Friday, May 31, 2013

Spousal Support

Before committing to a long term personal relationship or proposing for marriage, we, as dentists, should be very open with our future life partners about some of the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of our profession. Without our spouses’ support, the practice of dentistry would be much more challenging.

The Good
1. Dentistry is very rewarding in many aspects, and we are generally satisfied with our accomplishments.
2. Dentistry is not a vanishing profession and dentists are irreplaceable. Machines can mill crowns, but dentists will always be the biologic gatekeepers.
3. We can support ourselves and our families if our spouses elect to take a break.
4. We are real doctors and we do not have the highest suicide rate.
5. Dental conferences are held in fun places. When a conference brochure advertises for shopping, dining, and golfing along with dental courses, it is actually addressing our spouses.

The Bad
1. Five “dental” never last five minutes; they could run over an hour.
2. Lunch dates with our spouses could become a rarity, as we do not always have a full hour for lunch.
3. There a no spur-of-the-moment weeklong vacations. We need to plan at least six months in advance and we arelucky if we can take two weeks off at a time.
4. We are not always able to attend our kids’ activities at school during the week.
5. Although we do not perform life saving surgeries, emergencies come up in the evenings and over the weekends. We sometimes have to leave family events and attend to our patients’ needs.

The Ugly
We really need peaceful time at home so we can wake up energized, and this puts lots of pressure on our spouses. A typical day in a dentist’s office can sometimes be full of unpleasant surprises. A team member might call in sick or a lab case might not arrive on time. The dentist may run behind and the computers might not work. And the list goes on…

Let’s all have a great weekend; our families deserve it.This weekend, my wife and I are celebrating our anniversary.

Samer S. Alassaad, DDS

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

That Special Someone

Imagine this typical social scenario: A man spots woman at a party and strikes up a conversation. He learns she is unattached, further provoking his interests. She determines that he works in an office nearby, so she continues talking to gather more information. Business cards are exchanged and, before we know it, this couple is having their first telephone conversation, followed by a date. The woman is wined, dined, and showered with gifts. She does not know how she may feel long-term about her generous new friend, but knows she has to reciprocate soon if this relationship continues. Since this is a dental blog, we are not really talking about a “man” and a “woman.” The woman here is a general dentist and the male is a specialist.

In case you didn’t already know, NYC is crawling with dentists. We are literally everywhere. Most people need to look no further than their office building, which will probably contain a dental practice or 20 (I’m looking at you, 30 Rock). The economy has room for improvement, so dentists are more likely than ever not to refer their patients out of their practice. They want to keep the work in-house, by either doing the procedures themselves, or hiring specialists to do the work in their offices. Specialists here are desperate for referrals, kind of like that lonely guy at a party. Once they spot you, GP, you are their new best friend and the victim of a lot of attention, whether you like it or not. Unlike more rural towns, there are many kinds of specialists in all neighborhoods of this city, giving us GPs plenty of referral options.

What will make you refer your patients to a specialist? I think the number one reason is social connections. You may have friends that you went to dental school with that decided to specialize. You know them well and are confident in their clinical skills. You may make a new friend at a local dental society (which, coincidently, has a large specialist membership). Sometimes a confident and eager doctor will show up at your office and drop off some business cards. Here are tips when making these decisions, but feel free to use them for dating advice also.

1. Play the field. Don’t get tied down to just one person. You need to see what else is out there and having other options is important in case your current one does not work out.

2. Give them a chance. If someone has gone out of their way to get to know you, bring you gifts, or invite you to a party, do not blow them off just because you don’t know them or already have a doctor that you are referring to. Meet them for a drink and give them a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.

3. Don’t be blinded by good looks and fancy gifts; personality will always win out in the end. I really appreciate it when I refer a patient to someone and I get a thank you email, letting me know the status of the patient and any other additional info. A bottle of wine is nice, but that does not assist me in the treatment of my patient afterwards. So, just to be clear, follow up with an email and then you may send over a bottle.

4. Remember that there are always other fish in the sea. The beginning of your GP-specialist relationship was great, but somewhere down the line, you began not getting the attention you deserved. If you are starting to feel like this, do not hesitate to start referring to someone that will treat you well.

My final piece of advice is for dental students. Sometimes dental school can feel a bit like high school. If you have your heart set on specializing, good grades and excellent recommendations are not the only thing you need. You also need to win the loyalty and support of your fellow students, most of whom will become the general dentists that you will be very eager to know when you finish your training. Start building those relationships early by attending social events and putting your best face forward at all times. The opportunity to build a great reputation in dental school is invaluable; don’t take it for granted.

