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January 29, 2010 | Dental Products Report Web Exclusive Dentist You Should Know: Dr. Joshua Austin With a four-month old office in San Antonio, Dr. Austin believes there was no
January 29, 2010 | Dental Products Report
Dentist You Should Know:
Dr. Joshua Austin
With a four-month old office in San Antonio, Dr. Austin believes there was no better time to jump in head first to solo practice.
by Thais Carter, Editor in Chief
Dr. Joshua Austin
Photo courtesy of Joshua Austin, DDS
Dr. Joshua Austin opened the doors to his San Antonio practice on October 13, 2009. With so many people choosing to wait out a rough economic spell, Dr. Austin stands out as a person who saw it as a moment of opportunity. In this brief interiew, we think you'll understand why he's a dentist you should know.
Q: How did you first develop an interest in dentistry?
A: My father was a dentist, so I've been around it my whole life.I went to what was, essentially, a magnet high school for health professionals and was exposed to even more dentistry there. I found that I really enjoyed being around it.
Q: What is the story behind opening this new practice?
A: I was an associate for awhile before this and my associate story is the same one I hear from every associate I know. There was no big major reason behind my striking out on my own. I saw a location I really liked, made a phone call and that's how it started. The next thing you know, I'm signing a lease and getting a loan. It kind of just happened, all at once. Since opening our doors on October 13, 2009 things have been going really, really well.
2staff members - one business assistant and one dental assistant
patients - some followed from his previous practice, but Dr. Austin credits direct mail and high visibility with drawing in new patients
Q: After your associate experience, what were some of the ideas or principles you know you wanted to be foundational for your practice?
A: For me, this career is all about service and making sure the patient is the focal point. I wanted to make sure that in my practice we treat patients, not insurance companies-that kind of thing. I want to make sure my patients feel comfortable and that they are treated right when they are here. Those elements are the basis of any sucessfull practice.
My practice is not centered around production; often, I don't even really look at those numbers. I'm about giving patients the best possible care.
Q: As a new practice, how much leeway did you have in customizing your operatory space?
A: Because I moved into a new retail center, my space was initially just a shell, so I was able to build it out the way I wanted. As far as the look of the practice, I wanted something contemporary and modern. We have exposed ceilings-which is something you don't see in many dental offices-and wiht the way the paintings are arranged in the main hall you almost have a sense of being in an art gallery or museum.
Obviously, we have computers in all the operatories as well as digital radiography. I'm not doing CEREC or any sort of CAD/CAM yet. I also have electric handpieces. In general, I try to use technology to better the standards of care already in place.
“I'm a younger practitioner, so I don't have 30 years of experience to draw from, but I can draw off of the experience of others…I think using evidence-based decision making is the best thing we can do.”
-Dr. Joshua Austin
Q: In most parts of the country there are hundreds of qualified dental professionals looking for work. When sitting down to hire your new team, did you have any specific traits you were looking for to help narrow the field?
A: I wanted people who would be dedicated to service, no matter what; people who would treat patients well. I could care less if they were the best dental assistant in the world-if they didn't treat patients right, they weren't going to fit in.
Q: As a new practice, what methods have you been using to let people know you're out there and open for business?
A: Visibility is huge for me. I like to think that my practice is now probably the most visible in San Antonio. I sit in front of a street that has 250,000 cars drive by each day, so visibilty is a big deal. I'm also doing direct mail to 10,000 homes in the area. Direct mail has been very successful. I've been fortunate to have a lot of patients follow me from my previous practice and there also are a lot of people who drive by who live or work in the area and have been looking for something more convenient.
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Q: Opening a new practice in this economic climate seems like a risky venture to a lot of people. Did you have any hesitation or fear about this venture?
A: Well, my mom thought I was crazy, insane, nuts. But really, there's always going to be something-no matter what-to convince you that now is not a good time. There are always excuses out there that you could use as a crutch and I finally got tired of looking for crutches. I was at a point where it was just time to do it. There was never going to be a perfect time, so why not now?
In the end, it worked out well for me. The landlord was hungry. He had started building a complex that was halfway through when teh economy hit. He needed tenants so he started making deals. Likewise, the contractors in the area had seen some lightening of their work load so I was able to get better bids on most services. With Patterson, I found out they had dental units that had been sitting in their local office for three months after a cancelled order and they were looking to make a deal on those. Even banks are still lending when it come to dental practices, and the interest rates are good. So I think I used the economic climate to my advantage more than anything.
All the things I was going to need to open a practice-they were feeling the pinch as well. It ended up being a buyers' market for me, and definitely more so than it would have been three or four years ago.
Q: So, several months in, are there any things that you would point to as major milestones or successes?
A: I've noticed that now, as the only doctor in the office, I have a greater amount of large cases I get to do. In my old office, I had restored maybe two or three implants in the three years I was there. Within the first month in my new practice, I had already done four. When you're the only dog eating, you get a lot more good stuff than when you have to make sure the other dog eats first.
Q: You've said repeatedly that quality patient care and service are a core value for you. Are there any recent clinical developments-new study, new technique, new technology-that you've seen that have impacted your standard of care?
A: For me, it's learning how to find evidence and use evidence in my decision making. I'm a younger practitioner, so I don't have 30 years of experience to draw from, but I can draw off of the experiences of others. I've taken some evidence-based dentistry courses with the ADA and done some work in that. I truly believe that using evidence is one of the best things we can do as clinicians. There is a lot of good science out there, there just aren't a lot of dentists who look for it because they're content to just keep doing what they learned in school. I think that's crazy because things change so fast.
I don't see it as any one particular technique or technology, but having an approach where I commit to stying up to date on new technology and training myself and my staff on how to get that information, how to disseminate it, use it and digest it. If that involves totally changing a technique I use, slightly modifying it, or cementing in my mind that I'm doing it the right way-it's about committing to that evidence, finding it and making the best decisions possible.
Q: As a younger dentist, what trends do you see having the biggest impact on the profession in the coming years?
A: I think that over the last couple years we've seen Cadent iTero and 3M ESPE's Lava C.O.S. and other digital impressioning technologies come to market. In some ways, it's still in the early growing pain stages, but over the next five to 10 years, no one is going to be taking polyvinyl impressions of crown and bridge anymore. Whether it's the iTero, C.O.S. or some technology not even out there yet, I think this is the direction things are going and where it's going to be-dentists need to embrace it or get out of the way.
A great example of this is digital radiography. We've seen it come from this new, cool, crazy technology to now being the standard. No one would think of opening an office without putting digital radiography in there, and in the next several years, I think it will be the same with digital impressioning systems, and we're getting there.
One of the things I like best about the technology is that it leaves me open to doing the kind of restorations I want. With a CEREC machine, for example, I couldn't do a gold restoration, only an all-ceramic. I like having flexibility to choose what I think is best on a case by case basis.
Q: Last question...With your dad's experience as a dentist, was there any advice he gave you about starting your own practice?
A: Never work with your spouse-first thing. That's my one rule. No matter what happens, my wife will never work in the office.
Thais Carter is the editor in chief of DPR. If you have someone that you would like to see interviewed for the "Dentist You Should Know" series, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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