Monday, October 26, 2015

If You’re Feeling the Burn…It’s Time to Check in

For the past three months, I have been to conference after conference. I have had the opportunity to reconnect with many old friends and have had the pleasure of making many new ones. It’s no surprise that these years have been extremely tough for the small business owner, but some of the stories I have heard have left me dumbfounded but grateful. Like everyone else, I feel the emotional and physical wear of owning my dental practicethe constant that is having to “turn it on” for your team, your patients, and even your family. It is exhaustingso exhausting that it can make you mentally quit and dive into a gigantic pity party that ultimately could pull down everyone with you. 

So take a moment. Remember back to why you chose dentistry. Close your eyes and remember that dental school acceptance letter. When you read it, how did you feel? What immediate dreams did you start to create for your future career? They say, “If you can turn passion into a career, you’ll never have to work another day in your life,” and that has been the case for me. Becoming a dentist was never a dream I had growing up as a child. Let’s face it: Not many people see the allure of working in dark, wet, oral environments every day. It was the influence of my older brother and the memories of taking my grandmother with cancer to her many doctor appointments that steered me down that path. My brother is an orthodontist, and while he was in dental school, I was in college deciding which of my two majors I would truly pursue in lifeone was in science, and the other in the arts. With his advice, I started to shadow dentists in town to gain some exposure to the world of dentistry. I remember going into one specific office where the dentist and his team treated their patients with such integrity and gentility, it reminded me of how much that can impact a person who is scared or feels vulnerable because he or she is a patient. It was when I was going through dental school that I realized that I had truly found a profession that would allow me to marry art and science together, and that I would be able utilize my knowledge and skill sets to help people improve their lives on a daily basis and in so many ways.

Now, could I do this without the help and support of a team that didn’t share this same passion? I think we can unanimously say, “No!” I know that so much of my success and enjoyment comes from the fact I have a team that supports me completely. Each woman on my team is a completely different person who brings a different perspective to the group, but each shares the same mission to treat each patient uniquely, with empathy and gentility. They are people with their own lives outside our office who chose to dedicate themselves to our patients and our practice. They continuously train to remain at the top of their field of practice and come to work with patience and enthusiasm. I feel privileged to be surrounded by team members as devoted to their craft and as passionate about helping others as I am. 

Honestly, not every moment in our practice is fun or greatthat’s life. Having a clear mission, and a team that completely believes in this mission, constantly gives us good perspective and keeps the overall attitude in our office clean and uplifting. We may get tired, but we don’t burn out because we are always there for each other and deeply want to help people and be successful. If you don’t have a mission that is clear to you and your team, or maybe there are people in your office who are just not onboard with that mission, things need to change. 

Pamela Marzban, DDS, FAGD

Friday, October 23, 2015

Dental Podcasts

Do you guys listen to podcasts? I (like most other people in the country) got into listening to them after the whole “Serial” phenomenon. Surprisingly enough, there have been a ton of new dental podcasts that have emerged in the past year. I’m not really sure why so many dentists and professionals in the dental field have decided to spend their free time producing these recordings. I’m sure part of it is altruistic, just wanting to share their knowledge with the world for the greater good. Another part of it is wanting to advertise their services, which may be consulting, practice management, educational seminars, etc. Regardless of the reasons, I am so happy that these podcasts are around. 

I don’t know about you, but most of the dental journals I get go straight into the recycling bin. I try to read some stuff online, but recently due to time constraints, podcasts are my main source of staying on the pulse of the dental world. I have a bunch downloaded on to my phone and usually listen to three to four per week (more, if I’m traveling and have some extra downtime). I take the subway to work, so I have about 60 minutes per day of podcast-listening time during my work commute. They are also great to listen to when you are driving, stuck in traffic, and bored out of your mind. Now, you may be thinking: What is wrong with this woman? After a full day in the office, the last thing I want to do is listen to dental chatter after work or before my day even begins. Give podcasts a chance. I am even going to tell you which ones to check out first, because there are so many out there, and there are only so many hours in a day. 