On a different note, I am starting to think outside the box more and more in terms of finding interesting or relevant blog posts to write about on here. What do you guys want to hear about? I personally would like to know more about all the dentist parents out there and how they manage to raise their families and still make time for their work and their patients. I also would love to hear what some of your typical days are like. Do you work a standard 40-hour workweek or part-time? What is your favorite after work activity that to unwind after a long day? Don’t hold back—I would love to hear from you!

I wish everyone a great post 3-day weekend work week, and hope to see y’all in Nashville soon!

Lilya Horowitz, DDS

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Least We Can Do

As we head into Memorial Day weekend, let us pause for a moment and explore the reason for the commemoration. The long weekend will be nice, with no work for most of us on Monday. There will be barbecues, picnics and trips to the beach. But that is not what this time is all about.

Throughout the course of time, thousands of brave men and women have put their lives on the line for the greatest country in the world. Many have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we may all enjoy the freedoms of being American. Their service should never be forgotten. They are true heroes, in every sense of the word.

While I may have never served in the military, I am proud to be a part of the USA. I am proud of those who served, and those that continue to do so today. I may never be able to repay them, but I can always pay homage to them. Fly the flag, say a prayer, thank a soldier. It’s the least we can do.

Jason Petkevis, DMD

The Right Stuff

This blog entry began as a response to Katie Divine‘s blog in which she asked for advice on hiring staff. By the time I was done writing my response, I had my next blog!

Hiring the right staff is one of the most crucial and difficult parts of running a practice. The importance of who you hire to assistant you and represent your practice cannot be overestimated. It can literally make or break you.

The best piece of advice I ever received on the subject of hiring staff (in any business) is, “You cannot train personality.”

I can teach most anyone to suction for me. I can even train an AGD-member dentist to assist me (and we all know how hard it is to teach them new tricks). But a cheerful, helpful personality is something I cannot teach you.

When I was starting out as an associate dentist, I noticed that a dentist in town had an awesome staff. I asked him he found such great staff. He said, “Simple. Restaurants.”

We’ve all run into waiters and waitresses that just shine. These are the ones that truly do add something to your dining experience. Customers always ask to be seated at whatever table they are assigned to. My friend would approach them and simply ask if they had ever thought about working in a dental office. If they showed interest, he’d arrange a lunch at his office. Again, you can train someone to assist you, but you cannot train personality.

Another aspect to consider is to YOUR personality. A colleague of mine has a very bright and outgoing personality. When you walk into his practice, you know he is the star of the show. He shines and patients love it. One thing you’ll notice about his staff is that they have more reserved personalities. Everyone can’t be the star. He’s shared with me that in the past he had more outgoing staff and it was disastrous for him.

If you are like me, your personality is a bit more reserved. However, when you walk into my office, you’ll meet a very outgoing staff. They shine in areas that I cannot. They know the patient’s kids names, share pictures of pets, and basically keep the laughter going. For my practice, having very reserved assistants would be a mistake.

We’ve all been in the position of having a staff member who is very well-qualified on paper but just doesn’t fit into our practice. I’ve had to tell staff that their skills are not the problem but that they are just in the wrong office. I know that in the right practice they would be exceptional staff, just not in mine.

I’ve also been on the employee side of the equation. A friend arranged an interview with a dentist who was looking for an associate. He had already interviewed several candidates and had grown weary of the interview process. We met for lunch, and the first thing he told me was that he only had half an hour for lunch. I thought it would be quick and painless. We started talking. Then talked some more. An hour and a half later, we were still talking and laughing. At the end of lunch he said, “Well, you already know I want you in my office. When can you start?”

Later, he confessed to me that it was a certain personality he was looking for. Again, he realized he could mentor most young dentists to perform the kind of dentistry he wanted in his practice. He just knew he could not train personality.

Another unexpected place to find staff is within your practice. A few years ago, I hired a patient. She was a very nice young lady who had been a patient for a couple of years. Her dad came in one day to have me sign some papers so she could take X-rays on her family at dental assisting school. I immediately called up the school and offered to have her intern in my office. She interned, and then I offered her a job. She is still with me.

The advantage of looking at your patient pool is that you already know them. You know if you like them and if you think you can work with them. The next time you have a patient showing interest in what you are doing, ask if they have ever thought of working in a dental office.

Well, Katie, I hope I somewhat answered your question.

Andy Alas, DDS

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Meet & Greet

In my first blog of this series, I demonstrated how converting your routine radiographic series in the hygiene department from four bitewings to seven bitewings generates a minimum of an additional $24,000 a year while better serving the patient through more comprehensive diagnostics. Every such suggestion I will present should have such a mutually beneficial aspect; good for the patient and good for the practice.

