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...

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...

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...