‘The Dental Hacks Podcast’
I love these guys. This is the perfect podcast to listen to after work, when all you want to do is complain about all of the random things that happened but you are lacking an audience. They are genuinely hilarious and always have informative guests on their show. My personal favorite is their “Brain Trust” section, which is usually toward the end of the podcast and features a handful of dentists discussing various topics such as favorite continuing education courses and patient stories. In addition, the audio quality is great, which some dental podcasts seem to be missing the boat on. These guys keep it real. Check them out. 

‘The Dentalpreneur Podcast w/ Dr. Mark Costes’
This podcast is a little more on the serious side. The dentist who produces it, Dr. Mark Costes, has owned and flipped many dental practices, and he has a ton of great business advice to share with you. As someone who knew very little about the business end of things, this podcast has helped me to really understand what it takes to run a successful dental practice and just how many dentists out there are doing things completely the wrong way. This is a good one to listen to before work to get motivated to have a productive day. No nonsense, just great information that all dentists can use to help them improve their business. 

‘Thriving Dentist Podcast Show’
This podcast focuses more on practice management and has been around for quite awhile. The producer, Gary Takacs, is not a dentist, but the owner of a dental practice and a practice management expert with many years of experience. My favorite takeaway from listening to Gary is just the way he talks and communicates with the guests he has on his show. I will be the first to admit that having small talk with patients is not my favorite. I am constantly struggling to figure out ways to have a nice little conversation about things other than the weather during a recall visit, or with finding a friendly and non-pushy way of presenting and discussing a treatment plan. I find listening to this podcast helpful in improving my patient and staff conversation skills. 

Now for the easy part: Go to iTunes and subscribe to these podcasts. If you have an Android phone, there is a podcast app for that as well. Did I also mention that this is totally free? I’ll be the first to admit this is going into serious dental nerd territory, but just having that DMD/DDS designation at the end of your name makes you a nerd already, so just embrace that title!

Have a great weekend! 

Lilya Horowitz, DDS, FAGD

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Is Wrong With You People?

I am currently reading a book called “Beloved.” This is a book my son has to read for school, so I thought I would pick it up. It is a bestseller and the writer won a Nobel Prize in Literature. These artsy book types are usually not my cup of tea but I will give it a try. I am on Page 11…so nothing yet.

Now for the topic de jour:

I am the type of middle-aged dentist that loves to show off. I want to show off my staff, my office, my work, my family, and my muscles.

So when a young college student asks if they can shadow me…I am a pig in poop. I have multiple young, aspiring dentists in my office every year. I had a young dentist email me and tell me that he is new to town and wanted to just come and hang out. I said, “Sure.”

This person came toward the end of the day. He came to watch us work for a little bit, but then we were able to just sit down after work and talk about the profession. It turns out we had the same philosophy about dentistry: We believe we have a gift and we want to use it to help people.

Fast forward a couple of years.

We have kept in touch and he texts me when he has some questions about life and work. He came in the other day and had some restorations done, which provided us a chance to talk. He has been working for “the man” in town, and corporate dentistry had not been kind to him. He tells me he does what the patient needs, so if they need a filling he does a filling. But on most plans fillings are either free or very, very cheap—like not enough to pay the dentist cheap.

He owes $500,000 in student loans and he was barely making enough money to pay rent. So things had to change. 

He moved to the Northeast to be with his girlfriend and try to start over. He got himself a great job with a mother/son practice. The mother is 79 years old and obviously planning on retiring soon. And as she phases out, he was going to phase in and eventually become partner. The son is a periodontist, so he will do the perio and my friend will do all the general dentistry. Sounds awesome right? 

Well, by his third week there he had some down time. He just was walking around the office watching, trying to learn the systems. How do people answer the phones? How do they schedule? How do the assistants interact with patients? How do they clean, and what do they clean with?
And he started to see some flaws. Like, a person came in for fillings and on the schedule it says “Extract  No. 12.” He saw a lot of backstabbing between the staff. He saw the assistants wiping down the handpieces and putting them back in the drawer. He saw those same assistants saving used burs and putting them in hydrogen peroxide. The air/water tips were being wiped down and not replaced.

Whoa, wait a minute! He was thinking that there were some shady things going on there.

This is when he called me and asked me what I thought. I have to admit I am a pretty na├»ve guy. I told him that maybe he doesn’t know the correct OSHA protocol for sterilization. He told me that once he saw the improprieties, he brought them to the junior partner (soon-to-be senior partner),who told him that all this was okay.