To continue this series, let us go back to the beginning—the new patient experience. The first thing to consider is the form that this experience takes. Depending on your practice philosophy, the patient’s first visit may be on the doctor’s or the hygienist’s schedule or, in some cases, both. Is it a 15-minute nuisance on your schedule, or is it a 3-hour marathon? We would like to believe that any new patient is a good patient. However, it is very common for the no-show percentage for new patients to range from 10 to 30%. That has a dramatic impact on the doctor’s production and can greatly affect the practice’s bottom line if time was set aside on both the doctor and hygienist’s schedules.

Time is money and you can never have enough of either. How can we try to minimize the lost time associated with a new patient no-show? The first step is to categorize the new patients into one of two groups: those who come via direct referrals and those who come from some form of advertising. These are two very different types of new patients, and they should be treated very differently. We have found that a productive new patient visit occupies 1 to 1-1/2 hours of doctor time on the schedule. This allows adequate time for rapport-building, data collection, and preliminary patient education.

I suggest that you go ahead and commit that 1 to 1-1/2 hour slot on your schedule to patients that come to you via direct referral from one of your wonderful patients. These potential patients have some level of investment in your practice, as they were told by their friend, family member, or colleague, that they should trust you with their care. It is very rare for these patients not to show up.

On the other side are those patients who come through some form of advertising, whether it is online, newspaper, signage, direct mail, or even a dental insurer’s list of providers. These patients invariably have little to no personal investment in the practice and have the highest no-show rate of any other category of patient. When that patient does not show up for their appointment, that is 1 to 1-1/2 hours of time lost forever; even more if they were scheduled on the hygienists’ schedule also.

A number of years ago, I came up with an alternative method by which to bring these “un-invested” new patients into the practice: the “complimentary consultation.” When a patient calls the office for the first time and identifies themself as a new patient, the first question from any staff member should be “Oh, that’s wonderful. How did you hear about our office?” The answer to that question now dictates the rest of the conversation and how that patient will be scheduled for their first visit. The patient who just found you is scheduled for a complimentary consultation.

“Jane, we are so happy you have chosen us. Let me explain to you how we will schedule your first visit. We like for you to come in for a complimentary consultation. We want you to decide if we are the practice for you by coming and taking a tour, speaking with our staff, and meeting the doctor for a few minutes. See if our location is convenient for you and if you enjoy what we have to offer. We don’t want you to come see us, invest your time and money in x-rays and an exam and then feel obligated to come back. We want to earn your return trip and loyalty. This visit is completely complimentary and has no obligation associated with it. How does Tuesday at 9 work for you?”

You have now put this appointment in a positive light for the patient. They know you are going to put forth your best effort to earn their return trip and that they can come without the pressure of having to return just because you have their records. They usually appreciate this. What does that do for the practice, though? This introductory appointment is put in the doctor’s secondary time and does not take away from his/her prime production time. While it would be disappointing if this patient does not show, it does not impact production or overhead. The financial implication to the practice takes two forms: the decrease in overhead loss due to new patient no-shows and the time savings of their return trip.

Let’s look at this in detail. Plug your own numbers into the formulae below to see the direct impact in your own practice.

1. Overhead saved by decreasing new patient no-shows.
Let us assume you currently average four potential patients a month that don’t show up, or an average of one per week. Let us also assume that, to meet your financial obligations, you have to produce $250 per hour.

4 (current number of new patient no-shows per month)
x $250 (hourly overhead)
x 1.5 (time, in hours, of new patient visit)
x 12 (months in a year)
= $18,000 saved from open chair time

A side benefit of this complimentary consultation is that there is a good chance that you will win this patient over and they may well be interested in allowing you to take your records during this visit. This means is you may save a significant amount of time when they return for their comprehensive examination, having taken your records and built your rapport during that first visit; all on your secondary time.

2. Overhead saved by shortening comprehensive examination visit.
Assume overhead per hour is $250 and you have 10 new patients per month that enter the practice without direct referral and thus receive the complimentary consultation. Finally, let us assume for this calculation that you save 30 minutes on the comprehensive exam visit.

10 (patients per month who had records taken already)
x $250 (hourly overhead)
x 0.5 hr (time saved)
x 12 (months in a year)
= $15,000 overhead saved by taking records during complimentary visit

So, in this conservative example, you have saved $33,000 in chair time overhead by minimizing non-invested new patient no-shows and streamlining your comprehensive examination. Extrapolated over the typical 35-year dental career, you will save $1,155,000 in overhead. This is a very conservative estimate and does not take into account the change in your hourly overhead over the years.

