Through charity and improvement of the patient experience, Tim Stirneman, DDS, works to elevate dentistry.
When Tim Stirneman was a young boy, he heard the usual negative stories about friends’ dental experiences. Going to the dentist is bad. Nobody likes going to the dentist. It hurts.
Those negative feelings, however, were foreign to Stirneman.
“When I was in high school, I always had good experiences,” Stirneman recalls. “And I thought, why can’t everybody have those kinds of experiences?”
And while Stirneman admits that “it might sound corny,” that’s where his career aspirations began.
“I thought, if I go to dental school, maybe I can make a difference in my own small, little way,” he says.
Today, as the owner of Albonguin, Illinois-based Compassionate Dental Care, formerly All Smiles Dental, he has accomplished all that and more.
Changing the Approach
Stirneman, DDS, believes the reason behind peoples’ negative dental experiences is in the way the dentist and his or her team approach their work. Or used to approach their work, because times are changing.
“The world is expecting more out of everybody,” he says. “People are no longer accepting that this is the way it’s got to be. And I think dentists realize that if we want patients to keep coming back, then we need to make the experience as pleasant as possible.”
Stirneman compares some aspects of dental work to performing outpatient surgery while people are awake—never a pleasant thought.
“We’ve had to learn, as quickly as possible, how to make the patient experience pleasant,” he explains. “And I think because of that more people are starting to seek out dental care whereas they didn’t before.”
From the Heart
It was several years ago when Stirneman learned about Dentistry From the Heart, a worldwide nonprofit organization based in Port Richey, FLA. founded by Vincent Monticciolo, DDS, MBA, 14 years ago. The organization is dedicated to providing free dental care to those in need.
“When I first found out about it I thought, that is really cool,” Stirneman recalls.
So he joined the movement, so to speak, and for the last 4 years has been opening his practice one day each year to offer free cleaning, fillings and extractions for those in need.
“There’s no screening process or financing,” Stirneman explains. “If you’re willing to come and wait in line, well, you must really need it. Because some of these people wait 3 or 4 hours. And typically people who either have more time or more money are not going to wait that long.”
Stirneman estimates that the first year the practice opened its doors as part of the Dentistry From the Heart effort he and his team saw more than 130 people and “gave away” close to $40,000 worth of dentistry in one day.
“That was really cool,” he says.
And his team agrees. Stirneman says one of the core values of his dental practice is that his team performs extensive volunteer work. Getting their buy-in to donate their time and services for a day was not a problem.
We’ve hired people who have already shown that they have a propensity toward helping others,” he explains. “Everybody is there because they’ve chosen to be there. And at the end of the day, while it’s unanimous that it’s one of the hardest days of the year, it’s also the most rewarding.”
Stirneman has also teamed with MB and Associates, a New Jersey-based public relations firm, to help a deserving veteran in need of dental care. The veteran, who was heavily involved in a veterans’ group local to Stirneman’s practice, was in need of a complete set of dentures.
“This veteran would speak before different groups, and he was so embarrassed by his teeth,” Stirneman recalls. “Here was a guy who was so willing to give up his time for others, and yet it was hard for him to smile. But that didn’t stop him from doing what he needed to do.”
Stirneman secured a complete denture set, pro bono, for the veteran. And when the vet’s wife saw him, she literally began to cry.
“She said it was the first time in 30 years she had seen him smile,” he says. “It was just so cool to see that.”
Stirneman has also made adjustments in his practice so that patients can receive affordable care. He explains that dentistry has changed over the years, and no one wants to pay any more than they have to. That means being more efficient, and in some respects that means cutting costs without cutting corners.
It also means taking steps to help those patients who do not have dental insurance.
“We have this in-house savings plan,” Stirneman says. “If you’re not covered by any kind of insurance plan, you can elect to join this affordable savings plan. That helps out a lot of people.”
Family and Patients
Family is important to Stirneman. He recently drove to Nashville to help babysit his girlfriend’s 18-month-old granddaughter. After that, he was traveling to Las Vegas to watch his son, who plays football for the University of Wyoming, compete against UNLV.
“I told my son when he was in high school that if he worked hard enough and got a football scholarship, I would go to every one of those games,” Stirneman says. “In 4 years, I think I’ve missed only 4 or 5 of the 48 games.”
He also spends much time with his 2 younger children, and took them to a World Series game this past October when the Chicago Cubs erased the curse.
“We lost 2 of the (home) games, but it was such a great experience,” Stirneman says. “And when I’m long gone, they can at least say that dad took them to a World Series game.”
Changing lives—it’s what Stirneman is all about. Whether it’s family, or patients.
“When a patient leaves the office grinning from ear to ear, and their excitement is contagious, that’s when I am most satisfied,” he says. “That’s what makes me the happiest and brings me the most joy.”