My friend told him straight up, “No, this is not okay.” So the junior partner started talking about how they were down a couple of handpieces and that when they got new handpieces then they would start sterilizing them properly.

For my friend, the writing was on the wall that it was time to leave. And not let’s see how it goes and then I will leave. It was “take your loupes and light home after work because you ain’t coming back” leave.

I asked him about other jobs. He told me that he went on an interview with a man who lost his license because he was writing pain prescriptions for his ex-wife and he needed a dentist to come in and do the dentistry in the office. Things were great until my friend smelled alcohol on the guy’s breath. “Run, Forrest, Run!”

He went on another interview and it seemed like a nice place. They needed an associate. He talked to them about how it would work. They told him that they would be doing all the treatment plans and would be monitoring all his work. He asked, “Is this a probation thing? Like will you be watching me just until I get my bearings?” They said, “No, you will always be doing the treatment planning, and we will be monitoring all of your work, all the time.” It was like an episode of “Big Brother.”

This kid loves dentistryat least he did love dentistrybut is getting a big dose of reality. There is some crazy stuff going on out there. He just happened to interview with all of them. He is starting to think the only way to make sure he is not working with a cheap, overbearing alcoholic is to buy a practice of his own. And unfortunately I don't think that is going to happen, especially considering he is already $500,000 in the hole from school.

I may be sitting in my ivory tower and judging, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I buy handpieces and I sterilize them between patients,I buy the best products, I update my furniture in the reception area, and I buy new uniforms when they are looking like rags.

I just thought everyone else was doing the same thing. Sure I am cheap and I hate spending money like the rest of you, but it is the price of doing business.

Back to my friend—yeah, he presently doesn’t have a job. I like the guy so much that I told him that if he ever moved back that he would make a great addition here (that is how much I like him). I am hurting for him. And I have to admit, I am a bit embarrassed by the crazy people that are our colleagues.

Anyone in the Northeast hiring an associate? Do you have any stories that might make my friend feel any better? Do you have stories of crazy bosses? How about cheap bosses? Those are always fun.

Have a great day,
John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The period from Sept. 21 to Dec. 21 in the Northern Hemisphere has been known as harvest, autumn, and fall. We no longer call the season harvest and now associate it only with the activity that our farmers go through at this time of year. We call it fall, in association with the falling of the leaves and the falling of the seasons. Fall is the common term used in the U.S. The British use the term autumn, from the Etruscan term autu-, which connotes the passing of the time during the year, later translated into Latin and then Medieval English. Chaucer, Shakespeare, and many others have looked at autumn and fall very poetically as the passage of time in our lives as well.

Dan was in a high-velocity, rear-end motor vehicle accident. He came to me on referral from his lawyer and his physiotherapist due to orofacial and temporomandibular joint pain that he was suffering from after the accident. I worked with his health care team in a collaborative, multi-disciplinary measure in an effort to get his upper body, neck, head, and orofacial region to heal and return to a pre-accident state of comfort and function. The treatment, from my perspective, involved an intraoral orthotic (commonly, but incorrectly called a splint, since we are not splinting anything, but rather, orthopedically repositioning the lower jaw to a different physiologic position). At first he found the orthopedic position unusual for him, but he trusted me and the health care team we were working with. Wearing the orthotic most of the time, day and night, was a challenge for him. After his first week he wrote: “Commitment to success is not really an option, it’s the way I have approached the entire ordeal. While I am very hesitant to apply the terminology of ‘lucky’ and ‘unlucky’ to the extent of the injuries I have sustained in an avoidable accident caused by someone else’s negligence, accountability still lies with me for recovery. Things in general could be significantly worse.”

Dan then went on to say, “The executive assistant on my team was just diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer. If she can vow to beat it again, then I think I definitely can handle this.”

October, the heart of the fall season, is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Canada. We have the Terry Fox run in late September (Terry, losing one leg to cancer, tried to run across Canada with only one leg, making it almost half way before his cancer returned and he succumbed to this terrible disease) and recently the Run for the Cure, a fundraiser for breast cancer sponsored by one of Canada’s national banks. We see lots of men and women wearing pink to show solidarity and support for those suffering from “women’s” cancers and it is a time for us to pause and reflect on the gift of life and health we enjoy.