These are the first of a series of suggestions I will make over the coming months. Now that we have established the protocol for patients’ entry into the practice, we will walk through the new patient examination and review the hidden dentistry you might find. Until then, remember to open your eyes to the possibilities.

Christopher J. Perry MS, DMD, FAGD

Monday, May 20, 2013

Manifest Dentistry

A few hours after Dr. Colleen DeLacy’s last The Daily Grind blog post officially went live, my husband sent me a text message to say, “Oh no! Weren’t you thinking of writing about your experiences as a female dentist in your next piece? Guess you’ll have to find a new topic now.”

I thought about what other subjects I could blog about, but the sad truth is, I came up pretty short. As a younger dentist, I haven’t had the opportunity to amass a whole lot of noteworthy reflections or document any cases that I’m particularly proud of. If a slideshow of work I’ve completed since I left school actually existed, it would contain captions like, “Observe my access preparation - it measures roughly the size of Texas!” or “What has two thumbs and didn’t spot MB2, even with loupes on? This doc!” Nope, that wasn’t going to work.

I had already written about the psychological and emotional impact of the transition to being called “Doctor.” I have recounted my journey to licensure and gainful employment in excruciating and embarrassing detail. I have complained about the patients who hate dentists and whom I gladly treat anyway because I’m such a glutton for punishment selfless, giving professional. Education, diploma, license, job, happy customers. I covered all the basics, didn’t I? Well, what now? Where do I go from here?

I can’t write about what it’s like to balance a career in dentistry with raising a family. For crying out loud, my husband and I are still having trouble keeping potted plants alive in our apartment! (Fingers crossed for Orchid #3, everybody.)

I guess I could write about what it’s like to be married to another dentist, but since we’ve only just celebrated our first wedding anniversary, the idea of divulging intimate details of our relationship seems at once intrusive and patronizing. On one hand, it’s nice to come home to someone who’s so passionate about dentistry that some days I’m convinced he has silane coupling agent oozing from his pores. On the other hand, I feel like I can’t offer any meaningful advice or insight on the topic due to my limited experience in this domain. I’m optimistic and ready to take on the challenge, but I honestly don’t know what it truly takes to keep a bond like ours going strong. Though, some silane coupling agent probably couldn’t hurt.

Resolved: If I ever uncover the secret to keeping the fire alive in a marriage of two dentists, I promise to publish a scintillating, tell-all book about it. It will be called Fifty Shades of Enamel. This may or may not also be the title of my memoir. Remember, you heard it here first.

My Facebook newsfeed has been overflowing with photos of friends who graduated this past week, and it’s made me a tad nostalgic for my own commencement. It seems a little late for me to be sharing the story of my dental school graduation, but like everything else I’ve shared on The Daily Grind, it offers, at the very least, a little comic relief.

I’ll spare you the gushy, sentimental “It was the happiest day of my life!” notes and offer a completely true and hilarious anecdote. On the day of the big ceremony, I was actually still one removable partial denture requirement short of getting my certificate. During the speeches, my phone (which was supposed to be turned off) started buzzing with an email alert from the lab that said “Your lab work is ready for pickup!”

Oh happy day! I waited until it was time for the presentation of the degree candidates to call my RPD patient and arrange for him to come to clinic the next available day. A great benefit of graduating in a class of over 300 people: is that absolutely nobody is paying attention to what you’re doing as you march to the podium. Weeks later, when I looked through the galleries of graduation photos my friends had posted online, I could pick myself out of the crowd as the only one who was 1) wearing a blinking red bicycle reflector on my cap so my family could spot me and 2) feverishly making phone calls as I made my way to the stage. Classy, I know.

So seriously, what’s next? What happens when the cap and gown is returned, when the ID cards have been disabled, and the diploma is finally sitting in its frame? I’m sure that’s a question that’s been on the minds of a lot of new graduates and soon-to-be graduates. You’ve all spent the past few years adhering to strict policies enacted by your respective schools and examining boards, following detailed lists, outlines, and instructions to ensure that you transition into the next phase of your career in one piece. What happens now? What’s the plan? What are the steps?

The ironic and remarkable thing about dentistry is that, as much as we strive for the results of our treatment outcomes to be streamlined, predictable, and easily replicated, the same can’t be said of how we manage our personal and professional lives. A large number of dental school graduates will hope to have their next steps include things like “become an associate” or “marriage” or “buy a home” or “have children” or “buy a practice.” I hope that new graduates realize that there isn’t a right or wrong way to achieve any or all of these things in any particular order.

