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...

Orthodontics and Periodontal Disease

Does having periodontal disease mean I can’t or shouldn’t have braces to straighten my teeth? Periodontal disease, when active, results in bone loss around teeth. Orthodontics involves moving teeth through bone to relocate them in better places for both appearance and function. The process of moving teeth activates bone cells to remove bone in front of the moving tooth and lay new bone down behind it. All of this occurs due to the light forces being applied by either wires or appliances patients must wear over the months necessary to accomplish the task. What is not helpful, as active orthodontics is taking place, is to have a bacterial infection and inflammatory response going on at the same time. This does not mean, however, that people who have had periodontal disease treated and controlled cannot undergo orthodontic procedures. In fact, sometimes this is desirable because it moves teeth to positions that are more easily cleaned. So let’s discuss how someone might proceed through orthodontics who has or has had periodontal disease. Make sure the periodontal disease is under control. Do not start orthodontics until released by the dentist involved with treating this condition. Understand the risk to each tooth before starting orthodontics as well. If a tooth has a poor or questionable prognosis (outlook for future retention and stability), it may be best to remove the tooth before starting treatment. Commit to on-going periodontal supportive care at a tighter interval to assure that periodontal disease does not recur. Usually following active periodontal therapy involving surgical procedures it is wise to be on a three-month supportive care interval for the first...

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...

How to Succeed in Periodontal Therapy Part 4

Where Are We? It should be obvious by now that this presentation is not a “best practices” consensus on the subject of periodontal therapy. Rather it is my personal, but experienced advice on what I consider the best way for dentists to treat and manage chronic periodontitis. I also believe that reading and implementing some or all of my recommendations here will help your practice grow. The purpose of these blog posts, which will eventually be consolidated into a manual and used in training seminars on line or in person, is to explain in a comprehensive way how to establish and then operate a periodontal therapy program; one that provides the best care beginning in the general dental office that is working in concert with a periodontist colleague. In other words it is assumed that there will be patients who fall outside of the more predictable and routine, so for this reason, it is always smart to have a periodontist on your Periodontal Therapy Program team. This brings confidence to patients in your program and makes referrals, when indicated, easier to achieve. Remember, it is important that your referral recommendations are followed by your patients in order to make sure they return to you later. Patients who leave any office to find “somebody” to help them with “something” easily lose confidence in the practice that seems to have sent them away. On the other hand, when patients understand the story and how and when referrals are made, and to whom they are made, as simply a matter of fact in the early presentation, this builds greater trust in the...

How to Succeed in Periodontal Therapy Part 3

The Power of Story There are successful dental practices alongside unsuccessful dental practices. Each one of them provides similar services and has similar patients, yet some succeed and others do not. So what’s the difference? It’s really very simple. It’s explained in a story. Would you like to hear it? It’s every dentist’s story and it goes like this. A few years back every dentist was a dental student. And before this they were taking pre-dental classes, which were predominantly math and science courses. In fact most pre-dental students majored then, and still do even today, in biology or chemistry, not because they like these subjects, but because they want to be dentists and believe their chances are better if they obtain a degree in one of these fields. The science classes in colleges and universities that are prerequisites for dentistry, medicine and veterinary sciences are popular, not because most of the students taking them love these subjects.  It is because they are required courses in order to become doctors. So the class sizes are large and often are taught by graduate students. This is because professors prefer working with those who happen to enjoy their particular field. They do not enjoy dealing with people who are only there for the grade. So why isn’t there more of a stink about this? It is because the unwritten objective of these courses is not to teach toward comprehension anyway. These courses are for the most part filters designed to weed out professional school applicants.  So if lectures are complicated, possibly given by someone whose native language isn’t English, and the...

Rest Versus Laziness

What’s the difference between rest and laziness? And what does this have to do with my teeth and gums? Let me answer the last question first. There is an indirect association between laziness and flossing. It doesn’t take a lot of work to perform daily but the time just seems to slip away and we forget. To make it a habit takes intentional effort for at least 21 days some studies indicate. So if you aren’t already in the habit of flossing, consider this your gentle reminder today. Now to the first, and to me the more interesting question. Rest is a necessary part of health and laziness depletes energy. Rest refreshes the mind and laziness dulls thinking. Rest is purposeful and sometimes it requires great discipline to cut off an enjoyable activity and go to bed. Laziness is undisciplined. When I “relax” my mind and go passive time flies by. When I come out of it, it is usually with regrets, “Man, I wish I had done ____ instead!” Rest is connected to performance. In fact it is in the rest phase that muscles repair after exercise and nerve patterns in the brain and extremities build new pathways that enable people to learn to play instruments or swing golf clubs. Without rest, the practice efforts fail miserably. Laziness is the failure first to exert the effort to practice and so there is nothing really to rest from. Enjoy your day!...