can all comfortably—or uncomfortably—admit we’ve been there. Our profession is a grind! There’s no other way to put it. I’m sure other jobs have similar stressors, but I don’t know the ins and outs of other jobs; I just know dentistry can be tough. We have demands from the clinical/patient management side of the equation, and sometimes (most of the time?) an even greater sense of demand from the staff/business/management side of things. It’s inevitable, but it’s one of the reasons we chose dentistry—and it’s what drives me on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis to become a better practitioner, manager, and boss.

I’m in that place right now. We have a five-month-old at home who is a walking viral Petri dish of daycare “love” and daddy picks up all of it. Yippee! We’ve recently added a new office location, and all of the marketing, managing, equipping, and adjusting that goes along with it. Emotionally, physically, spiritually—I’m drained. And I’m not afraid to admit it.

Now, I’m not here to push religion or question where you fall in the spectrum of opinions on the matter, but I can tell you one thing I’ve learned in my 30 years—the world finds a way to bring you back. It grabs you by the bootstraps, gives you a swift kick to the behind, and gets you going in the right direction. The method to the madness is something I’ve yet to figure out and have no intention of deciphering. It is a plan much bigger than I, but good golly, it happens on the regular!

I love my job, my staff, and my patients. I make it a point to get to know them all on a level greater than “How’s the weather? Happy holidays! Hey, it’s Friday!” I play golf with some, get coffee and dinner with others. We have an opportunity, and, I feel, an obligation, to make a difference in people’s lives. With this often come friendships that reach far beyond the clinical walls.

On this occasion, it was Stanley—an elderly patient of mine who is truly THE most interesting man in the world. He’s lived a life of absolute wonderment and tells stories you could write a Hollywood script about. He’s lived all over the world, was a professional wrestler in his prime—and has a handshake move than can render you unconscious in 30 seconds, so he says. He’s been in TV commercials and he even met the Pope, poking fun at his bell-covered slippers that played “Ave Maria” as he walked through the Sistine Chapel. I seriously can’t make this stuff up, people!

Anyway, Stanley was in for his routine checkup this week, and as I walked into the operatory, there sat a massive, hand-wrapped gift against the wall.

“For your wife and baby boy,” he said. “I saved it until now so it would mean more after the Christmas rush.”

I waited to open it until I got home. There was a sweet note with it. It was a painting of a tiger, and the note spoke of the origins of our son’s name. And, you know what, it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten. No, it doesn’t fit the “theme” of our son’s room, nor is it something I’d pick out off the rack if I passed it in a local store, but it’s a thoughtful, touching gift from a friend. Just for being his dentist. Man, that’s cool. And it came just at a time when I needed a jumpstart.

And there it goes—that infinite power that meets us in the place of struggle. Leave it to someone smarter than me to figure it out. I’m good with my tiger painting and thank-you note.

Donald Murray III, DMD

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Are You Clubbing Yet???

Several years ago, a local specialist and his associate decided to invite a group of “young dentists” to their practice to participate in a series of ongoing lectures for free CE. The original topic was “The New Patient Experience.” The session included role-playing about what a new patient exam should include and how to engage the patient. Subsequent sessions built upon the previous to develop new and creative ways to assess patients and their desires for care. We also enjoyed topical lectures on relevant dental subject material.

These sessions were of great value to me. We were encouraged by our hosts and we learned something from each participant. I still use many of the techniques that I learned during these sessions on a daily basis.

This program ultimately morphed into more of a study group/book club. Our group focuses on topics like leadership skills, clinical evaluation, and management, but the primary focus is still the same: to gather together to share ideas, discuss frustrations, and enjoy successes. The founding specialist is now retired from clinical practice and he is missed, but his idea to bring “young dentists” together continues. 

Over the last few years, we have forged a great group. Our group has even expanded to include a few social events. 

At a recent meeting, our focus shifted to our own clinical cases—both the successes and failures. I found this session to be one of the best we’ve had to date, because it was truly a brainstorming meeting of professionals with varying levels of experience and knowledge.  

If you have the opportunity to join an existing study club, do it! If there isn’t one available to you, consider inviting your peers to form one. We all have something to offer and share with one another. Your idea, or perhaps an idea from someone else, could have a significant impact on the profession. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to form some lifelong connections. As an added bonus, if yours peers aren’t yet taking advantage of the amazing membership that the AGD offers, then I suggest you bring that to their attention!  

Colleen B. DeLacy, DDS, FAGD


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