There’s no extra credit if you manage to achieve all the things you want before the rest of your classmates do. There isn’t some all-powerful institution that exists to give good grades for large paychecks or to reward you for the order in which you accomplish your career goals. If I’ve learned anything since I left school, it’s this: excellence in dentistry is achieved through constant remediation and re-evaluation of your work. The answers are not always obvious, the choices are not always clear. Even your best instincts and intentions will lead you astray on the worst possible occasions. But dentistry will continue to drive you to consider what's beyond the charted territory of your comfort zone, to scan the horizon for more than what you already know. That's what I wish most for you all: the courage and conviction to explore the unknown.

Congratulations, Class of 2013. Here’s to what’s next for all of you.

Diana Nguyen, DDS

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Is my Message Clear? 05/15

I graduated from a 10-month, post-graduate training program a few weekends ago. It was a great feeling! As with every other accomplishment, I felt as if I were on top of the world. I drove home with my moon-roof opened, speeding a bit, listening to my favorite music a bit louder than usual, and singing along even louder than that. My brain however, couldn't stop. I wondered if the new knowledge and techniques will change the base of my practice. Am I a better dentist because of this program, or do I just have another plaque to hang on the wall?

I found myself turning down the music and shutting the moon-roof to concentrate a bit more. It was a very interesting and scary question, especially after I had invested thousands of dollars and many hours of my time.

I looked back at the past 10 months. Most of the people in my class were older and much more experienced practitioners. Like me, they are continuing education junkies. Speaking to many of them during the course of the past 10 months, I heard many different opinions and point of views for what comes out of these continuing education courses. One common complaint was about implementing what we learn into the daily practice, turning it into a positive and useful experience rather than a purely educational experience. I understood the concern in a sense. These courses are taught assuming a perfect patient population and a perfect treatment solution. What I couldn’t understand, however, was that most of the instructors hold private practices themselves. They have these perfect scenarios on a daily basis and truly implement what they teach in their practices every day.

This made me think about the differences between the instructors and the students in the class. I thought of factors like the location of the practice, the demographic and psychographics of the patient population, the clinical expertise of the practitioner, the age of the practitioner, the level of education, the training institution, the inborn sense of artistry, and many more. None of that really came across to me as a major difference. We had people in our class who were just as good as our instructors when it came to actual dentistry and who work in practices which were pretty similar in most senses.

The one difference that I thought was very obviously noticeable, however, was the communication skills. This one skill was what stuck out as a major difference between our instructors and the students. I do understand that as an instructor, your communication skills will naturally improve. But perhaps that is exactly what helps push them further everyday. The art of communicating your knowledge and belief to others in an effective way, I think, is the key to implementing the new knowledge or techniques in everyday practice and truly experiencing the positive results of the efforts we put in when we take courses.

When I think about my own practice and how I communicate with my staff and patients, I admit that I wouldn’t give myself a perfect score. It is a difficult skill set to learn. I sometimes feel like those who have it are fortunate because you’ve either go it, or you don’t. But I know I'm wrong. It is definitely a skill we can learn and improve on. Perhaps a few CE courses should be designed around this subject.

And so I came to a conclusion. Learning the techniques and the science is essential to our growth as practitioners; however, without proper communication skills, I can never find that perfect situation to implement the changes I need to have a more successful outcome. The problem is not always obvious. We know all too well, especially in dentistry, that the details matter just as much. Choose your words wisely!

Mona Goodarzi, DDS

Monday, May 13, 2013

Friends & Family Plan

After almost 20 years (yes, it has taken me that long), I have finally decided to pay someone to work on my friends and family. I used to think I was pretty good. I received my Fellowship from the AGD awhile back, and I received my Mastership in 2009! I proudly write “MAGD” at the end of my name every time. But, my friends and family can’t even believe made it out of dental school!

If I am with my family and a patient happens to walk up, they praise me as though I am the best dentist they ever had. My family just shakes their head. I will give you a few examples.

1. I did a simple restoration on my dad 10 years ago. He still can’t chew on it, but doesn’t want me to touch it.

2. I did a simple extraction of tooth number 17 on my assistant. It took almost 8 months for her to get the feeling back in her lip. While we worked together, she would constantly slap her mouth (to remind me). She doesn't want me to touch her.

3. I did a small, shallow restoration on my niece. Since then, it has turned into a root canal and a crown. She can’t chew anything on it and she doesn’t want me to touch it.

