On Marketing Dentistry and Running the Business

  What you read from me here is a big push against the current of popular marketing theory – that we dentists need to appear cool and current to the public and that we need to embrace social media in all its permutations because, after all, so many people (we are told through social media) are having wonderful success “connecting.” You see, I don’t think the question is, “How do we enhance our message in order to attract patients?” The real question in my mind we should be asking is, “How do we return to the compelling message of dental health?” By attempting to be like other businesses, we often lose what is most unique about who we really are, and that would be professionals within the field of dentistry. Certainly people need to find us in the market place, but it won’t be because we have the biggest spread in a magazine, or because we have the most followers on Twitter. I take that back. A few might. They may be caught up in celebrity spin, but most normal people see past this and really want to know if we are (1) nice people and (2) competent at treating the dental problems they are facing. Go ahead and have an announcer claim that you are a nice person and competent in what you do while they are waiting on hold, but I really think they would appreciate (1) not being left on hold too long and perhaps a little soft music to indicate that they have not been cut off (note to self on this one). I guess...

Team Meeting: Chronic Periodontitis Treatment Approach

Respect Permission Responsibility Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a dental team of nine people in their office at a lunch hour. Around the table sat the dentist/owner, a new dental associate, a dental hygienist, front office personnel and dental assistants. The dentist/owner wanted to know my opinion about treating periodontal disease and I am sure anticipated that I would talk about the disease. I did in a sense, but not in the normal way. Instead I wanted the team to see the problem as one involving all of them, not just a few, and that the best treatment for patients is a team effort requiring a great deal of cooperation and communication among all the team members. Years ago I remember my brother telling me about a neuroanatomy lecture he attended in his freshman year of medical school. In the hour allotted, the professor went through the material three times. His purpose in doing so was to help the students learn the most important material in the lecture through repetition. As he went back through it each time, he elaborated a little more in order to drive home some useful details that would help lock in the underlying information. That was the pattern I decided to use for this talk, so I put it in three rounds, like a prize fight. I explained to them, as they were eating, that this is what I was going to do and that they would hear the most important ideas I had to tell them three times. At the end of the presentation I provided them with a copy...

Note to Self

I just got finished reading someone else’s bio on their website. He sounds important but I’m not warmed for some reason… Marketing is a tricky business and sometimes things are not received as intended. We want people to feel comfortable and safe when coming to see us, so we tell them that we are well trained and are up on the latest technologies. The problem is that our competency, as dentists, is actually assumed. In other words, if we have to tell people we are talented and highly competent, it brings into question our competency. They wonder why we have to mention it. Is there a problem? On the other hand, every message constructed to help people navigate in the complex world of dentistry – without self-promotion – is usually appreciated. Which brings me to this observation. We all are by nature and past experiences generally suspicious that we are being marketed to, even when the information is free of self-promotion. I am constantly looking for hooks myself. We also, by nature, need and enjoy connecting with others. It is a healthy thing to do. Conclusion. Go slowly. It’s messy. People will misunderstand. Keep working on relationships. It’s important and also one of the hardest things to do...

People-centered Versus Procedure-centered Dentistry — A Story.

Just had an interesting conversation with a fellow dentist and good friend in his office. He expressed interest in my thinking about people-centered dentistry. One thing led to another and he shared a story I think you will find interesting. It involves his fairly recent interactions with a younger dentist. He told this to me because he believes it underscores my point that a people-centered, rather than procedure-centered focus, makes a real difference whether or not we enjoy and are successful in dentistry. Less than a year ago he brought in an associate. This young man came with highest recommendations having just completed a general dental residency program in a nearby hospital. My friend did not send him procedures to perform on existing patients, but instead permitted him to see all new patients as they came in until he had enough to do. Unfortunately he didn’t stay with this very talented and highly respected dentist but a few months. His reason for leaving was because there just wasn’t enough work to do. So after the young dentist left, naturally my friend took over the care for all of his patients. It turns out, based on patient interviews with him, that many of this young dentist’s treatment plans were simply not accepted. Patients did not understand why any of the work he proposed was necessary. The care that he had planned to do involved a great deal of cosmetic modification to anterior teeth, yet people were not stating that they had any problems with how their smiles looked. My friend took a different approach. He just listened to what patients...

How to Succeed in Periodontal Therapy Part Six

This Post discusses: Getting our minds right about scripts and rehearsals How adults learn Presentation Tips Scripts and Rehearsals Imagine there are two actors in a play. Both have important parts with a lot of dialogue. Actor #1 memorizes her lines before rehearsals begin. Actor #2 does not. When it comes to being able to perform more naturally, which actor has the advantage? There have been times when I have personally felt I was wasting my time thinking through and rehearsing scripts with my office team. I also think it is more fun to  play a round of golf than hit buckets of balls at the driving range. Sadly serious golf requires serious practice. It’s no different with dentistry. Here is how I see performance and rehearsals when it comes to dental practices. Whenever patients are in the office or on the phone, I tell the team that we are in performance mode. When we are debriefing and training, we sometimes will practice through role playing. And role playing exercises always work better and are easier to train when the team works from a developed script. If, on the other hand, you find this material, too general or too easy, I guess my question back to you is why is this a problem? Even if the material is simple – not as complicated as reading research articles, for example – people and their variety of personalities definitely are not. The objective is to give you a few tools to improve the quality and outcomes of conversations. People who tend to blow this off also often have interpersonal blind spots. They...

How to Succeed in Periodontal Therapy Part 5

Frankly, I have no illusion that I can single handedly change the quality and nature of periodontal therapy in every dental office in the world – at least not over night. There will come a day when dentists and dental hygienists train patients in ways very similar to how they perform clinical procedures today, because that is how they will be trained themselves. Even communication within dentistry is a trainable procedure. In time, the importance of effective communication within periodontal therapy will grow to the point where it will no longer be considered an esoteric topic. Instead it will be taught as a learned communication skill requiring memorization, rehearsals and performance. Critical conversations will be planned out behind the scenes and standardized into templates similar to composing musical compositions – and every member of the office team will learn how to read the music and perform their important role in patient support. Eventually more dentists will begin to grasp the overarching protection provided by proactively training patients and their teams. Informed consent will simply be subtly built into the everyday conversations office personnel have with patients because it has simply become a part of the story and culture of the office. When this happens friction between patients and dental offices will dramatically decline. Dental teams (not just a handful of dental hygienists) will no longer simply accept that patients never will floss or that they always do. Instead they will actually and automatically show them how to do it effectively and work with them when they have difficulty getting the hang of it. And patients will change their attitudes...