Dan wrote the passages above in February 2015. I am happy to report that by the end of April, Dan’s headaches and orofacial pain were gone and we had weaned him off the orthotic wear to nighttime use only. He was a happy man, and so were we.

As for Dan’s executive assistant… she is still with us, battling strongly and looking surprisingly well. Those who know her are praying for continued strength and recovery.

So enjoy autumn. Get out and smell the air as the season is changing, see the swirling leaves as they are moved with the passing breeze, hear the sounds of the birds heading south en masse. It is a time to pause and reflect, a time to reconsider our health and our place in this world, and a time to prepare for the coming winter.

And don’t forget to get a flu shot!

Warm regards,

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

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Season of Opportunity

If you follow my blogs, you know I am big on lists, goals, and growth opportunities. To say I’m “type A” is quite an understatement. I am one to set lofty New Year’s resolutions—most of which make it at least out of the winter and spring. It’s only a select few that continue through summer, and by fall, well, good luck. I’m not sure that I can even remember those resolutions.

No, seriously…what were they again??

Fall in Virginia is why people choose to live here. Sweatshirt weather in the morning, windows down during the day, and outdoor fire pits by night—it really is an awesome time. But it’s more than that; it’s a time when (at least in my practice) the hustle and bustle of the summer rush slows a bit. It’s a time to sit back, reflect on how the year has gone, and more than likely, catch up on family, practice, and life in general.

Use it! Our profession is tough. Being busy, seeing lots of patients, and cranking out production is an awesome feeling (and it pays the bills), but it’s a grind. It takes it out of you. We all need a recharge. And now’s the time to do it. And don’t make it about work; make it about yourself or your loved ones.

Take up yoga.

Dust off those golf clubs for a round with some buddies.

Lace up those running shoes.

Take your kids camping.

Take your sweetheart on a weekend getaway (or a two-week extravaganza if you can swing it!).

This season, make it a point to recharge your batteries. I think that it’s the best time for it. Make sure your staff does the same. They’re as much a part of this as we are. It’s a season of opportunity, people!

Donald Murray III, DMD

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

‘I Can’t Wait to Share My Practice Secrets With You!’

My head is going to explode unless I share my practice secrets with you! I can’t wait to tell you all about them!

I’ll tell you how to take a practice that sees two new patients a month to one that sees more than 2,000 new patients a month!

I’ll explain how to increase your collections from the teeny-tiny amount you now collect to more than $1 million per month!

I just can’t wait to share this with you… all the magic secrets that ONLY I KNOW! Hurry, I am bursting with excitement over sharing all this information with YOU!

All you have to do is buy my DVD or book, or attend my seminar. And, if you thought regular books and courses were expensive, wait until you see how much I charge!

OK, seriously now. Don’t you just hate this kind of dental marketing? I know I do. I hate those emails that ask things like, “Do you know the five biggest practices killers happening in YOUR office right now? Just click on this link and we’ll be happy to tell you.” You click, and then BAM, you are hit with an offer to purchase the information. 

I'll make a deal with anyone who has such “secrets” to sell. If you agree to share your information, you can have my next spot in The Daily Grind blog rotation. Wow! You can share your info here for FREE! Something tells me I’ll be back the next time around.

I have a secret of my own: There are no secrets. If you read the dental business magazines regularly and observe successful dentists in your area, then you will learn all you need to know. I have this saying (it’s more of a generalized guideline, really) that I often repeat, “Everything has been done before.”

What do I mean? Thinking about a kitchen remodel? It’s been done before. You can look at catalogs, online photos, etc., to find ideas. Just follow the examples you like, and with your touches, you’ll have a new kitchen that didn’t require reinventing the wheel.

Want to learn how to brew your own beer? It’s been done before, too. Look at online videos or get a how-to book. Again, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

It’s the same thing with your practice. Successful practices were created long before you decided to attend dental school. It’s been done before. Read some dental business magazines, emulate your successful colleagues, and you’ll be fine. No secrets.

However, in all fairness, if you still feel like shelling out thousands of dollars, send it my way. I did just share some information with you after all.

Andy Alas, DDS


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