4. I made a new upper denture for my uncle. The very next day, teeing off the first hole, the denture flew 10 yards. (his “old one never did that”).

5. I did a 3-unit bridge on the mother of one of my assistants. In six months, I have not only adjusted the bite eight times, but I have to recemented it four times. She still can’t chew on it and she doesn’t want me to touch it.

6. I did a root canal on another niece, and had to extract it three months later. She still has “ghost pain” in the area where the tooth was, and she doesn’t want me to touch her.

7. I gave my assistant a PSA injection for a restoration. After five days, she still has a bruise the size of a silver dollar on her cheek.

8. My aunt came in for a simple extraction that turned into a surgical nightmare. She is due for a post-op this week and probably will not come in because of fear.

9. I did a small composite resin on my sister. She says she is lucky if she can eat a marshmallow without pain, but she doesn't want me to touch it.

So, the decision has been made. I will gladly pay someone to work on them. I like feeling like the “Master” that I am to complete strangers. I am the only one this happens too?

Have a great week.

Scott A. Jackson, DMD, MAGD(!)

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Great Dentist Goes to Washington

In mid-April, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend the AGD’s Government Relations Conference alongside AGD member dentists and other student leaders. This was my first lobby day at our nation’s capitol, and the AGD made it a great experience.

We spent the first day discussing the issues and role-playing our lobbying. The key issues we lobbied for were the medical device tax, repealing the McCarran-Ferguson act, and assisting with student debt (an issue I was able to thoroughly explain). My group had scheduled meetings with the staff of all the Minnesota Senators and Representatives. Our interactions were very positive and the experience was enjoyable.

During this event, advocacy was always at the forefront of the AGD’s discussion. As an educational and professional organization for general dentists across the country, I witnessed firsthand the dedication of the leaders and members present toward protecting the interests of general dentists.

“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” This old adage rings true when speaking of advocacy. While national lobby day is only once a year, we can all remain active in our local governments and communities. Invite your mayor or Representative to the office for a tour. Participate in state lobby days. Stay on top of the issues. Offer yourself as a resource to them when they have dental questions. And if you’re interested holding an office, we know dentists make great leaders.

I recommend the experience to anyone. I was extremely fortunate to also take a private tour of the Capitol building with the AGD Executive Committee; we even made it up to the top of the dome and outside on the balcony! I’d like to thank the AGD for allowing me the opportunity to participate.

Switching gears a bit, I want to share that this is my last post as a dental student! My graduation is next Friday, May 17, 2013. I am extremely excited to graduate. It’s somewhat surreal, especially when I think about how far I have come. I am actually back in Willmar, Minn., this week on a final week of outreach, as I was for my first post in January. My efficiency and clinical awareness has increased noticeably even in just these last few months. This was tested today with eight patients that amounted to five extractions, three new patient exams, denture work and a few fillings. That’s two weeks of work at dental school done one day!

Katie Divine, Minnesota ’13

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Déjà Vu

“Dad! They are fouling the heck out of me!”

Being a dad and the coach of a club basketball team gave me ample opportunities to share life lessons with my team and my son. Getting fouled in basketball can be a very frustrating experience. My son played point guard and he noticed he was getting wacked around pretty good. “Congratulations,” I said when he tried to moan about it.

“What do you mean, Dad? Congratulations? They are fouling me like crazy!” he shot back.

“Philip, are they fouling our power forward when he gets the ball?”

“Heck no, Dad. Everyone knows Nick is in the game to muscle for rebounds and set screens. Handling the ball and creating offense for the team is not his skill.”

“Congratulations!” I repeated with a smile. “They are paying you a very high compliment by fouling you like that. Have you seen what happened to Michael Jordan when he played? The better you are, the more they foul you. The better you, the more your opponents need to foul you.”

Déjà vu!

In February 1997, the front cover of Reader’s Digest touted the lead article proclaiming the results of a special investigation “How Dentists Rip Us Off.”

In 1997, dentistry’s image took a beating. Change was in the air as third parties took control of patients and insurance payers wanted to know what they were getting for their dollar. The economy was humming and the fight for the discretionary dollars was on.

Dentistry has come under scrutiny in the media in this past year. Just as our economy is starting to gain positive traction, everyone in business is trying to maneuver to get on the next wave of a gravy train for discretionary dollars.

Real estate, luxury cars, pay day loans, TV connections, dental tourism, bite wing X-rays and cancer in children, mercury pollution solution at the dental office, dentists involved in poor infection standards, and clothing manufacturers are all hitting on us in the media. We must be really good, because they are fouling us like crazy.

