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Ever heard of a dental summit on a mountain biking trail? If that caught your attention, then youâ€™ll want to learn more about Technology on the Rocks, which combines recreation with continuing education to help dentists make educated technology decisions to benefit their practices. Its host, Larry Emmott, D.D.S., has made it his professional mission to help dentists incorporate technology into their practices.
When Larry Emmott was young, he took a series of tests to shed light on the vocation for which he was best suited. His mother had already told him to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and become a dentist.
When the testing was through, the proctor told Emmott, “Well, you’ll be okay as a dentist. But you’re really going to be a different kind of dentist.”
And that’s exactly what happened, as Emmott, D.D.S., used dentistry to launch a second career as a speaker and consultant.
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“Dentistry was an area where I could use my skills to help people,” Emmott explains. “That evolved into my technology interests, which really dominated most of my career.”
REVOLUTIONIZING BUSINESS MANAGEMENT
Emmott recalls taking computer courses in college where he learned to program computers using punch cards, and having an early stage computer in his dental office. He was less than impressed.
“It was very challenging to work with,” he says. “I really wasn’t enamored with the whole idea. My real thinking was, this computer stuff won’t be important in my lifetime, which of course was wrong.”
Then his son suggested the family purchase a computer, which they did — a very early model Macintosh. Suddenly, Emmott’s perspective on technology changed.
“I thought, if I could have a computer like this, it could revolutionize how I manage and run my business,” he says.
But the more Emmott learned, the more he realized that “the dental profession didn’t know what it was doing.” Neither did technology vendors. Everyone was caught in an era of misinformation. That gave Emmott the impetus to begin searching for technology options available to dentists, and to help dentists understand how to use technology effectively.
It also earned him the nickname of the high-tech dentist, which he embraces.
“I love it,” Emmott laughs. “Because that’s exactly my goal. That’s my mission. I’m a cheerleader for the whole idea of technology in the dental world.”
Emmott has moved well beyond the role of cheerleader where dentists and technology are concerned. He has spoken at conferences throughout North America, written and articles and published three books, and started his own consulting company — all with the goal of helping dentists make good technology choices. And the key obstacle to making good choices, he says, is resistance to change.
“What dental teams do in their office, that’s who they are,” Emmott explains. “That’s how they add value. They’ve spent years getting good at what they do. And when they see some technology come in and do something differently, they’re afraid they won’t be important any more.”
The other challenge, Emmott says, is that people don’t know what they don’t know. In other words, dentists have made poor technology choices simply because they didn’t know the options that were available. They may purchase products that may or may not support their goals. Or, they may have neglected to establish goals.
“Dentists get led astray and don’t use technology effectively because they don’t know what they can do,” Emmott says. “They don’t have a vision or a goal, and they don’t have a process in place to get there. My mission is to help them create that vision, and then help them get there.”
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ON THE ROCKS
What grew out of Emmott’s mission was Technology on the Rocks, which he describes as three days of adventure continuing education in Sedona, Arizona, that will have a profound effect on a dentist’s practice as well as his or her life.
“My primary hobby outside of what I do business-wise and technology for many, many years has been mountain biking,” Emmott says. “And here in Arizona, we have some of the best mountain biking in North America. There are some beautiful places. And so, I thought, you know, let’s combine my two loves.”
Each day begins with an optional mountain bike ride. For non-bikers, there are many options ranging from shopping, golf, Jeep rides, and local arts and crafts. Then, after lunch, there are continuing education sessions that Emmott says dentists can take home and use in their practices.
“The idea behind this is to give dentists some information, but do it in a fun environment where they can have a vacation on top of going to classes,” he says. “So it’s recreation in the morning, and four hours of classes in the afternoon.”
Emmott says that based on his own experience of running a practice for 30 years, as well as dealing with other practices, the way to maximize the trip is to make it a team effort. If dentists come and bring members of their team, everyone gets the same information, gets the same vision, and can then start setting up a plan to make the vision work.
“When you take the whole staff to a place like this and they experience these things together, that’s the definition of team building,” Emmott says. “You know, they’re going to have these shared experiences. It’s going to create loyalty for the staff if the doctor takes them to this wonderful place. And, you know, I think they’re going to get the best of both worlds.”
Emmott says the satisfaction he gets from his work is two-fold. First, he recognizes that visiting the dentist can be a stressful experience for many people. When he’s able to relieve someone’s discomfort or fix their smile, it changes their lives. That’s a good feeling.
But on the technology side, he’s had many experiences of dentists at conferences telling him how they went to one of his classes, or they read one of his articles or books, and the positive impact it had on the way they run their practice.
“You write these things and you have no idea who’s reading them,” Emmott says. “And then they come back to you like little snowflakes and you say, ‘Yeah, this worked. This helped somebody.’ Getting the feeling that you’re making a difference for people, that’s the best part.”