Dentistry is the greatest success story never told and competing businesses recognize that they need to get their message out first. We have done a fabulous job for the American public and business wants first dibs on any discretionary dollars. The more they foul us, the better they are saying we are.

Recently, Debbie and I got a life lesson from an old friend in dentistry, Gordon “Yoda” Christensen. As more of us are experiencing longer careers than expected, I asked him how much longer he would continue. He answered without hesitation and with a face full of pride. With a twinkle in his eye that said he gets to do exactly what he feels God intended him to do, he answered. “I’ll go till I drop. I’ll go till I cannot do it at the level I want.”

Amen, Yoda. Amen.

Enjoy the journey,

Bob Oro, DMD, MAGD

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dentist Friends

I have this theory that dentists are some of the friendliest and most outgoing people you will ever meet. I do realize I am preaching to the choir here, but sometimes it’s nice to acknowledge our attributes. We are meeting new people [our patients] every day! I always find myself routinely initiating conversations, and this has been a skill I have worked hard to develop. I am shy and quiet by nature, but dentistry has aggressively forced me out of my shell. Having conversations with strangers is something I have become comfortable with, and apparently so have many of you. Since starting dental school, I have accumulated (and the list keeps growing) quite a significant number of what I like to refer to as “dentist friends.”

Starting out as a student at NYU, I was fortunate enough to meet and connect with an absolutely amazing group of friends. We sat next to each other in lectures and simulation labs, spent long [weekend!] days and nights in the library, and shared gripes about our many eccentric and eclectic patients. We planned 2-hour lunches in fancy restaurants to celebrate the end of our finals, shared 2-for-1 margaritas at the local Mexican place for Friday happy hour, and commiserated over pasta and wine post-clinic at each other’s apartments. I would not have made it through school without them. Luckily, I still have them available to me by email or text message these days, since many of us do not live in the same city.

When I graduated and started working, I kept adding new friends. At this point in my life, I will rarely spark up a conversation with a stranger unless I am at work or at a dental meeting. Every time I attend a CE event of some sort, I meet more of my fellow dentists. The atmosphere is always friendly, since we all share so much in common in our daily lives. At the AACD meeting in Washington, DC, last year, a fellow colleague and I were chatting with a new dentist prior to the start of our workshop. Within the first few minutes of the conversation, we learned that he was headed to Manhattan after the conference to visit [of course!] his old dental school friends. Since I was driving back home alone to NYC, I immediately offered this person a ride, having known him for only 10 minutes. When I told this story to my other friends back home, I kept reassuring them that it was okay because he was a DENTIST!

Being a young doctor, treating my older colleagues as my friends took a little getting used to. A former professor of mine was no longer Dr. Jones but my new buddy Pete! One of my favorite clinical instructors, formerly known to me as Dr. Rhee (and soon to be installed as the new president of the NYSAGD) is now my friend Sue! At first it was strange addressing dentists at study clubs and dental society meetings by their first names, but as with everything in dentistry, what once was scary and new became routine very quickly.

For many young dentists that may move to a new town or city after school due to work, connecting with local colleagues is a great place to start meeting new people in your area. Do not hesitate to attend your local dental society meeting and get involved. Invite a dentist in your area out on a blind lunch date. Don’t be afraid to attend a large dental meeting alone; most people are in your shoes and will be eager to reciprocate your friendliness Not sure which meeting to attend? Check out our very own AGD’s Annual Meeting and Exhibits in Nashville, Tenn. I am attending for the very first time this year, so please come say hello, and get to know some of your fellow peers!

Have a great weekend!

Lilya Horowitz, DDS

Friday, May 3, 2013

Don't Hate Me—I Love Social Media

I’ve been practicing dentistry long enough to have seen some significant and provocative changes in the marketing of our dental businesses. Because after all, for most of us, our practice is our business.

Back when I was in dental school, we really didn’t have a course to teach us how to manage a business. We didn’t learn about how to finesse personnel issues or techniques in efficient hiring and painless firing. We came out with little-to-no knowledge on how to best market our business for maximum return on investment. We probably weren’t even sure what ROI meant!

Equipped with no formal training, we were left to our own devices to create a marketing strategy that would bring patients to our door. And to further complicate things, back in the day, marketing and advertising were dirty words in the dental and medical professions. You were deemed tasteless if you advertised your business because we all knew that word-of-mouthwould speak to your exceptional reputation and that should be enough.

But then suddenly, it wasn’t.

When the field of dentistry became oversaturated, particularly in urban settings, suddenly good old fashioned word-of-mouth wasn’t enough. And while, even to this day, word-of-mouth continues to rank as the most reliable form of marketing, it became clear that we would need something more to get people to become aware of our fabulous offices. We needed a strategy.

The evolution was slow and somewhat painful to many. With no idea as to how to create a marketing budget, we tried, understandably, to keep the costs down and dip our toes into traditional marketing vehicles, like the yellow pages, newspaper ads, church bulletins and mailers. To improve our credibility, we joined our local Chamber of Commerce. There was such a willy-nilly method in our marketing strategy that we had no concrete way of knowing what our reach was. How effective were our marketing attempts? Were we throwing money away? But, with a dose of blind faith, we continued.

Then, about five years ago, a new marketing term was being bandied about: digital marketing. Most of watched from the sidelines while digital marketing and social media just exploded.

I decided to jump on the social media bandwagon about four years ago, which was very early for someone in the dental profession. I had no background; I just had passion and curiosity. I knew that in this increasingly competitive market, I had to think outside the box. I didn’t want to compete, but I wanted to be different. My crowns were most likely as good as your crowns and my fillings were similar to yours. My office was just a slightly different version of your office. So, how could I compete? I couldn’t. But I could strive to speak to an audience that hadn’t heard many dentists speak—the digital world.

I started with a homemade rudimentary website. I wanted to control my website so I didn’t buy into the canned versions that were just starting to appear. I did my homework and saw that blogs were becoming all the rage. I started following tons of blogs in all different industries, reading what they posted and watching how often they posted. I wasn’t savvy enough to know how to connect my website to a blog, but I knew I had to have a blog. So I created my first WordPress site and started my first dental blog. I loved blogging, but I didn’t know how to get a potential audience to see and read my blog. One of my lovely patients helped me with that next step. A young woman (with a fabulous blog of her own) told me that I should get on Twitter and Facebook. And, well, the rest is history.

I have become a sort of social media evangelist for the dental profession. Nothing brings me more satisfaction than coaching dental offices on how to harness the power of social media to increase online visibility. I know that digital media is not going away. It will continue to evolve and mature but, it is not going away. In an industry where it is difficult to provide hugely different services from each other, getting ourselves recognized comes from putting ourselves out there. It’s not hard. In fact, it’s fun. Engagement is the key and credibility is the result. It is an intuitive equation.

While many small businesses are dabbling with social media, not very many of them are using it to its fullest potential. So, next week, I am hosting a Social Media Night at my office for all of the local businesses in my area. We will make it fun because, it is fun. I will help take the business owners from dabbling to empowered when it comes to social media. Because, if used correctly, social media is word-of-mouth marketing, just with a much larger audience.

Take a look at your marketing strategy. If you don’t have one, get one. Start simple and start slow. Look at your website. Does it wow you? Are you able to edit and tweak your own website? If not, consider a content management system (CMS) that allows you to take control. Remember, your website is your digital home. You work really hard at keeping up appearances in your office. Why would you be any less diligent with your website home? Once you have a website presence that you are proud of, start a Facebook page. Engage with your followers. Be a real voice, your real voice. Don’t post pictures of your latest implant because people really are not interested. They ARE interested in fun and clever posts that they can comment on.

If you are already a social media evangelist, host a Social Media Night for your local businesses. Get them to understand that with social media, we can not only help ourselves but we can help our community, thereby increasing our own reach! I am really looking forward to our Social Media Night next week. It’s a great opportunity to network and to share knowledge.

Are you using social media? What is your strategy? Do you struggle with what to do next? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Claudia Anderson, DDS

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

One Law of Leadership

I have been reading the classic book by John Maxwell, "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership." Every chapter gives me another lesson and another challenge to improve myself. One of my favorite chapters is about the Law of Addition.

The Law of Addition is about how a leader should lead through service to those you lead. Maxwell's example of a servant leader is Jim Sinegal from Costco. He doesn't take home a $100 million salary, even though his company is the fourth largest retailer in the country. He uses folding tables and answers his own phone. Jim Sinegal serves his employees, and they are loyal. Costco has the lowest turnover rate in all of retail.

I have had issues with turnover in my practice, but I hope I am learning. We have changed our hiring process, among other things, improving our team culture. I have learned over the last few years that training my team, giving back to them, educating them and improving their skills improves the practice as a whole.

I was told at church a long time ago that when you're in a leadership position, you should always, "train your replacement." That doesn't mean your assistant will replace you totally. But how great would it be if she could replace you in those tasks she can legally take off your hands? That would free you up to do those things only you can do. Give them training, and they will give time back to you. Sounds like a fair trade.

Michael Lemme, DDS


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